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Moms Talk Q&A: Katy Perry Vs. Centuries-Old Fairy Tales?

How do we foment good girl power upon our young daughters?

When Hollywood songwriters provided Katy Perry with "California Girls" last summer, I got in on the craze, just like anyone else with a radio. Catchy as it is though, it’s absolutely a pop culture gateway drug.  

At first it’s just a harmless little buzz about summer and sand in our stilettos. Like all great hooks, it grabs you. Next thing you know, you’re having a "Teenage Dream." "You can put your hands on me in my skin tight jeans." Hmm. Now that the Perry addiction is in full force, we can be a "Firework." So raw is the conveyance of despair that if you thought you were a regular kid before you heard it, after a few rewinds you’ll be sure to find something wrong with yourself so as to identify with the irresistible glamour of pain.

There are scores who believe that this new age of hyper-sexual, aggressive girl-women have the modern feminist identity cornered. I have to disagree. As a kid of the 80s where anything went and we didn’t know what we didn’t know, I cannot claim any platitude of chastity.

Yet, for some reason what we listened to and watched on MTV just didn’t have the same carelessly raw sucker punch to our straining libidos. Or, maybe we did get all hepped up on David Lee Roth and Poison, but I feel like we were allowed to sort it out. Pop and rock seemed to leave something to the imagination and that is where we ran wild. The sheer obviousness of Perry and her dozen or so twin sisters is both ridiculous and tawdry to my adult eye. Since my adult eye needs to be on my little girls at all times, I am utterly weary of sorting out the recreational songs from those that may require intervention.

This came into sharp focus this afternoon. I took the 4-year-old to see "Disney Princesses on Ice" in town. I couldn’t help but well-up with tears at the sheer sweetness of the whole thing. There have been thousands of words written on how harmful the images and storylines of Disney are for girls. How sexist plots of poor waifs waiting to be saved by a handsome prince are cauterizing to the female sense of self. Well, let me tell you how I saw it today.

The prince has no halcyon life. He is expected to be an expert equestrian, hunter, dancer and leader. He must be clever enough to outsmart witches and cavort with dwarves without anyone spreading rumors. Furthermore, the poor bloke really just serves to pay the bills and be her arm candy at the end of the day.  

In all the stories, princesses like Ariel, Briar Rose and Mulan are the protagonists, who ultimately figure out their own destinies. So what if this includes snagging a good-looking rich guy? If you claim never have to embark on that quest, me thinks thou art lying. Geez, even good old Cinderella solved her own problems with some mice and an extra shoe for God's sake. What’s sexist about creative self-sufficiency?

Anyway, my daughter is exposed to quite a range of entertainment. As unavoidable as Perry is today, I see no comparison in the impact on little girls when put it up against a centuries-old fairy tale. There wasn’t a damn thing wrong with Violet exclaiming “Momma! Cinderella’s foot fits into that slipper!”

As I watched the young men and women gliding by in their beautiful, glittery costumes, I thought what a terrible waste it would be if these feminine fairy tales were totally replaced by a black-wigged showgirl shooting whipped cream out of her bra.

All I can do is provide every opportunity to hear actual music sung by actual singers. I can show them that femininity comes in so many forms; it's not possible for one currently famous person to embody that notion. If that means resurrecting some old fashioned refrains, so be it. I’ll take a "dream is a wish your heart makes, when you are asleep" over "homeboys hangin’ out, all that ass hangin’ out, bikinis, tankinis, martinis, no weenies, just a king and a queenie,"...indeed.

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Tara March 08, 2011 at 03:13 AM
Katy Perry wrote "California Girls" HERSELF. :)
Christian m. March 08, 2011 at 05:42 PM
And she made that song for older people to have fun she wrote that song herself by the way get your facts straight before you go and talk nonsense about Katy. She writes all her songs and they have meaning and that song is supposed to be fun not to be examined or researched and mean anything bad.ITS JUST A FUN SONG AND IT'S AMAZING!
Jennifer Rignani March 08, 2011 at 07:35 PM
Hi- As I said in the beginning - I really dug "California Girls" because its so catchy. My point is that little girls may not quite get the humor in her videos nor need the overt sexual lyrics in their young minds. As a modern parent I dont profess to shield them from all vulgarities intended for older folks-that's the challenge of a hyper-technical world. The images and songs are everywhere. Of course its a fun song! I agree. I am just striving to point out that there is also nothing wrong with exposing young girls to some solid, old standards that were composed in a simpler time, with some subtlety. Disney has a place and may play a role in counter-balancing the pop culture phenoms that tend to dominate the world now. Ya know what I mean?

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