Save Girlhood! and How I Learned to Accept TV

Two events coincided at an interesting moment yesterday. One: my husband’s dream came true, and Direct TV hooked up the satellite dish that brings him a ridiculous amount of NFL and college football. We haven’t had anything except the XBox hooked up to our TV as long as we’ve lived together, so he’s pretty darn excited. I, honestly, am more excited than I expected. What I didn’t realize was that we were signed up for a two-year contract. Whatever. I now have access to BBC America, and this Anglophile is one happy camper.

TV with DVR
Evil Media? Not if used properly! And it's pretty cool looking, you have to admit!

So last night, while my husband watched football, I participated in a discussion called Save Girlhood on Twitter. (This blogger is officially media savvy. Well, I’m getting there!) What do we want to save girlhood from, you ask? Why, sexualization, of course. The kind we see in, well, the ads that air during NFL games. But for those of you who are new to this debate, I’ll let this fantastic lady fill you in:

@nancy_newmoon sexuality is the inner person, as the subject and proactive. sexualization is others projecting on you as passive object.

(Nancy Gruver is an “Expert on girls, author: How to Say It To Girls, Founder: & ad-free @NewMoonGirls Safe Social Network & Magazine for age 8+” – from her Twitter profile. I have loved New Moon since I was small.)

Read this blog, in its entirety, or, if you don’t have time, this post on Lingerie for Little Girls (not a joke) will fill you in on what exactly we’re up against. What does TV have to do with it? Well, I want to have a kid, right? And this isn’t just about girls. It’s also about the messages we send boys about girls. So whether I have a boy, a girl or both, this matters. Here are some highlights from last night’s conversation about the media and its role in the sexualization of girls:

@PigtailPals Q3: Do you limit toys/music/media for your daughter with concern to sexualization?

@DrRobyn: Q3: I’m a fan of actually taking the media, toys, etc and showing #girls the problems. discussing them.

@DrBeckerSchutte: when we teach our girls to be critical of media, we give them tools to push back against peer pressure.

@MauveDinosaur If their peers and media is all they have, that’s all they see.

@KnowldgeLinking: Want another shocker? 29% of kids age 2-3 have TV in their bedrooms. 43% of kids age 4-6 do

@DCalifornia: I think TV is a wonderful conversation starter. Good or bad, talk about it, discuss it, point out why it is or isn’t ok

@TheMomarchy Watching TV w kids is one of the best strategies. Called “co-viewing” in research.

I have never been sure what I think about kids and TV. Obviously, TV is not a babysitter. Unsupervised TV is not an option. A DVR will allow us to remove the commercials. [FYI: Kids can’t tell the difference between the program and the commercials! They don’t have that necessary “this is an ad, and advertisers lie to me” automatic response!] For most of my childhood, we watched movies but didn’t have channels via cable or satellite. I think that this was probably for financial reasons. I’m thinking maybe having TV in our house isn’t such a bad idea, with limits and not in the bedroom and, for many years, watching with the kids. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time. Well, I reserve the right to ask that we do not renew the contract. But even if we decide not to pay for this after we have a kid (and let’s face it–there are lots of things we won’t be able to pay for after we have a kid), our children will encounter the crap that’s on TV, and the good stuff too, somewhere. It’s just so accessible. And that’s now–I am going to have to know a lot about what is out there if I want to have a conversation with my child when she or he is ten years old. In 11+ years, it’s just going to be easier to get access to anything we try to ban.

I don’t want to ban media; I want to talk about it and teach our kids to make healthy choices. And the more Nathan and I talk about parenting, the more we agree that all we can do is try to raise healthy, compassionate, self-respecting children who make (mostly) good choices. Our shared goal is to model those choices for our kids. What we choose to watch on TV? Role modeling opportunity! Showing our kids that men and women like sports? Awesome! Talking about why that commercial we just saw during The Game is Bad Media? Teachable moment. Ok, so that’s not going down as easy… maybe too many teachable moments in that scenario. But we’ll figure this out as we go. With help from a seriously awesome support group, if the parents and friends of girls I met last night are any indication!

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