This morning I noticed a few people posting on Instagram about Kim Kardashian actively promoting an appetite suppressant lolly and at first I skimmed over it and flicked to the next post. I used to really like watching reality TV, I was a huge fan of Big Brother when it first came out and stateside I loved Laguna Beach and The Hills but I never really found the time to watch The Kardashians.
Having said that, I don’t have my head in the sand and I do know who they are. Beautiful girls with a lot of money who a lot of people of all ages admire.
And I can completely see why… I would love more money so I didn’t have to work as much, so I could spend more time in the gym feeling better about myself. I would love to have a little bit more disposable income so I could get my teeth whitened and laser eye surgery so I don’t have to wear glasses anymore. The list could go on and I’m sure we all agree, we all have a list of what we’d do if we were given a million pounds.
Whether what she did was right or wrong isn’t really the point of this post – she isn’t the only celebrity /influencer/role model to endorse a controversial product. Even myself as a blogger, I’ve reviewed stretch mark creams and promoted various beauty products so I’m not here to argue where do we draw the line or what is right or wrong.
What I do want to do is raise awareness of a conversation I had with a lady while I was working on my dissertation back in 2011 that probably influenced my parenting style. My thesis was titled ‘The Sexualisation of Young Girls within Magazines and the Media’ and I worked incredibly hard on it. I went to various magazines including Teen Vogue in New York, I surveyed people in the industry, mums, children and anyone who would talk to me. I wrote to tv programmes, celebrities and read a crazy amount of books. It was something I felt passionate about – as a child, I had been bullied because growing up on a farm in the countryside had left me quite naive and during secondary school, my eyes were truly opened.
The lady I spoke to was in her late thirties and had two children, a girl age ten and a younger boy and they had a fairly typical British family life. They lived in a nice house, in a nice village on the outskirts of a North East city, drove nice cars and had a comfortable income so that she only needed to work part time and they took two all inclusive long haul holidays a year. At that point in my life, they were how I imagined I would like my life to turn out. Happy and comfortable without any money worries.
She told me something that would stick with me for the rest of my life and even then as a twenty year old without a care in the world and no descendants, broke my heart.
Her daughter had an incredible imagination and her favourite toys up until the year previous had been her dolls. She said she’d always enjoyed playing with them but had one day come home from school crying and wanted to get rid of them. Upon asking her why and what was wrong, her daughter had said the other girls at school had made her feel embarrassed because she still played with dolls and she didn’t know the words to Rihanna’s Umbrella.
Ironically, if you look at lyrics to a lot of other Rihanna songs now, Umbrella probably is one of the more tame but that’s beside the point.
Her mum told me that she felt she had done her daughter wrong. She said she’d never hidden her from popular music but that she never deliberately exposed her to it either. Instead she’d let her little girl’s instinct to play, do just that.
At the time my heart felt for that little girl so much but it wasn’t until I became a mum myself that I truly realised what the lady had told me.
She never set out to protect her daughter from being sexualised but in return for not exposing her, her daughter ended up bullied and outcast from the friendship group. She was in a no win situation.
It’s a story I’ve come back to and mulled over on more than one occasion since becoming a mum. I hope that Edie and Mabel have wonderful long childhoods where they get to play with whatever they want, however they want and have the confidence if other children tease them to tell them to sod off. I will try my very best to perform the balancing act that is protecting and exposing them so that they can be little girls for as long as they need to. But I do wonder, if I’d not heard that story, if my values or my parenting style would be different.