Friday, 1 February 2013

Bitching Barbies

Last weekend I attended a school reunion. Not an official one, but one in a London restaurant largely organised through Facebook. The event was fantastic, with lots of laughter and reminiscing. And some wine. And what left the biggest impression was that we all got on – just as I’d remembered we all had.

Perhaps most people wouldn’t find that so shocking – but if I told you mine was a girls school would you change your mind? I’ve found that Kent’s single-sex selective system brings out quite a lot of negative comments. On hearing that my secondary peers were all female, plenty of people ask: ‘But wasn’t that so BITCHY?’.  Well no, it wasn’t. Women aren’t always incredibly jealous individuals competing for the best boyfriend – some of us are actually quite friendly…even to each other!
Barbies shouldn't be left unattended
It was with this in mind that I spent some time reading about a ‘hot’ new book by Steve Biddulph. The basic premise is that girls are facing a ‘crisis’ because of the pressure society puts upon them to grow up too quickly. They want to be beautiful and sexy – long before they can comprehend what sexy means. And when they do become sexually active it’s for the wrong reasons – with the insecurity they experience over their identity leading to mental illness.

As a mother of two girls, I’m horrified to think that this could be the case. But when I really think about it, I’m not convinced that the situation is quite as clear cut as the media furore would have us believe. The cynic inside me also thinks a few outrageous press articles never did book sales any harm…

In truth there has always been pressure on females to behave in – and look – a certain way. And much of the force behind this has come from the male-dominated worlds of industry, media and politics. I find it ironic that much of the critical commentary on the way girls dress, behave and consume often includes some remark about feminism and the sexual revolution. There’s an undercurrent that suggests since females have benefitted SO much from the 'equal' society we now live in (chortle) it’s kind of our own fault our girls are being treated like life-sized Barbie dolls.

But who can save future females generations from self-harm, shattered self-esteem and self-medication by binge drinking? Why ‘parents’ of course – and by that we mean mothers!!! The onus is on us to build up confidence, explain sex and emotions and help guide our girls in life. Excuse me, but I pretty much plan to do that anyway…
Why not speak to your children?
Which neatly leads me onto what I’ve been writing this week (it’s like I plan this stuff!!). A local business mummy (see us women work as a team!) tipped me off about a call for submissions. The topic was women, and specifically stage scripts that focus on their stories and situations not presently represented on stage (women form 68% of theatre audiences but typically there is a 2:1 male-to-female ratio of roles for actors appearing on stage).

I think it’s true to say that the multi-tasking mummy isn’t often represented on stage, as there’s more mileage in a beautiful, young, singleton (playing opposite a male lead apparently!). So I wrote a monologue set at a school nativity play with the ensuing humour only various social gaffes  and gaining a decent camera shot can bring. During this exercise I even learnt how to mark up scripts!

Since I had some extra time I also submitted a 100-word entry into a competition judged by Jeffrey Archer. The ultimate prize is a place on a novel-writing course. Well, everyone has a book inside them.
What would your novel be about? (answers please in the comments box below!!)




  1. Excellent Vanessa. According to Phyllida Lloyd whose all-female version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar has just opened at the Donmar Warehouse in London, for every woman who is employed in a female role, there are 3 men! This imbalance definitely needs to be redressed. I agree that we shouldn't seek to compete with other women. If we do, we only lose focus and our grip on the bigger picture. Let's work together more...And as for my book? It'll be about the taboos of raising a family and working.

  2. Thank you - so many taboos, so little time...

  3. I fully intend to talk to my little girlies about sex, love and life. I read a great article the other day that said that even if you don't think your teenagers are listening to you, they are secretly and to keep doing it. The issues we have today have always been in society, the difference now is everyone talks about them a lot more. The media seem to focus on what is happening to the minority of girls, not the majority.

    If I had to write a novel, I think it would be about the immigration of my grandmother from Italy in post war Europe and the spread of my family across the world.

    P.S. I love this every week, sorry I haven't posted until now

  4. Oh my gosh, I have been thinking so much about this too. There have ALWAYS been girls more suggestible to peer pressure, self-criticism. Yes, the experts have their opinions but is our job as parents to KNOW our children and to guide them appropriately. I do think there is more pressure on young women now-to have the perfect career AND the perfect family AND look wonderful at the same time but our job is to give them the strength and confidence to choose what matters to them. I actually blogged about this a few weeks ago, more in the context of parenting each child as an individual-

    This is a wonderful blog and I'm a new follower! I just started blogging, would be so grateful if you could have a read and give me some feedback. Thanks!

  5. Thank you so much for your comments and support ladies. I do think the articles I read were sensationalised to promote the book and it's so easy to panic about parenting issues! I will pop and check in on your blogs too (Harrovian Mama I am also a newbie!!).

  6. Ellie Bick - The more I think about it the better your novel sounds!!!