Pitch: “Growing Up Female” 2012 edition

30 December 2011

Ever since hearing that the 1971 documentary Growing Up Female (dir. Jim Klein and Julia Reichert) was selected for the National Film Registry, I’ve been trying to find a copy. (The closest I’ve come is this fabulous 5-min. clip, which you should watch too and beware of too easily thinking, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”).

Here’s my pitch to documentarians: we need an updated version. You know who else wants an updated version? Riley, our future president:

Riley’s right to start in toy stores, just the way the 1971 film starts in a day care. Here are some other hot spots I hope the documentarians will visit:

  • “breast-araunts” like Twin Peaks and Hooters
  • girls’ sports: the good (confidence, strength, great role models) and the bad (the pressure to appear straight straight straight; the dismal sports opportunities for women beyond college)
  • abortion politics: talk to a young woman who’s going to give birth to her rapist’s baby because of the law or access issues (or, frankly, because of brainwashing)
  • girls who come out as gay or trans (or, alternately, choose not to come out)
  • religious and church messages to girls about gender roles and sex
  • girls’ clothing choices and body pressures to be both whisper-thin AND have a hot badunkadonk
  • children’s TV programming (talk to Geena Davis about this)
  • the pressure to get into college
  • messages about gender and sex in pop music
  • the assholes at Lego who claim that “months of anthropological testing” tell them that girls want pastel-colored Legos despite years of girls wanting regular Legos
  • college sororities and college feminist organizations (and college anti-racist or ethnic organizations, which can have retrograde gender or sexual dynamics)
  • mother-daughter relationships; domestic chores meted out to daughters and sons
  • the effect on girls of presidential candidates who want to outlaw The Pill in their eagerness to “protect life” (that is, everyone running for the GOP nomination) and Pres. Obama, whose commitment to women’s reproductive health seems, well, changeable
  • teenagers growing up in quiverfull or fundamentalist Mormon environments

PLEASE. Not just because it could be an amazing document for the future. For all of us feminists who need to see what’s going on now. For everyone who forgets their own little protected bubble of a world is not a reflection of the whole.

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6 Responses to “Pitch: “Growing Up Female” 2012 edition”

  1. Dienna Says:

    Yes, Riley, why should girls be limited to the princess toys? Girls like superheroes and Legos too!


  2. Last week my 9 year old grandson told his 6 year old sister that she should be playing with “more challenging toys.” Helped her buy a non-pink Legos set. She worked on it; he checked out periodically how she was doing. Still waiting for her very athletic self to figure out that fancy dresses do not fit her activity style.

    As second-wave feminist, I feel good about how I raised their mother. Not so good about the prevalence of crappy commercialism and sexism both too alive and well in the culture. In the 1970s, we could feel progress was possible, was happening. I blame the patriarchy–and capitalism.

    • Didion Says:

      Yes! It’s exactly as Riley says: girls like all manner of things, and sometimes it varies from day to day. AND boys like all manner of things too. I’m pretty happy about this 9-y-old grandson of yours and his helpful hints for his sister.

      I feel pretty good about how I was raised, too — and I was pretty close in age to those pre-schoolers in the early minutes of the film. There were a few years in there when I didn’t wear any clothes at all. I also remember trying to play make-believe with my sister and saying, “I’m the princess, and you’re the maidservant.” She insisted that she was going to be the cheetah instead. Still racking my brain for how that scenario turned out….

      • JE Says:

        What princess’s life would not be improved immeasurably with a cheetah as cohort and co-conspirator?

      • Didion Says:

        IF the cheetah’s loyalties could be guaranteed. Which is never a given.

        But just imagine what a princess could do with a wicked witch if she had a cheetah. So many great scenarios follow.

        On the other hand, the magnificent Servetus has sent me this Legos ad from 1981, which reminds me again that princesses are boring:
        Legos 1981

  3. servetus Says:

    It’s kind of weird to think one would feel nostalgic for the 1970s, esp the late 1970s, but this ad did remind me of the much freer gender rules of my childhood. Thx for posting.


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