Thursday, July 5, 2007

Let's Hear it for Barbie!

Who'da thought She of the Flaxen Hair, Pointy Breasts, and Pointy Toes would be the one to say "Enough!!!"?

There will be those who scream irony, but I frankly think it's quite fitting for Barbie to be first in line to save the girls of the world--and Lord knows they need saving. I speak of Mattel's gutsy new initiative, "We Believe in Girls," a movement whose purpose--on the surface, at least--is to encourage parents to let their daughters be little girls as long as possible. Self-serving, to be sure--Mattel is, after all, a toy company--but anything that promotes playing with dolls over playing with fire deserves as much support as we can give it.

In case you haven't strolled the halls of a middle school lately, be advised that waaaay too many of today's 12-year-olds dress like Paris Hilton, think Lindsay Lohan's cool, and have mouths that make Britney and Avril sound like Sunday-Schoolers. If that's not enough to make you shudder, go rent the movie "Thirteen," or flip through a few pages of one of the Gossip Girls books. Not only have we left Kansas far, far behind, we're thisclose to making Scarecrow spontaneously combust!

It's hard to say when it started or who's to blame (I have some theories but, good Southern girl that I am, if I can't say something nice, I'll say nothing at all), but Mattel is right: it's time to make a u-turn. And those of us who have enough sense to know that dressing 10-year-olds like trailor trash (best book title ever: Celia Rivenbark's Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank!) and letting 6-year-olds watch "CSI" (appalling a thought as that is, according to a recent article in USA Weekend, there are a lot of them!) is inappropriate need to lead the parade.

It's not just Big Evil Cities where such stupidity takes place. Some years ago, in a tiny rural town that shall remain nameless, I was the only parent upset when a P.E. teacher showed "Pretty Woman" to a class of fourth graders one rainy day. "He fast-forwarded through all the bad parts," a fellow--and presumedly intelligent and responsible--parent explained when I brought it up at a PTA meeting. "THEY'RE ALL BAD PARTS! THESE CHILDREN ARE NINE YEARS OLD! IT'S A MOVIE ABOUT A PROSTITUTE!" I screamed as politely as I could.

I am the mother of three sons, which, according to some, means I'm off the hook as far as worrying about the evils of society. Au contraire! I've raised my boys with the same set of standards I would have used for girls. At the Ferrer house, chromasomes have no impact whatsoever on moral expectations. One of my sons is 23 and I know for a fact he has learned some words I never taught him. (Note to parents: never tell your child you visit and read his MySpace site or you will be banned from said site, thereby losing that most intriguing--and fully public!--opportunity to gain insight into said child.) However, he has never used those words in my presence, nor have his brothers. And we have no arrests, impregnations, wild parties, drunken stupors, or drug usage to mar the family name thus far, so I have to believe my rules paid off--though I give the greater credit to God's grace and my sons' inherent integrity.

There are other mothers out there fighting the same valiant fight--I know them! I have lunch with them!--but I fear we are the exception rather than the rule. I suspect this because in the video store, I constantly hear tiny little people point to odious, horrific titles and say, "That was a good one, wasn't it, Mom?!" and because in the mall, I see mothers who should know better accompanied by daughters who never will.

Two things stick in my memory as being particularly heinous in regard to wise parenting. One was a newspaper article a few years back about women who had carried their daughters to meet Monica Lewinsky at some public appearance and were all excited. The other was when Madonna wrote a children's book and mothers were falling all over themselves to buy a copy. HELLO???? YOU WOULD WANT THESE WOMEN DISPENSING ADVICE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS, WHY?????

Are there no young Helen Kellers out there to admire? No Jane Goodalls, Chris Everts, or Amelia Earharts in the making? I'm betting there are. But it's not the good girls who make the news, it's the bad ones--and I don't know if that's our fault or the media's. My husband and I have an ongoing argument about profanity and gore-laced films. He says if Hollywood could make money off wholesome films, they'd make them in a heartbeat, but that's not what the public wants. How 'bout it, public? Would you keep buying and tuning in if the media made darlings of girls whose body parts were all adequately covered, whose favorite late-night activity was playing board games with their families, and whose worst vice was chocolate? I would! I've seen enough sleaze to last me a lifetime and I would really, REALLY like to think I have at least a 50/50 chance of getting a daughter-in-law who hasn't yet made it around the block.

Are you ready to stop letting Whever It is That's Doing All This steal our children's childhood? They have so little time to be innocent; shouldn't we protect that at all costs? The motivation for my second book, A Mother of Sons, came from a newspaper photograph of a woman holding a starving child. As I stared at that photo, I was struck by the unfairness of life and the realization that that mother wanted the same things for her son that I wanted for mine, but because that woman lived in some desolate, war-torn, drought-besieged part of the world, there wasn't a ghost of a chance her boy would know the life mine would. How wrong to let someone rob our children of the chance to know love and security and happiness and innocence when those things have become so rare in our world!

Please join me in Mattel's effort to make innocence something to celebrate instead of ridicule. If you know of a young person who's making headlines because of GOOD behavior, tell us about it right here. And go home and gather the gang for a round of Spades or Hi-Ho Cherry-O: time's a-wastin'!