Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pocahontas County Girls--Outdoor Role Models

White tailed deer, doe and fawn

I'm substituting at the middle school this week. One of the really refreshing things about Pocahontas County kids is that most of them are interested in hunting, or fishing, or farming, or forestry, or some other aspect of natural history. The seventh grade science textbook had a really lame population genetics section, but when I used white-tailed deer as an example, everybody got the concept immediately.

The very best thing about this is that the girls like this stuff at least as much as the boys. Last year, when the seventh grade English class produced a newsletter about November activities, the girls wrote the best hunting stories. They interviewed their girlfriends, and the consensus was that girls prefer bow hunting because the season lasts longer and you can kill does, and that turkey hunting is an excellent activity for girls and their grandpas. Boys didn't seem to figure in the mix at all.

In this regard, at least, Pocahontas County has a happier situation for young women than many more affluent places in America. Barbara Erenreich has a funny/sad report on feminism's loss of ground in the pre-school set in her December 11 post on Bonfire of the Princesses

Disney likes to think of the Princesses as role models, but what a sorry bunch of wusses they are. Typically, they spend much of their time in captivity or a coma, waking up only when a Prince comes along and kisses them. The most striking exception is Mulan, who dresses as a boy to fight in the army, but--like the other Princess of color, Pocahontas--she lacks full Princess status and does not warrant a line of tiaras and gowns. Otherwise the Princesses have no ambitions and no marketable skills, although both Snow White and Cinderella are good at housecleaning....

Feminist parents gnash their teeth. For this their little girls gave up Dora, who bounds through the jungle saving baby jaguars, whose mother is an archaeologist and whose adventures don't involve smoochy rescues by Diego? There was drama in Dora's life too, and the occasional bad actor like Swiper the fox. Even Barbie looks like a suffragette compared to Disney's Belle. So what's the appeal of the pink tulle Princess cult?

Seen from the witchy end of the female life cycle, the Princesses exert their pull through a dark and undeniable eroticism. They're sexy little wenches, for one thing. Snow White has gotten slimmer and bustier over the years; Ariel wears nothing but a bikini top (though, admittedly, she is half fish.) In faithful imitation, the three-year old in my life flounces around with her tiara askew and her Princess gown sliding off her shoulder, looking for all the world like a London socialite after a hard night of cocaine and booze. Then she demands a poison apple and falls to the floor in a beautiful swoon. Pass the Rohypnol-laced margarita, please.

I must admit I've noticed this Disney Princess thing among the early grades, and at least half the Google searches that visit this blog are looking for "Pocahontas costumes." I hope the real Pocahontas girls continue to trade in the pink tulle for camouflage as soon as they're old enough for their first Christmas rifle. One young girl advised me this time last year, "Ammunition is always a thoughtful gift." The real Pocahontas princess would certainly have agreed.


Dave said...

That's pretty inspiring (about the interest in the outdoors, I mean, not the f$&#ing princess cult). Sounds like a real good bunch of kids.

Marvin said...

The Disney view of the world seldom jibes with reality.

Reya Mellicker said...

I disagree that princesses are wussies, in fact I believe Ms. E is herself being quite antifeminist by seeing only "boyish" activities as being worthy of pursuit.

The original versions of tales like Rapunzel, for instance (something I've studied) reveal that these princesses are great scholars and artists who spend their time reading, painting and embroidering - activities just as wonderful as killing does and turkeys, if you ask me.

I'm no hunter, more of the princess type. I should probably be a vegetarian.

Rebecca Clayton said...

Dave, the kids here are a special breed. It's sad that some of them get into serious trouble in their later teens. Jobs are scarce and educational opportunities are hard to come by, whereas trouble is available cheap everywhere.

Reya, I know that you are a Neo-Bohemian Princess. My beloved cat is a Princess (you can just tell by looking), and I am Queen of the Backyard Jungle. (You know, the tiny jungle with all the bugs.) I also have an insatiable appetite for pink and purple, and all the shades in between.

Nevertheless, those Disney princesses, en masse, scare me. Every time I substitute for the kindergarten teacher, the little girls show me their princess gear. (They come in bundles of three princesses.) They have big heads and little arms, and big um, bosoms. Creepy. Very creepy. At that age, I showed everybody my Dale Evans cowgirl hat.

Marvin, the Disney book I read to the preschoolers has Bambi's mother surviving the hunters and Bambi going into rut in the spring. Very disturbing. The kids here thought so too.

Reya Mellicker said...

My mother made faces at me whenever I wanted to dress properly - in a dress. I wanted a tiara throughout my childhood but had to make do with brown corderoy pants. My mother forbid us to own or play with Barbie dolls, too.

When I reached puberty and my breasts began to develop, I was certain my mother would throw me out of the house. I believed she hated breasts based on her rejection of Barbie.

Sigh ...

Things get so out of balance. Girls or boys who want to hunt should go ahead. Girls or boys who want to wear tutus made of pink tulle and wax rhapsodic over Disney should be allowed to. Why not? What harm does it cause for people to be who they are?

Rebecca I hope I get to meet you one day. That would be great, wouldn't it?

Rebecca Clayton said...

Reya, my mom also forbade Barbie. I didn't quote Barbara's Blog very extensively, but I took her point to be concern with sexualizing very young girls, and portraying mature women as evil, envious witches. I think that was my mom's point, too. I remember how every time Snow White or Cinderella came up, she always mentioned her dad's wonderful stepmother.

I'm not worried about Pocahontas County girls getting body dismorphic disorder from the Disney toys. They enjoy their pink and purple stuff, and they enjoy the outdoors, and their gardens, and deer meat for dinner. I only worry about kids that don't get to explore different options. I'm with you on that, and I hope to meet you one day!