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.

madwomanintheattic Wed 23-Jan-13 14:44:48

Heh heh.
I have two dd's and a ds, and they all dance. grin

In my opinion, dd1 has an extremely sensible attitude to the make-up, glitz, spangles and costumes, as she recognizes it is for performance. So, for the stage, she gets on her false eyelashes and whatnot.

She wears no make up at all in her regular life, wears jeans, boots, and is quite the scruffiness and most balanced kid I know.

In a very interesting twist, the dance costumes and make up have given her a balanced insight into performing femininity a la Judith butler.

She also spent the week before Christmas in a workshop for 'equal voice', a local organization campaigning for women in politics.

To sit with a one year old and tut at dance because they wear makeup makes me feel that you are nicely tripping along a stereotypical 'dance is bad' path, without actually having any personal knowledge.

I am absolutely secure in my feminist beliefs. As is dd1.

She doesn't do disco - she did freestyle in the UK. At the mo she takes, ballet, jazz, modern and garage tap. (Tap is her thing, really, but essentially she dances about 5-6 hours a week. The practices look nothing like the performances, and are full of girls of all shapes and sizes who are exploring the strength and fluidity of their bodies. No make up or spangles in sight)

Dd1's first dance teacher was a size 22.

Dd1 isn't going to be a professional dancer. She's a grade A student in a gifted programme, with a strong vocation towards making the old a better place. Most of the girls in dance will take their homework to competitions, and concentrate on their text books in between performances. Dance gives them a discipline that permeates through their life, and most of the dancers are also the hardest workers in school, getting the best grades.

To stick with a physical activity that takes up so much time for so many years, and work hard, isn't something I'm going to complain about.

I always find these threads quite funny. I thought that way once. grin. And I see similar attitudes with mums of toddlers. I have a great friend who used to take the piss out of me allowing my dd to wear makeup for shows, what with my all encompassing feminist attitude. But she didn't see the impact it has on dd.

Putting on stage make up is a glorious pita. So much so that it reinforces the 'this is just for performance' angle, which gives the girls a really good insight into 'performing' and make the link to femininity and real life.

Sure, you'll get a few nutters that will look at it like pageants, but their girls won't still be doing it when they are old enough to start forming their own ideas about feminism and the role of women in society. For those girls, dance is bizarrely a great introduction to societal expectations and the necessity of conforming to the rules.

I'm very proud of my dd.

I'm very proud of ds, too - he loves to dance. He isn't much impressed by having to wear makeup, but again, what a great way to be able to discuss gendered expectations, huh?

Who knew that a few dance lessons would mean they get delusions of gender for free?

madwomanintheattic Wed 23-Jan-13 14:51:45

Nelly, I should also add that in rl, dd does indeed get her ideas from me. I additionally never wear make up (at all, ever, I don't believe in performing femininity grin) don't wear heels, ever, wear trousers to wrk and jeans at home, have a very short greying pixie crop, never shave my legs or armpits, etc etc.

On that note, btw, dd shaves twice twice a year for the performance season. She chooses to dance hairy the rest of the year. This is a deliberate choice to conform to the performance aesthetic.

I have a (feminist) degree and masters and spent the vast majority of my working life in military uniform doing a 'man's' job.

Your assumptions about dancers and their families are sadly very common, though.

I am a mountain expedition leader, dd skis black runs at the weekends when she doesn't have dance practice. grin

To write us all off as poor deluded types who know no better has pissed me off a bit, tbh.

madwomanintheattic Wed 23-Jan-13 14:59:31

I wouldn't let her be a prostitute. I disapprove of that.

The hysteria wrt to dance on mn is very interesting. I love it when the fems get together and hoik their bosoms in mutual disapproval.

Dd1 is a feminist joy. grin and <horror> she dances.

NellyBluth Wed 23-Jan-13 15:06:21

Mad, I didn't want to make any assumptions about either dancers or their families and the last thing I was doing was writing people off as 'poor, deluded types' (though I would be interested to see where you got this impression - apologies if it was The Sun article, that was just the first one I stumbled across looking for examples of the costumes). This wasn't even really about dance, it was just that it happened to be a particular dance that sparked off my thinking.

I was trying to ask simply whether you would let your child take part in an activity that you were uncomfortable with or disapproved of. In my personal example, this was freestyle disco, whose performance aesthetic (which I do understand not all dancers will follow) I feel extremely uncomfortable; for me, catsuits cut to hear, fake tans, false eyelashes and the like are not suitable for young girls. But I wondered how much my discomfit with a particular look etc should colour my decision to let my daughter take part in an activity which she might love, or be very good at. I feel that is a very tricky line. So this was not about judging mums who let their children take part in an activity I am uncomfortable with, it was asking how do you make this decision as a parent.

Dancing was just one example. Another mum might have as many issues with their daughter taking part in a more traditionally masculine sport like rugby or ice hockey or boxing. The 'feminist angle' in my title was because in my particular, personal example, I feel the over sexualisation of young girls in certain sports/activities is a feminist issue.

madwomanintheattic Wed 23-Jan-13 15:45:41

Oh, I know. But often these threads end up holding up the feminist-o-meter with the suggestion that this sort of activity inherently does not measure up.

And I thought it was worth pointing out that I have an actively feminist dd who knowingly takes part in dance performance with fake eyelashes and tight costumes, and recognises it as 'performance', which has given her a really valuable insight into 'performing femininity'. She performs it, and them removes it and returns to the real world, where she is able to shake off that expectation as a result. It has made that role 'fake' for her. It is not who she is.

I am more concerned about the girls who put on their slap and heels, get their push up bras on, and 'perform' every day unthinkingly. It's the unthinking and cultural expectations aspect that bothers me.

I'm less concerned about girls who put on a costume for a specific act, knowingly. They understand that the the eyelashes and glitter are optional, and to be used in certain circumstances, for a particular effect.

So, my question, really, is, are you 'disapproving' of the right thing? Or is that disapproval a knee jerk reaction to something traditionally considered suspect from a feminist pov?

In much the same way as a parent who believes that girls shouldn't play rugby would be?

They are equally narrow viewpoints. Just because you believe that dance is somehow inherently unfeminist doesn't mean that you have the moral high ground.

It's the assumption of what is right and what is wrong that I am uncomfortable with.

And I'm aware of the irony of claiming dance as a feminist activity. But in our case, it's the one thing that has marked performance boundaries for dd that has enabled her to see gendered cultural expectations for what they are.

Funny old world.

madwomanintheattic Wed 23-Jan-13 15:48:26

(My assumption is that you don't mind if your dd wants to play rugby. I don't mind either. But then I don't mind if my dd wants to dance. I'm well over that, because I recognise the naïveté of the position. It's 'performing feminism' if you will. Ie rugby good, dance bad. Good feminist. I am 'right' to disapprove of x, y or z)

mindosa Wed 23-Jan-13 15:56:10

All dancing comes with a level of stereotyping and a focus on looks.
Ballet, although beautiful to watch, is probably the most hard on a girls self worth and self esteem.
Just general hip hop or disco or whatever at least is a bit more accepting of different shapes and sizes.

My DD loves dancing but I also make her swim and play tennis to counterbalance the whole dancing/costumes/looks thing. I would much prefer if she swam or played tennis competitively than danced though.

madwomanintheattic Wed 23-Jan-13 16:05:44

Aye, it does. I'd disagree on the self worth and self esteem thing for ballet as a recreational or childhood activity though. I'd agree for those intending to dance professionally. As a childhood activity, in a decent dance school, it's no more damaging to self esteem than any other recreational sport.

As I said, dd1's first dance teacher (ballet) was a size 22. In many years, I have never heard a single comment or picked up any sort of vibe about looks or size, and we've been through four or five dance schools. The girls are all shapes and sizes, and the focus is on activity, not looks. They are reassured once a year for the costume order, no the costumes arrive in all sizes to fit, whether you are teeny skinny or overweight. There's no teeth sucking. It is what it is.

I hear you about professional dancers. Totally.

But as an activity for kids (and as I say, ds dances too) it is no more damaging than football.

Mine swim too. As a swimmer, dd has quite broad shoulders and good upper body strength. She's no anorexic. grin they also both played ice hockey. She doesn't meet the traditional ballet aesthetic at all, and hasn't been judged for it, but that's because they are kids having fun, not going for a job interview as a hoofer.

NellyBluth Wed 23-Jan-13 16:06:04

I have no problem with dance. I don't really care what sport or activity my DD grows up to like, obviously like most parents I'd just be happy if there was a physical activity she took part in willingly, from the health aspect. I don't think all dance is inherently unfeminist either confused There's just something about the outfits for that particular kind of dance that strike me as unecessary. I appreciate that most forms of dance require tight outfits so that you can see how the body is moving, but the overt nature of these costumes are... I'm stick with 'unnecessary'.

You're right about whether you are disapproving about the 'right thing', though. That would be my concern.

madwomanintheattic Wed 23-Jan-13 16:07:28

(I did lol at 'make her' though. That's nice. grin do you not trust her enough to make her own decisions?)

^^ devil's advocate. Am sure it was just poor word choice, and you don't 'make her' do anything. But it's worth asking why you chose those words from a 'good fem, bad fem' pov...

NellyBluth Wed 23-Jan-13 16:09:17

Oh, and as we x-posted, I do understand what you mean about it generally just being kids who have fun. I'm more thinking of the extreme - what if your child turned out to be seriously good at something like freestyle disco, and the only way they would be able to compete is to follow the prevailing aesthetic (i.e. judges marking down because the overall look isn't right which, from my very very very limited view of this dance style, it seems that the costumes and look are part of the overall package) and your child really wanted to follow the aesthetic - but you felt uncomfortable with it. How far can you let your opinions sway what your child loves doing?

madwomanintheattic Wed 23-Jan-13 16:10:38

And anyone that makes a five year old train 9hours a week is off their rocker, anyway, IMO. grin. (Can that child even see?) <boggle>

It's just very easy to say 'dance bad, swimming good', but life is never that simple. (I get that isn't where you are going, but it often is, in these here parts)

Narked Wed 23-Jan-13 16:12:26

Yes. My mother stopped me from doing that kind of dance for those reasons many, many, many sad years ago. She was absolutely right.

madwomanintheattic Wed 23-Jan-13 16:15:08

Lol, x post again.

I think it's fascinating - but I don't particularly see dance as ever being a career choice for mine - so I wouldn't be encouraging that level of activity in a young kid in any case (I mean, if you have a raft of cash and want to waste it, whatever) but I try to think a bit longer term.

Fwiw, dd2 has a half baked idea that she's going to be a Paralympic skier. Se may well, but at 9 she still only has one two hour lesson a week, and skis in the same snow pants she wears to school.

I think I would be questioning the intensity... Let alone the 'good/ bad thing...

mindosa Thu 24-Jan-13 10:33:17

Madwomen well she's 4 and not very sporty so I do in actuality 'make her' swim and play tennis. If I didnt she would be the type of child to sit all day iyswim.

shrinkingnora Thu 24-Jan-13 10:40:36

Funnily enough, my daughter has been called fat by a couple of girls in her swimming class and it has had serious repurcussions here.

shrinkingnora Thu 24-Jan-13 10:41:05


Tortoiseonthehalfshell Thu 24-Jan-13 10:52:31

My DD1 started ballet last year, at 3.5. Well, 'pre-ballet', which is frankly just skipping around the room and pointing their toes. I deliberately chose a 'studio' that was less than rigid about dress standards for practice, because some of the places require a Proper Bun for all practice. Quite apart from the fact that they are THREE, I just couldn't do that logistically; I keep DD1's hair so short that it can't be tied back in any form.

Anyway, so, she loved ballet. Loved it, with a passion that went beyond "I'm a pretty fairy" social bollocks and well into a sheer joy in being taught to move her body in ways that felt right to her. Seriously, watching her was a revelation, because I've always been leery of ballet with all its associated body image crap.

And then, a week before the end of year show (in which DD1 and her peers have a five minute slot in which they randomly point their toes and scamper incompetently around the stage while everyone says awwwwww), I get a brochure about costume and makeup. Makeup! Full makeup, apparently. Foundation and powder and eyeshadow and mascara and lipstick. AT THREE.

By then it felt too late. I couldn't pull her out without breaking her heart, and I couldn't put up a huge resistance. I mean, what I did was skip the foundation and buy lipgloss and natural eyeshadow. But still. She was so happy to be allowed makeup. She was three.

Takver Thu 24-Jan-13 11:29:47

Tortoise - how would you have felt about stage make-up for a play or musical?

DD has been in a few shows and I've never thought of the stage makeup as relating in any way to the sort of makeup that women wear in everyday life.

Obviously all the cast wear it, male & female, and it is specifically put on to counteract the effects of the lights and also to age/whatever the performer to fit the part.

As someone who hasn't worn makeup for over 20 years I'd still expect to have to wear stage makeup if I were to act in a play.

Picturesinthefirelight Thu 24-Jan-13 11:30:28

The make up for stage is because the lights wash out the skin so you can't see facial features and look a bit ghost like.

To be fair foundation isn't often needed for very young children unless they are very pale but eyes lips and cheeks will stop them looking a bit odd.

Takver Thu 24-Jan-13 11:31:04

Sorry, that isn't put well. I suppose what I'm saying is that the makeup has a very specific role (to stop performers looking washed out under the stage lights) so I don't feel like it is an issue in the same way.

Takver Thu 24-Jan-13 11:31:16

xpost with pictures

NellyBluth Thu 24-Jan-13 12:04:36

Blimey, tortoise - I think that would be one thing that would drive non-confrontational me into a meeting with the dance school!

But like you say, once your DC starts to love taking part in an activity, it would be almost impossible to pull them out, and that's where the issues can arise.

madwomanintheattic Thu 24-Jan-13 14:20:16

It's for the lights.

Like I said, ds1 has to wear make up on stage as well.

At three or four, they are quite old enough to be introduced to the idea of make up as something you do to perform. (I have to say at three or four they usually just stand on the stage and blink out at the lights anyway - it's really interesting to see the progression as they move through the dance school - and by ten or eleven, you can start to have really interesting discussions with them about the use of performance.)

All this hysteria bout stage make up is very funny.

I have lots of friends with three year olds in ballet who are all good right on fems and recoil in horror at their three year old having to wear Lippie. Most of them, if they refuse, get the photos back later, or come back after the show, and confess that they get it. Stage lighting is kinda harsh, and there's a reason actors have been wearing makeup under those lights for a heck of a time.

That in itself is a useful interest point for older kids - that parallel with a specific culture, and whether it translates to rl.

As I said, with older girls, who have been wearing stage make up for performance for many years, they see it as entirely related to performance. Entirely.

Sure, it takes a while for them to mature from that innocent three yo who wants to play dress up and be 'pretty' on the stage (hey, at three they are far more socially conditioned than a 12 yo who recognises the trope for what it is) but to run for the hills assuming this is somehow damaging her for life is somewhat unnecessary.

(I've been there, believe me. But now that my girls are well past the pink princess stage, I know that the make up has actually been a really positive introduction to why women in rl wear it - to perform. And that's an understanding they wouldn't have grasped from not being allowed it to wear it, at all, ever, and been steered to the pool)

Of course, as a parent, you are going to provide a backdrop to this. If the dd is surrounded by adults who ooooh and aaaaah when she's in her slap, and tell her how gorgeous she is, that will have an effect. If she is surrounded by adults who explain about the lighting, and the necessity to highlight facial features for the stage, and compliment her on her dancing, that will have an entirely different one.

I have never yet heard a dance teacher tell a group that their makeup was great. I've heard plenty comment on how the dance went.

All you mums of three yos in dance doing the recoil in horror thing might well end up with a feminist dd like mine. Who still wears stage make up. And sees it as an entirely functional thing. And wears none at all in rl.

Or you could forbid makeup until they are much much older, by which time they will have associated it as something that adult women do. Not something functional, for a specific reason.

So much trying to be a good fem. and so much handwringing.

Give it ten more years. grin (maybe a couple more for the op)

Three is quite the worst time for delusions of gender. grin and quite the worst time for feminist mothering. Boogie men (and make up) round every corner.

Takver Thu 24-Jan-13 17:29:21

Thinking more widely, I guess that as a parent the question 'would you let your daughter take part' depends very much on the age of your dd.

I've read the article linked to in the OP now, and it looks like all the very young children there have parents who are very much encouraging them - it sounds like lots of them dance this style of disco themselves. And I think at 3 - 4 that's pretty much always going to be the case. Sure, there will be a few dc who have an overwhelming enthusiasm/talent which shows very young, but on the whole children of that age just go along with what happens to them. Those who have rugby-mad parents will be playing tag rugby, others will be playing a 1/16 size violin (and no doubt plenty will be doing both)

Once your dc get a bit older, obviously its a very different question, because there's a lot more influence from what their friends are doing, what they see advertised etc. At that point I think you really have to have the confidence to let your dds try things out and (a) hope that you've provided a secure backdrop for them to judge things against, and (b) talk to them about what they're doing and give your opinion if it seems appropriate.

Having said all that, I've also watched a few of the freestyle disco videos on youtube (I'd never heard of it before) and it seems like some people there question the makeup/costumes etc (link here to a competition with all black clothes, no tans etc). But also I would say that watching the adult women / older girls dance, my main thought isn't 'they look like they're aiming to look sexy in those costumes' but 'my god they must be fit, that looks like bloody hard work' (and no wonder they want something skimpy to wear).

BertieBotts Thu 24-Jan-13 21:00:14

I think there's a massive difference with a girl wanting to be thin because she wants to be a gymnast and being a low weight is a specific, physical help with that hobby, than if she wanted to be thin because society tells her that she needs to be thin - or for any other purely appearance-based reason like modelling for example.

I agree with the comment about the make up - I used to do amateur theatre and the stage makeup is horrible and overdone but it needs to be otherwise your face just disappears under the lights.

feministefatale Thu 24-Jan-13 22:08:13

I wouldn't let dd participate in any hobby that looks or a specific look was necessary

madwomanintheattic Fri 25-Jan-13 04:54:23

Me neither, feministe. Thank goodness dance isn't like that. grin

Last year dd1's group focused on domestic violence. It was fascinating to see the choreography, and faintly bizarre to watch them applying heavy bruising and deliberately smearing their eye make-up before performing. Very intense stuff. You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium.

Takver Fri 25-Jan-13 09:06:03

"I wouldn't let dd participate in any hobby that looks or a specific look was necessary"

That's quite an all encompassing statement, though. My dd has recently joined the local Sea Cadet group. They have very strict rules - not just the uniform which has to be just so but also hair either has to be above the tips of your ears or alternatively put back into a tight bun.

While it wouldn't suit me (not the uniform per se but the whole heavily structured environment) I don't see anything there that conflicts with my views as a feminist.

BeeBawBabbity Fri 25-Jan-13 17:46:03

I didn't let my girls do cheerleading when their friends started. I felt they should aim to be the player of the sport rather than the eye-candy at the side of the pitch.

madwomanintheattic Sun 27-Jan-13 00:59:44

We're they actually cheer leading for a male sports team, though? Because most of the cheer leading clubs are stand alone clubs with feck all to do with actual side of the pitch cheer leading, and are more about hardcore gymnastics, extremely physical, and bugger all to do with aesthetics?

In which case, 'forbidding' your child to take part in a skilled physical activity is a bit, umm, precious.

louisianablue2000 Sun 27-Jan-13 01:16:35

I pay for the classes, so the kids do the activities I approve of, which are not segregated by gender. So my children go swimming not dancing. If I see as many little boys dressed up in sequins as girls then I might consider dancing. But not before.

madwomanintheattic Sun 27-Jan-13 01:21:50

My son wears sequins to dance. He loves it. It's a shame that people have such a narrow view of dance. It says a lot more about the folk that refuse that it does about the folk who take part, tbh. And not in a good feministy way, more of a narrow minded knee jerk sort of way. grin

BeeBawBabbity Sun 27-Jan-13 09:45:57

I don't think they cheer male teams madwoman since they were 5-10 years old. I didn't really ask. It was a gut reaction to the notion of a cheerleader as portrayed in media, etc.

But I don't think it's precious to forbid young children from doing something you don't approve of, that's just parenting. When they're old enough to try and convince me I'm wrong I'll be happy to listen.

My eldest does streetdance and enjoys it.

feministefatale Mon 28-Jan-13 00:35:41

We had cheerleaders in every school I ever went to. They cheered the boys on. They also did their own competitions but they didn't receive grades for their contributions the way the boys playing football did. The boys received a PE credit.

I suppose it makes sense to not set the girls up to think they will be respected as athletes though and to just be eye candy. Real cheerleaders don't get paid either. Not a knee jerk reaction, just an informed one.


feministefatale Mon 28-Jan-13 00:37:11
madwomanintheattic Mon 28-Jan-13 02:30:08

Ah, but cheer leading in us schools is a whole other (non) ball game. grin

Fortunately, we don't live in a glee episode.

madwomanintheattic Mon 28-Jan-13 02:33:19

(Ad actually, it's the 'gut reaction' bit that I object to. There ain't a lot of thought going into a media inspired gut reaction! Personally speaking, I like to find out the reality of any given situation, rather than believe what the daily fail tells me. Or even the grauniad. And as you don't even know anything about the classes, to 'forbid' a child smacks rather of a knee jerk than any considered response. Which isn't how I like to parent, personally, but each to their own.)

BeeBawBabbity Mon 28-Jan-13 08:09:59

Well it was a gut reaction, I admit that and I'm open to suggestion about whether it was the right one, but I thought it was a good example of an activity that from a feminist point of view might be questionable, which is what the OP asked.

When there are countless other activities available for my kids to take part in I didn't feel the need to do research before making a decision.

Your remarks about my parenting are unnecessary, it's just an after school activity. But to imply that I read the daily mail is just insulting!

CrunchyFrog Mon 28-Jan-13 08:28:36

My kids do Irish Dancing, but the school they attend is fab. Natural hair, loose with a hairband, no makeup, plain black leotard and skirt for girls, school trousers for boys. For the feis, they wear their normal outfit plus a sparkly cape for girls/ cummerbund for boys.

Sadly, there are only a few boys. DS1 is often told by his peers that it's "for girls." Luckily he sees the logic fail there.

Trills Mon 28-Jan-13 09:23:07

<lurks with no useful input>

shrinkingnora Mon 28-Jan-13 09:39:07

DD is not allowed to do cheerleading club at school because there is a huge emphasis on the way the girls look (from the other girls, not from the staff who run it but I feel that by allowing it to continue the staff are condoning it).

Several girls have left after repeatedly being called fat and it seems boys are not allowed/encouraged to join.

BUT proper cheerleading is an incredible sport, very skilled and extremely physically demanding. I wouldn't object to her doing that. It is a shame about the outfits and the public perception of the sport - I can see that having no loose fabric is necessary but it could equally be leggings and a fitted top rather than short skirts.

WRT dance, DS loves to dance at home and I know suspect he would be brilliant at it but he is struggling to get over other people's perceptions of it as a girls activity. I'll persevere.

I was discussing the provision for sport at their school with the Head and she said they were struggling to get girls interested in sports clubs. So she thought netball might be good...

I agree with you about cheerleading, BeeBaw. I don't think it matters that cheerleading is now in some cases a standalone 'sport' - everybody knows where the tradition comes from. It's a very similar argument to the pole dancing for fitness one. I wouldn't have to go and find out more about the class before I decided that DD was not doing that either. My DC are pretty much grown up now but when they were little I had no problem 'forbidding' them from doing things I thought would be bad for them. I think that's quite an important part of parenting isn't it?

shrinkingnora Mon 28-Jan-13 09:49:07

Just a quick aside - I mentioned upthread that DD does tag rugby. She had a match yesterday and the other team was a player short so one of her team had to switch over so the match could go ahead. DD (only girl on her team) wasn't allowed as the other team already had a girl and apparently it wouldn't be fair angry

She scored 5 tries in two matches. The only way it wouldn't be fair would be because SHE'S REALLY GOOD. Having a girl on your rugby team is not a disadvantage. It might be in men's rugby but not in Under 10s tag rugby.

Takver Mon 28-Jan-13 10:07:29

It's mad, isn't it, ShrinkingNora. A friend's dd has a similar problem with football - after a certain age the teams are divided by sex, so because there isn't a girls team at her level nearby her mum has to take her half way across the county. Again this is primary age dc.

Of course the reason they think it might not be fair in the example above is they realise that the girls are twice as good grin

shrinkingnora Mon 28-Jan-13 10:16:27

The thing that most pissed me off was that DD seemed to accept it as totally fine. I didn't realise it had happened until she told me in the car on the way home. I will be having words with the coach but I'm not sure how effective it will be!

I wasn't allowed on the cricket team at my primary school nor was I allowed to play football with the boys at playtime despite being better than most of them at both sports. I was told it was because I was a girl. No other reason. I have recently realised that I was not a tomboy, I was a feminist. I really thought there was something wrong with me.

TheSmallClanger Mon 28-Jan-13 11:17:22

This is an interesting topic for me. DD started rhythmic gymnastics at five, because her best friend did it. I was a bit cagey at first about whether it was a "wholesome" (sorry, can't think of a better word for it) enough activity for us to be forking out money for.

There is a negative side of rhythmics - ghastly illusion-nudity costumes, over-competitiveness from an early age, body image issues, exploitative coaches - but the club DD goes to has always been very inclusive and sensible. Her main coach for the past few years is brilliant, really inspiring and a great role model as well as an excellent instructor. I've always been confident that DD is being treated as a young sportswoman, taken seriously and really nurtured and encouraged, despite the sequins'n'smiles side of her sport, which is really about parental money and showing off, not talent. That would put me off with many disco dancing schools.

In the younger age groups, there is a crossover in attendance at rhythmics and freestyle disco and related dance styles. Some of the girls also have siblings who are part of the disco and dance festival "scenes". I'm going to get slaughtered for this, but the pushiest mums (and pushy gym mums are in a class of their own, believe me) who complained and demanded rule changes the most, were those involved in dance festivals and disco dancing. I don't know what it was about them that made them that way, but they had their own particular "style".

Branleuse Mon 28-Jan-13 11:19:06

Id let her do it, but id tone down the tango as much as possible

Branleuse Mon 28-Jan-13 11:45:11

there are things that i wouldnt really be keen on her doing, but I dont think you teach principles by banning things. Gently encouraging the things you think ARE good is better

madwomanintheattic Mon 28-Jan-13 13:51:38

(Bee, I only mentioned parenting because you did... grin. There's an interesting trope towards feminist parenting at the mo, and I just used the daily fail as an example of unthinking parenting, which I thought was kinda ironic on a thread about conscious feminist parenting...)

feministefatale Mon 28-Jan-13 14:27:04

You may not live ina glee episode hmm, but cheerleading, is still about cheering others doing the real sport. They key is in the name. And yes, like pole dancing it's still become popular out of the sexual side of it, so I can't really see it as an appropriate past time for kids.

madwomanintheattic Mon 28-Jan-13 15:02:09


It isn't something I'm particularly passionate about either way tbh. <shrugs>

madwomanintheattic Mon 28-Jan-13 15:04:40

(Although, if I didn't have to go to work, there might be small merit in a discussion about a supporting/ cheering role versus an explicit sexual performance. I can see the nuance, even if you can't. Neither is particularly grand, but there is a difference.... )

TheSmallClanger Mon 28-Jan-13 15:31:31

It isn't that cheerleading is sexually explicit, it's that it traditionally only exists as a frothy adjunct to serious male sporting activities.

Men do, women stand there and giggle. Zzzzzz.

madwomanintheattic Tue 29-Jan-13 04:52:08

That was kind of my point. In that the vast majority of five year old cheer leading classes are 'doing', not supporting anyone, let alone the under tens boys soccer team. <sigh>

But never mind. I can tell there's something of an issue with nuance.

<wanders off to the real world where feminists exist outside of the groupthink bubble>

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