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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?

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

proper links

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...

PlentyOfPubeGardens Mon 28-Jan-13 09:41:15

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...)

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