Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

24 May 2010

Sometimes you have to judge other parents

A friend of mine who is also a new mom wrote on Facebook about seeing a baby in a stroller with a million toys in its face. Then she said, "Oh, I shouldn't judge." I replied, "Sometimes it's ok to judge." And I mean it. I don't mean petty little things, I mean big picture things. Yes, like the "Single Ladies" parents.

I've seen one set of parents on two different networks explaining away why they would let their pre-teen daughter dance around in a lingerie-looking costume. On ABC they have a lot of excuses, er, reasons for being ok with the dance routine:

  • It's a dance competition: I'm not familiar with the circuit and the dancers I knew in high school didn't dress like this and I went to high school in the 1990s. We were all about the Fly Girl attire and dance moves, believe me. So I did a web search for some dance competition videos and found none that look like a 7-year-old burlesque show. Even the teen dances that were "sexy" weren't gyrating the same way as the "Single Ladies" girls.
  • When you go swimming, you wear a swimsuit: In other words, the costumes are standard fare for dance competition. Again to the Bat Computer! One catalog's children's wear was fairly tame. Most were cheesy enough to be age-appropriate. Another [flash catalog, page 92] pushed the limits, but was just one this side of burlesque.
  • These are the type of routines you see at competitions: One competition site I found has a letter [PDF] for coaches and parents on appropriateness of routines and music. "The [Federation of Dance Competitions] appreciates the art form, creativity and desire to heighten world awareness of these themes through dance but deem it inappropriate to present them to audiences that include children of every age." Honestly, when I read the letter, I felt that they were more concerned with WHO was in the audience (and I don't mean 6yos) watching than anything else. 
But here's what disturbs me about this routine...Dance (including cheer leading, color guard, poms, etc) is about exhibition, competition and obtaining approval (in the form of a score and applause) from an outside source. That's all fine and dandy EXCEPT when it involves 7-9-year-old girls dancing like they belong to a burlesque troupe (FTR: I don't think there's anything wrong with burlesque when it involves adults). Those girls were learning that if they dress in a skimpy way, thrust their bodies like so, SMILE and shimmy, that they will be loved and adored. I admit there's a line and it's called age-appropriateness.

Our media is sexualizing girls at younger and younger ages. Why are parents adding to this problem?

As I said, I'm not familiar with the dance circuit, all I can do is analyze what I see, filter it thru what I know and make a judgment.



This month is Latino Book Month. To celebrate, I'm giving away three books to one reader. To enter, just comment on any May 2010 post by May 31, 2010. I'm too busy to make you jump thru hoops. Comment!

4 comments:

I saw that video posted to a couple of my Facebook friends' walls, and some folks were almost too hesitant to criticize what was going on with it. It was strange. It's as if they didn't want to be judged for saying that something is problematic when it genuinely is.

I think part of what was disturbing about that routine was that the girls didn't just smile innocently -- they looked aggressive, lustful. That had to have been coached.

YES YES YES I will happily judge a parent who allows that madness of a dance routine. Everything about it was planned, approved, and executed with the participation of a large group of grown-ups who should have known better.

Thanks all. I stewed on this for a few days to do the research and I was hesitant to do a lot of finger pointing. But really, this ain't cool at all. So thanks.