Would you let your daughter take part in a hobby/activity you 'disapproved' of, from a more feminist angle?

(80 Posts)
NellyBluth Tue 22-Jan-13 13:12:04

Of all things, i started thinking about this when watching Got to Dance on Sky blush

The other day an episode focused on several competitors who dance what I think is called Freestyle Disco. There seems to be a very specific look for these particular dancers, one that I actually felt quite uneasy about, as a mum. The girls were all heavily fake tanned, wearing almost beauty queen levels of make-up and false eyelashes, and their costumes were extremely tight, sparkly and extravagant. There's an old article from The Sun about it I've just found here if you haven't seen these costumes before. Now I know that a lot of dancers will wear revealing costumes because you need to see their body move, but there was something about these particular outfits and the need to wear make-up, tans etc that doesn't sit quite right with me. It reminds me of child beauty pageants, which also make me a feel a bit uneasy.

Yet I believe freestyle disco is a pretty common form of dance for young girls to learn, and it started me thinking. My DD is only 1 so I have no idea what hobbies or sports she will be interested in, but it could be dance. And she might really love freestyle disco. And then she might want to compete, and would 'need' these outfits that I basically disapprove of, she might 'need' fake tans and false eyelashes and all that at a very young age. But could I actually stop my daughter doing something she loved because of that?

What do other people think? This applies just as much to boys taking part in more traditionally feminine hobbies too, I know, but I know I was thinking specifically about what to me seems an unnecessary sexualisation of a dance style that is more popular with girls. Would you let your feelings stop your daughter taking part in a hobby she loved?

HeathRobinson Tue 22-Jan-13 13:19:06

I've never heard of it.
And there's no way I'd do it.

BranchingOut Tue 22-Jan-13 13:20:05

Probably not, because she, like everyone else around her, is subject to social conditioning which is telling her to use these products/dress this way.

BUT, I would probably have age-appropriate conversations about whether the tan/eyelashes were really needed.

Sparkly and extravagant costumes I don't see anything wrong with - diamante is just fun! - but I would not be keen on her wearing anything revealing or sexualised.

I am vaguely thinking of taking up ice-skating. If I were ever to compete in an ice-skating event then I would probably wear an ice-skating dress. But it would only reveal what I would want to reveal!

alarkaspree Tue 22-Jan-13 13:31:20

Depends what age you were thinking that your dd might want to take this up. I have an 8 year old dd and she only does activities that I want her to do. I'm pretty sure that goes for all her friends too.

As long as she's expecting you to pay for lessons/equipment, you can always say no. And you wouldn't be weird. Those girls in the Sun article are doing it because their mums want them to.

EldritchCleavage Tue 22-Jan-13 13:31:41

I wouldn't stop her doing the hobby at all, but I certainly would stop her conforming to a prevailing aesthetic if I disapproved of it. It would be good to reclaim a perfectly harmless, even beneficial hobby from The Pornification Of Nearly Everything (not that I would get on my soapbox with DD necessarily).

I think you just do some gentle steering.
In my house, it is ds rather than dd who dances - & I have actively steered him away from urban commercial dance classes - which is more 'x factor/sexualised - and towards streetdance, which I find more palateable. To be fair, he prefers it too.

If it had been dd, I'd have done the same thing - found a version of the activity I was comfy with & pushed that route.

FreyaSnow Tue 22-Jan-13 13:42:35

I wouldn't let mine do it but for slightly different reasons. I think that there are so many similar hobbies that actually have much more use in adult life. Jazz, ballet etc form the basis of a lot of dancing for stage, which means you can do musical theatre or similar as an adult amateur/hobby activity. It is a skill you can enjoy your whole life. I can't see what the point of freestyle is beyond your teens; you can hardly do all those extreme and gigantic moves in a normal nightclub, can you? For me those would be the sexist issues; are there more activities that we get girls to do than boys that have no real purpose or function, socially or culturally, in adult life?

Charlizee Tue 22-Jan-13 14:09:52

"I certainly would stop her conforming to a prevailing aesthetic if I disapproved of it."

"I think you just do some gentle steering. "

"I wouldn't let mine do it "

Isn't feminism supposed to be about choice?

FreyaSnow Tue 22-Jan-13 14:12:55

No, feminism isn't always about choice. Anyway, this is about children, who always have the range of choices open to them determined by adults for obvious reasons.

shrinkingnora Tue 22-Jan-13 14:23:05

DD (9) has been doing Brownies for a while. It is a very <ahem> traditional pack and it is starting to annoy and bore her. She hs told me she doesn't want to do Guides (run by lots of the same people) as she feels it will be more of the same and not adventurous enough.

She also plays tag rugby. She is the only girl on the team and has encountered huge amounts of sexism from the boys which is really putting her off doing something she absolutely loves. I don't know what the answer is other than teaching them that the pressure to comform to a stereotype of 'feminine' is wrong and that she should be proud of who she is and her body and the amazing things it can do. We have discussed that sometimes someone has to be the first and teach the boys that girls are just as capable and that every girl that joins this rugby team after her will have an easier time because she hasn't walked away.

I think what I am saying is that your DD is unlikely to choose things that don't fit in with her ideals and if she is being raised by an open minded feminist then that will shape her ideals.

EldritchCleavage Tue 22-Jan-13 14:24:23

Isn't feminism supposed to be about choice?

No, though patriarchy-approved feminism-lite is all about choice. And what Freya said.

NellyBluth Tue 22-Jan-13 15:04:28

Yes, you're probably right, children will get their ideals from their parents and so they might not chose to do something that was so radically different from what the prevailing opinion is at home. For example, DP and I are more likely to take DD to football, gymnastics, karate etc then we are to sign her up for ballet classes, if she hasn't expressed her own opinion.

My fear though is that you might start saying no to a sport/activity that your child is good at because of your own opinions. There are a lot of sports where things like appearance and weight becomes an issue, probably more so for girls than for boys, which I would be uncomfortable with. I don't think I would like my 10 year daughter to be watching her weight because she was serious about ballet, or wanting to get waxed because she was serious about swimming. But if your child was seriously talented at something, these things might very well happen. And maybe then you get to a point where you are actively knocking your child's dreams, ambitions and talents because of your own opinions - and I can't decide if that is fair, or right, especially when it is about something like a fake tan or make-up.

But I really, really would be very uncomfortable about my 10 year old daughter dressed in some of those freestyle costumes.

dashoflime Tue 22-Jan-13 15:09:23

No, because growing up is about breaking with your parents and finding your own values, so I'd expect her to do somethings I disapprove of.

Money would be a bigger issue: the cost of those costumes must be vast!

Allaquandry Tue 22-Jan-13 15:15:45

There are a few 'over my dead body' moments that I have when it comes to my kids. Early sexualisation is one, and I'd no sooner let DD(6) 'choose' that kind of dancing than I would let her 'choose' the bikini she's been begging me for.

Likewise, DS gets told in no uncertain terms that 'nothing' is the preserve of men. He has girls (including DD) In his karate class, his rugby team, and his cubs group (beavers for DD).

It's not about choice when they are too young to understand discrimination. It's about being responsible for guiding them in the right general direction, and protecting them. And given that my DD yesterday wrote me a story about her friend in which she wrote that her friend was 'sexie' (sp), I reckon the more firmly we guide them, the better, because society itself is fucking it all up royally.

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Tue 22-Jan-13 16:52:42

I haven't got a DD, just a DS, but I would assess every situation as it happens, and factor in how much a child wants to do something and how much harm could actually come to him/her from doing it. And try to make sure that if I forbad something it was because of a real risk to the child's physical/mental health or self-esteem, rather than from killjoy puritanism. (For instance, I despise religion and would not be happy for DS to join any kind of group that focussed on praying and believing but if he really wanted to do so, I would let him. And just make sure I undermined the negative aspects of it at home...)

Nelly - I do know what you mean - I think many sports if participated in at a high level can have a detrimental, as well as positive effects. As you say, many sports at that level are associated with body/confidence issues. But for the vast, vast majority of kids, & girls in particular, I would have thought having an active, healthy appreciation of the fun that sports and physical movement outweighs the worry that they'll turn out to be the next Olga Korbut, or whatever.

Iirc, the Ox Eng Dictionary defines feminism as "a belief in the power and equality of women", so choices that undermine that power and equality, for me personally, aren't about feminism, Chalizze. But I agree that deciding where the line is drawn can be problematic.

The costumes are covered in Swarovski crystals and cost upwards of £1000 new.
I just typed out a huge response as my dd1 danced freestyle for many years but it went poof and I've lost the will to retype.

Basically there are good points and bad points. They are addressing the make up and fake tan and under 12's (I think) aren't allowed it anymore. Defi Italy a move in the right direction.

I didn't agree with all the palava but dd adored dancing and it gave her loads of confidence and enjoyment.

Se doesn't compete now (aged 14) but enjoys going to classes for fun.

Oh and there are quite a few boys in the dancing world too although they are still very outnumbered! I used to love watching the older boys, they were so talented and graceful.

NellyBluth Tue 22-Jan-13 21:41:10

Oh, solidgold, don't start me worrying already about religion!

Umm, you used the exact phrase that worries me when I think about this, that it gave your daughter such confidence and enjoyment. What if my daughter adored something that I found so uncomfortable? Could I really let her compete dressed like that, when I see it as sexualisation of a child?

Nellybluth: The Scouts and Guides are currently having a big consultation about dropping the requirement to believe in gods. Which is excellent stuff.

FreyaSnow Tue 22-Jan-13 22:34:53

SGB, I thought that the Guides already had an alternate phrasing for atheists to use. Perhaps they're dropping the mention of God altogether this time?

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 22-Jan-13 22:41:20

Dd will do freestyle over my dead body

It's full of tricks with not a huge amount of technique. She does Modern instead, still done in a catsuit or leotard & leggings but she doesn't do comps and the focus us on technique and artistry not tricks

That's alongside the ballet, tap, jazz/Musicsl theatre , street dance ..........
It never ends!

I'd object if dd wanted to do pole dancing/fitness. Or take burlesque classes. They're not really helpful activities for a child who's previous suffered abuse, has low self esteem and is in the care system.

As a side issue I've always wondered why people thinking individual choices are a 'good' thing for individual women. In my opinion individual women (like celebrities) can make very poor choices that effect plenty of other women when they themselves are inured to it because they are rich enough to protect themselves. I'm thinking of the Madonna 'Sex' book as an example.

Dressed like what though op? You choose the outfit. My dd wore jazzed up leotards (with low legs) or cat suits. Unless you're a sponsored dancer you can choose what they wear.
It's tough but honestly, my dd is the nerdiest, non - sexualised 14 year old I know! It's about your attitude too.

NellyBluth Wed 23-Jan-13 14:13:41

True, umm - I guess I got the impression from this TV show that the costumes were an 'essential' part of the activity, that if a child became heavily involved in that style of dance then there would be an expectation from judges etc that they would wear this particular type of outfit.

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