Saturday, 28 February 2015

Would You Buy Your Child A 'Future Bride Photo shoot'?

The commercialization of childhood is akin to a capitalist search engine that constantly burrows and tunnels itself through the age ranges to find new ways of enticing parents with ever more attractive clothes, toys and merchandise, as examples, to spend their money on. The commercialization of childhood not only involves targeting different age groups with material that would appeal to them but also preys on the fast forwarding of childhood. In other words, we have seen clothes being sold for little girls that are way inappropriate for someone so young to be wearing.

Now, a whole new world has been opened up whereby your little angel or 'DD' can be made over for a bridal photo shoot.A company in Wisconsin is offering a glimpse into the future whereby little girls can dress up in white and be photographed looking like miniature brides. I urge you to click on the link and have a look at the photos on display. Questions that I can only assume are meant to induce a strong sense of sentiment and to have you reaching for your wallet are asked such as 'What will her name be in the future?' There is a photo which combines the present and the future whereby a child holds up her mother's wedding ring as a symbol of what her own future holds.

As a feminist mother this commercialization of female childhood represents, to me, a regressive descent of marital sentimentality. Its' aim is to make girls think that being a bride is something to aspire to all through their growing up years. This aspiration or dream is packaged up in air brushed photos that are shot through soft lenses and appeals to girls who like dressing up and pretending to be little princesses. This photo shoot service pushes that dream further by relying on the never ending draw of beautiful brides and 'it' being the best day of your life.

How many more years, decades, centuries will it take before young girls are seen as future astronauts, politicians or policewomen?

Consider this though, should such a service come with a consumer warning? What if one of these girls never gets married because she doesn't find anyone or in later life has chosen not to get married? Is she then made to feel a failure for not living up to a childhood ideal?  For me, personally, the sting in the venture lies in the fact that while the company is NOT advocating child marriage it is a paradox that a Western company is promoting images of children in bridal wear while Western aid agencies work their socks off to stop the vile tradition in Asia and Africa and Middle East of marrying girls off at a very young age.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A snapshot of life in Greece

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Wishing Syriza all the very best in a very difficult week for the government.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Furore Over The Pink Bus Is First World Feminism

Golly! What a load of fuss there is swirling about on social media, in the print press and on TV about the colour of Labour's battle bus that has set off on the female campaign trail. After endless debates stretching over the years about the lack of female representation in Parliament whether it be over the low numbers of female MPs or the deficit in Westminster debates about issues that affect women, along comes a means of targeting females and it is attacked for the colour it is covered in.

If this is not a First World Feminism concern then I don't know what is, frankly. By First World Feminism I mean that there is this strong sense of self-entitlement to critique the novel value without dissecting the issue for greater substance. If only women in third world countries had this privilege. I do think that First World Feminism  critique, when it comes to issues of trivia, is a Western privilege.

I have watched different news channels on this and, there is a chance, unless i have missed something more substantive I did not fall upon an analysis of what the bus riders (presumably Labour female MPs) will be talking about specifically. Such is the lack of substance attached to this story.

The colour of this political bus is a far cry from the concerted efforts by feminist campaigners to gender neutralize the colour of children's clothing and toys.  These campaigns serve to change entrenched mindsets about the gender polarity that imbues young children with expectations about what they can/cannot do and what they can/cannot achieve. There is a value laden benefit to this exercise.

What is the value laden benefit to attacking a pink political bus which is only going to be around till 6 May-no campaigning is allowed on the day of the election of 7 May - and serves a single purpose of ferreting out women's concerns?
Image result for pink bus labour
This is not a blog post about endorsing Labour's policies. In fact, as I have already stated, I don't know what is proposed for discussion but it won't be far off the mark, I am sure, to guess that the bus is a publicity seeking device to root out women who are prepared to talk about how Westminster's policies affect them.

The feminist in me applauds any attempts to include women in politics. Feminist analysis largely centres around women's role and how a patriarchal system discriminates against them. Women interact with the state, the labour market, public sector and private sector everyday yet our views don't really add up when it comes to central policy making.

My only hope is that the Pink bus will also visit those sites such as Foodbanks where many women can be found struggling to keep their children going. Representational female politics includes those who cannot fend for themselves and they would have greater concerns than the colour of the vehicle that politicians have come to visit them in. They may have an issue with politicians turning up in expensive limos to talk to them but the colour of the car? I don't think so. 

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

I am glad my daughter was vaccinated

My daughter was born in 1999. The decision on whether to vaccinate children or not at that time was being driven by the MMR controversy after Dr Andrew Wakefield's research was published establishing a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. As a result, we consulted a private pediatrician who advised us to opt for vaccination. We agreed but with a degree of trepidation. A number of new mums faced the same dilemma among my circle at the local baby and toddler drop in sessions. Our concerns were solely centered around the wellbeing of our children.

Looking back now I am embarrassed at not considering the wider implications of not having my child vaccinated. Was it the fault of science for not informing parents of this?  Was it the cocoon of new parenthood that blinkered us all? I don't know the answer but I do remember that  the choice of having a vaccination was presented as a personal choice. To opt for the vaccination meant that you were erring on the side of caution and, if nothing else, your child was 'safe'.  At no time did it occur to me nor was it put to me that not having my daughter vaccinated could cause cause harm to others who came  into contact with her.

Private versus public choice is the context for the debate currently framing the news that a woman who had not been vaccinated visited Disneyland in California in December 2014. She infected 7 people but the numbers subsequently being infected hit 84 at the end of January and is growing. The fall out has spread to 7 American states and Mexico. It's become a national issue and has impinged on politics (Obama has spoken out in support of vaccination) and has become a class issue too because medical experts have noted that rich parents tend to go down the route of 'personal choice' with a veto on vaccinations. Even American sport was affected when health officials warned people who were suffering from measles like symptoms to avoid attending the Super Bowl on Sunday 1 February.

Is it time that vaccinations were made a legal requirement? Should parental choice supersede the greater good argument in favor of 'choosing' whether to vaccinate their children or not or is there enough evidence to suggest that the causal effect in terms of public health and costs justifies a mandatory requirement?  

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Is your child lonely in school?

My daughter was lonely at school and it broke my heart. She is now 15 but in a time span of over four years from when she was 5 to the age of about of 9 years old she was a lonely little soul at school. They were horrible years and I was reminded of them today when I read this letter in The Guardian. When your child starts school you imagine their years ahead to be filled with being invited to birthdays, sleep overs and Easter bonnet making activities at someone's home. Instead, it didn't quite work out like that. 

For the first two years of her school life we invited all the children in her class over for birthday and Easter parties. In the third year we stopped doing this because I was forced to confront the reality that a self-imposed elite group of mothers had become firm friends and their daughters had followed likewise. This group quickly became the one that dictated their children's friendships and out of school activities. My daughter was excluded. I lose count of the number of times that my daughter would come out of school with a smiling face then cry when we were out of sight because some party invitation had been handed out and she was in the minority group who did not receive one. 

I spoke to the teachers who assured me that she was happy in class and doing well. My daughter wanted more and it was the parents who pulled the strings on that one. You may be wondering whether it was something my daughter did that put them off? The reality is that sometimes there is no fault on the victim's side. Remember the time when you were at school and you were ignored for no apparent reason? If you weren't then you are one of the lucky ones. A whole Hollywood industry has flourished based on the experiences of girls who were treated badly - Carrie, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and Muriel's Wedding. 

Muriel's Wedding (1994) Poster

The mother who has written in The Guardian today is distraught at seeing her daughter's unhappiness. I don't blame her. The ups and downs of your child's life become your mantle as a mother. You wear their unhappiness especially when they are still dependent on you emotionally. It is heartbreaking that this child (referred to in the letter) does not laugh anymore or joke or sing or be silly. Her childhood is being taken from her by spitefulness. 

I have come across numerous other parents who are witnessing their children going through the same experiences. My advice is to be there for your child and never to belittle their sadness. However, be watchful for signs of your child being bullied. There is a fine line between a child being excluded from child's play and bullying. If it's the latter than take action by forcing the school to step up to their responsibilities.