Thursday, 11 February 2010

It's a Girl Thing

You may have caught the latest chunk of the Katie'n'Peter saga on GMTV this morning. The TV equivalent of coke and jelly beans for breakfast responsibly set up (for news purposes, obviously) the warring exes for some fresh feuding. Having had Katie on the sofa earlier this week, it was Andre's turn - desperate, bursting to promote his awful Valentines album - to weigh in about his former wife's behaviour. Luckily the former Celebrity Mum of the Year (who was she up against, Courtney Love and Britney Spears?) handed the researchers a story on a silver platter by posting a gharish picture of her and Andre's two-year-old daughter, Princess, in full make-up and fake lashes on Facebook.

The offending photo

Now, even before this picture was leaked, I have long had my suspicions about that kid. With two naturally dark-haired parents, Cypriot heritage and an appearance-obsessed mother, it wouldn't surprise me if that Barbie blonde hair was dyed. Princess and Junior (don't even get me started on the names) both appear to have their lashes curled and possibly coated with mascara in those endless OK! pictures, and they just don't look like happy, normal kids to me. In this picture, the gharish fake lashes - Urgh! Using lash glue on your child! - and pink lips stand out starkly against her little baby teeth and big blue eyes.

Andre broadly stated that he found the fake-lashes picture 'disgusting', but it sparked some debate over whether girls will be girls, trying on make-up and mum's shoes. The trouble is, this girl is two. At two, girls just aren't girly yet - me and my sisters were definitely in dungarees with short hair, probably some pink but not predominantly, at that age. Toddler interests usually revolve around their plastic cup of squash, the walls and floor, mud, farm visits and the odd tantrum. Girliness, that minefield of pink and sparkle, comes later. That's what troubled me about the Andre kids - their gender seems so enforced. Princess is pink, chiffon, big skirts, curled hair, make up (notably not smudged on by a child, but expertly blended by adult hands) sparkly shoes, even rocking a hot-pink buggy as a baby. Junior is surfer shorts, khaki, white trainers, Logo T-shirts and gelled-up hair on occasion. Because why worry about whether four is too young to break out the Brylcreem when your kid can look like David Beckham? It's the parenting equivalent of tiny jackets and shoes on a dog. Bizarre, and unsettling.

I have a couple of times felt compelled to blog about the Pink Stinks campaign, but have always found myself slightly on the fence. I don't think it is necessarily a terrible thing that small girls gravitate to pink, it is a larger WAG/popstar image that is worrying when imitated. When girls think only about who they want to grow up to marry or what reality TV show they want to go on, that's what makes me sad. Pink Stinks is a slightly neurotic-mum manifestation of today's concerns about girls being flooded with pink, playboy-logoed, princessy clothes and toys. It seeks to redress the balance by promoting cool role models like female Nobel Prize winners and Arctic explorers (good) and bombarding toy stores with angry letters about their stock (hmm).

I know several people who feel strongly that nothing is that black and white (or pink, for that matter) and that girls with strong female examples in their life will turn out great with or without a Barbie obsession. I wasn't half as obsessed with glam, freakishly-proportioned Barbie as either of my sisters, but that hasn't made me any more of a science brain or adventuress. I'm still pretty damn girly, and I swapped ballet for gym and refused to wear skirts for several years. So maybe it's a case of phases - little girls discovering the excitement of sparkly nail varnish, princessy costume and playing mummy. But I don't think opening their eyes to the range of career options and hobbies available to them can ever be a bad thing; it's so tempting to assume that girls like ballet and singing, and boys like football and computer games.

Incidentally, I don't think we'll be seeing any websites devoted to showing boys the perks of wearing pink and taking dance classes. Surely the best you can do is offer a range of fun activities and let both genders mix with each other as much as possible? Take heed, anti-pink mummies: beware becoming just as controlling as those youth-hungry Katie types who project their idea of glamour onto their small child. On Katie's TV show she is filmed proudly showing off her toddler's makeover, saying 'Do you like it?' With no prompting whatsoever, Princess responds, 'I look like a mini you!' Not exactly a rave review.


  1. I personally think Peter Andre is a bit of a joke, if you have an issue with how your child is dressed that confront her mother directly, not via the tv, the cringe worthy advert for his 'valentines' album along with a preview of lyrics like, 'it cuts like a knife, she's out of my life' had me in hysterics earlier today! and just show he is out for money and attention!

    the picture is pretty awful, you are right it is all very 'forced' and very inappropriate for her age.

    also I thought of your blog today when I heard what john mayer had been spouting about in playboy! that man should be banned from interviews|

  2. I thought very similar things when I watched this which features some of the most horrific parenting. Madison (the depressed looking child with the pink lipstick) and her mother who proudly says she looks 'like a wee doll' are on Jo Frosts extreme parental guidance next week and I'm quite curious to see it. What I found funny with Baby Beauty Queens was this insistance that 'its what they want' and 'theyve always been obsessed with clothes and make up'. Children have to get their ideas from somewhere, in this case clearly from their pushy image obsessed mothers. I think letting them play with the toys they want is very different to encouraging fake beauty like fake nails and eyelashes. There is also a dreadful bit in BBQ where the mother tells her child she has to practise dance because 'she needs to be good, not just average'. What a horrible thing to say to a child!I cannot understand pushing that obsession with fake beauty onto your child at such a young age. I just generally feel sorry for the Price/Andre children, and I agree with Jen, Peter Andre is no better at not dragging his children into the bitterness and talking about them on tv. I also resent celebrity fathers like Brian from Westlife who moan about the mothers of their children being dreadful but dont bother to get custody which surely would be fairly easy when the mother is Kerry Katona. I agree we shouldnt fight to reverse gender stereotypes, just give the child the chance to play with what they want and let them grow up at their own pace.