Authors@Google: Peggy Orenstein and Kaveri Subrahmanyam

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 22.02.2011

>>Julie Wiskirchen: Hello everybody, I'm Julie Wiskirchen from the Authors@Google team here
in Santa Monica, and today I'm very excited to welcome Peggy Orenstein and Kaveri Subrahmanyam.
And I'd like to thank first of all Yalda T. Uhls from the Children's Digital Media Center
at L.A. who helped us arrange this event and I also wanted to introduce Patricia Greenfield
who's here who's the director of the center,. I if you guys could wave to everyone.
Peggy Orenstein's here to discuss her new book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches
from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture” which I hear is going to be making
an appearance on the New York Times Best Seller List this weekend. She is also the bestselling
author of “School Girls”, “Flux”, and “Waiting for Daisy” and she's a contributing
writer to the New York Times Magazine. Her work has also appeared in the Los Angeles
Times, USA Today, Vogue, Elle, Parenting, O the Oprah Magazine, MORE, Discover, Salon,
and The New Yorker, and she contributes commentaries to NPR's “All Things Considered”.
Kaveri is the author of “Digital Youth: The Role of Media in Development”. She's
a professor of psychology at California State University Los Angeles and the associate director
of the Children's Digital Media Center. Kaveri has been researching the developmental implications
of children's use of media for nearly 20 years. She has published extensively in academic
journals as well as co-edited several special issues about digital media and development.
So please join me today in welcoming Peggy and Kaveri.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Okay, so let me start here. I really enjoyed reading your book
>>Peggy Orenstein: Thank you.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: and as the title suggests, it focuses on the all pervasive girlie-girl
culture thatwho targets little girls. So for those of, for those in our audience that might
have not already read the book, why did you choose to write on this topic and what set
you off on this particular --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: journey?
>>Peggy Orenstein: I just have to say first of all I'm feeling so old media sitting --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [laughs]
>>Peggy Orenstein: here like she's reading my credits and I'm saying, "Oh God like you
guys must think I'm a dinosaur."
So the short answer is I have a daughter and I was, I think it's really hard to, or who
notices what's goin' on with kids unless you have one. So I was goin' along and I had my
little girl and I was raising her thinking, "I don't want her to feel like there's anything
she can't do because she's a girl. I don't want her to think there's anything she has
to do because she's a girl."
And then she went to preschool and, as if by osmosis, she had memorized within a week
all the names and gown colors of the Disney princesses, and I had never heard of a Disney
princess. And meanwhile we're goin' around town and I live in Berkley so the waitress
with the piercings and the tattoos gave her her breakfast and said, "Here's your princess
pancakes," and the lady at CVS said, "Here's, would you like a balloon?, I know what color
you want," and would give her pink. And finally we went to the dentist, one of those like
high priced pediatric dentists, and she said, "Do you wanna get in my princess chair so
I can sparkle your teeth?"
And I thought, "Honest to God do you have a princess drill? I mean what --
is this? And I just did not remember from when I was a little girl --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: that every little girl had to be a princess and be swathed in pink
for the first four years of her life so, or five years.
So I went on this journey to try to figure out what this new pink and pretty meant, when
it started, why it started, and whether it was protective of sexualization or whether
it was priming girls for it.
And I think where it dovetails with what you're doing --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: I mean I look at girls from infancy to sort of through the tween
years and the last chapter in the book is about social media --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: where I take all the wonderful things that you and Adriana and such say,
and squoosh them into --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [laughs]
>>Peggy Orenstein: this big. But it's I think part of what's going on with girls in particular,
but all of us in general, is this idea of the performance culture --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and the ways that I was looking at girls but I think you could look
at it from a lot of difference different slices. T, they learn to define themselves from the
outside in instead of the inside out, which for girls puts them at a particular set of
risks --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: but I think is where we intersect.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Absolutely. I think one of the things that we are seeing with
all of this new media, especially the newer interactive media, is that there is so many
opportunities for self presentation and one of the things that [ ]Turkel wrote about,
I think 20 years ago, was what does it do for your identify identity development, if
you will, when you have all these opportunities?
And fast forward 20 years, you have Facebook, for instance, where you can pretty much put
whatever pictures you want and as Adriana has shown, onand MySpace, you go online, you
get feedback, you get validation from your peers so the question is what does it do for
their identify identity development. Now --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: one of the things I talk about in my book is they're kind of at
the descriptive stage. W, we know what they're doing. W, we've described what they're doing.
W, we've really no idea how it's impacting --
>>Peggy Orenstein: What the implications are.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: what the impact is.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Absolutely.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: In terms of what does it do for your long term identify identity
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
And I think at this stage then, what is important for people like you and people like me to
do is to start conversations --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Absolutely.
>>Peggy Orenstein: so that that implication is considered. I don't know that we can know
what it is and I don't know that you can ever say, -- I mean people always say to me, "Well,
it's not like, it's not like if you wave a magic wand when you're three, you're gonna
be sexting when you're 15." I mean that's not what I, it's not A plus B equals C --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: but there's a lot of research on girls and identity, girls and femininity,
girls and kind of the externalization of sexuality.
And we were talking a few minutes ago about -- one of the things that I thought a lot
about when I was working on this book and looking at the culture of pink and pretty
and the culture of connecting dots from like the animated Disney princesses to the flesh
and blood ones: MylieMiley and Lindsay and all of those girls. Now I said then it completely
went out of my head why I started saying it.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [laughs]
>>Peggy Orenstein: Let me think about that for a second, but it was about -- oh it was
about the difference between sexualization and sexuality --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and that one of the things as a parent and as a thinker that became a
guiding principle for me that made some of the choices easier was distinguishing between
those two and recognizing that sexuality is this every very organic thing that we're trying
to instill in girls that comes from within that connects you to your desire, that empowers
you, although I hate that word, to say yes or say no, that fosters intimacy, that fosters
reciprocity, and sexualization is about performing your sexuality for others. And one of the
things when I was doing the Facebook chapter --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: that I, it's really easy to look at girls and victimization --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Yes.
>>Peggy Orenstein: but while I was doing this chapter and we're gonna talk about bullying
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and that sort of thing and looking at all of that, one of my friend's
son's got emailed to him, he's 14, a photo by one of his classmates of her naked from
the waist up. And she called me up and said, "Oh gosh, I don't know, I mean I'm trying
to tell my son that girls aren't playthings and then this girl emails this to him --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Absolutely.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and is that, -- what does it mean? And is there some way that for girls
that's a sense of, shows a sort of progress that they could be embracing their sexuality,
feeling better about their bodies despite the fact that they're now losing total control
and he could email it like in the shampoo ad to two friends to two friends to two friends
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: or what?" And when I talked to researchers and I'd be interested to know
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: as a media researcher --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: how you think about this, but when I talked to researchers on sexuality
and desire, what I got back was that, for girls, that sexual entitlement and sexual
agency were themselves becoming objectified and becoming the new kind of have to do performance.
You had to project yourself as a sexuality sexually entitled young woman, but it wasn't
going back to connect them to an authentic desire. I, it was just something that they
were supposed to put out there.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right, I mean I think again there isn't a whole lot of literature
on these issues, but if you look at the literature on pornography, for instance, individuals
who do consume pornography do, -- adolescents for instance, they do have greater preoccupation
with sex, they do have more curiosity, and they're more permissive, if you will, in their
The question of course is what we don't know is which is the cause and which is the effect
'cause a lot of this research is what we call correlational.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: So we know that individuals who watch a lot of pornography have these
attitudes as well. What we don't know is, is the preoccupation with sex causing their
access to pornography or is it the reverse. So I think all of this objectify, what do
you call it, what did you say?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Is sexual entitlement --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Okay.
>>Peggy Orenstein: as a performance or is --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Performance.
>>Peggy Orenstein: it yeah.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: I think what it is doing is that it might have some implications
down the road in terms of girls' views about intimacy, their expectations for relationships,
how they carry out these relationships. S, so I think absolutely. I think as parents
of girls these are issues to be concerned about.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Well and boys too. You're the parent of a boy as well, right?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right. And I don't have a whole lot of conversations with my
son about these topics 'cause he's very private and he really doesn't like to have these discussions.
B, but when I did see the Philadelphia D.A. prosecuting boys who had transmitted the messages
that they had received, he prosecuted them I believe for transmission of pornography
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: that's when I had the conversation. I said, "You know you might
get pictures from girls, but you really should delete them." And he looked at me in total
exasperation and told me, "Mom, I'm not an idiot." But --
so I heaved a sigh of relief because it just seems like a lot of kids when you think about
these technologies they really don't think about the implications. There's a lot of over
disclosure going on --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: they forward messages, they copy and paste their instant messages,
sync messages that they have with friends, they forward it on. S so they really don't
think a lot about what they do with new media. So I do think it's a challenge for parents
and a lot of times parents are not thinking about these issues as well. So --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: one of the things thethat research has shown at least for the earlier
generation of chat rooms, for instance, parents who had conversations with their kids about
meeting strangers, giving out information, their kids were much less likely to carry
out high risk behaviors --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: online. So that is something. And when parents didn't have those
conversations, if teachers had those conversations, then those kids were significantly less at
risk. So these conversations that we have are important.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Well I suppose because otherwise it's a tacit approval in a way too
if you don't comment. I mean I know that from the research on media literacy --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: that if you don't point out --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: something, then it comes off as a tacit approval of that thing.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Correct. I think when you look at parental mediation strategies
that is one of the strategies, that you can use. Now those strategies do work with television
when you can say, "You're all going to sit down and watch a show together." But when
so much of the new media --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: use occurs in the privacy of their bedroom --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: or with their little --
>>Peggy Orenstein: with their text yeah --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: cell phone device next to them in their bed, how do you then know
what your kid is even consuming?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: You know?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Now I'm depressed.
Now I'm worried.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: I'm glad my son will be 18 [unintelligible]
>>Peggy Orenstein: I mean, but it seems like I also don't wanna demonize the new technology
and new media because I think there's also so many things that its opened up and so many
ways that kids can find affirming --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Messages.
>>Peggy Orenstein: messages and alternatives to what used to be a kind of mono mainstream
message ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Absolutely.
>>Peggy Orenstein: that's really valuable for them.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right, absolutely. I think, for instance, there is literature
that suggests that kids are coming out, gay teens are coming out at younger and younger
ages. And we do think, for instance, that access to chat rooms, access to sites where
they can meet other people struggling with the same issues has helped them. And it's
interesting because a couple months ago, you saw the incident in New Jersey, Tyler Clementi
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: the teen at Rutgers who was sort of quasi-bullied I guess through
his roommate's videotaping him.
Now it's interesting because here technology was really the tool by which this individual
was harassed, if you will. But immediately after that there was that whole YouTube movement,
if you will, about -- I forget the name it's not coming off the top of my ?
>>voice in audience: “It Gets Better”.
>>Peggy Orenstein: “It Gets Better”.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: “It Gets Better”, thank you. So again technology can also serve
as a pathway if you will as --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: you said to open up these new – these alternative possibilities.
And then when you think about, for instance, minorities within minorities --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: you think about gay youth who are African-American or Latino
-- these individuals I think have even more options with technology. So I think --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: definitely in terms of access messages that these new tools are
a positive.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: But like any tool they can be put to good or ill.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right, right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right. So okay let's, -- I just wanna talk a little bit about the
history again because --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Uh-huh.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: one of the, and the second chapter where you're talking about
pink, what was it pink drills, no I'm just kidding, pink stuffs, pink blocks, and whatnot
that you get for girls. Now this cleavage, this pink is for girls blue is for boys was
not always the case --
>>Peggy Orenstein: No.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: and even 20 years ago when my daughter was little, I don't feel
it was as strong as what you're portraying.
>>Peggy Orenstein: No, no.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: And in fact I was telling you the 1950 Peter Pan movie in fact had little
Michael in a pink jumper.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: And I --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah, you wouldn't see that now. And it's much actually more than
that. If you go back a hundred years --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: all babies wore white, they wore white dresses --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: because we didn't have Maytag back then and --
we had to boil clothes to get them clean --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: so we didn't like to have color. S, so there were no colors. A, all
babies wore dresses. T, they all wear white. And then nursery colors came in --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and they were pink and blue and then when they were assigned a sex,
pink was assigned to boys and blue was assigned to girls because pink was considered to be
the more pastel version of red which connoted masculinity and the God Mars and strength.
And blue was associated with faithfulness, constancy, and the Virgin Mary.
So even as late as the 1930's, Lord and Taylor, the New York department store, did a poll
of its customer base and found that a full 25 percent of its customers still said pink
is for boys, blue is for girls. And I just don't think you'd get even one percent --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: at this point.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: At this point.
>>Peggy Orenstein: And in addition you have “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty”
-- the Disney movies -- they're in blue and --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: It's true.
>>Peggy Orenstein: I didn't think about, I hadn't 'til you pointed it out remembered
about is it Michael, Michael's in pink?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Michael I think, yes.
>>Peggy Orenstein: And --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: the younger child.
>>Peggy Orenstein: the little one yeah, the one ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: in the little feety pajamas and somebody sent me pictures of Michael Reagan
in the 1960's wearing an all pink suit. So I mean if Ronald Reagan's dressed in the same
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Thing. [laughs] That would not happen today.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah. So it wasn't really until the mid 80s when marketers recognized
the profit making potential of hyper segmentation particularly with kids, that pink and blue
fully came into, pink particularly --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Pink particularly, yeah.
>>Peggy Orenstein: not blue so much, but pink came into its own --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: as being all defining of girls' younger experience. So it's just a
color, it's just a color, it's a very tiny slice of the rainbow though. And to me I think
of this time once when, you know how when you're driving with your kids and you get
all the good stuff 'cause they're in the back seat talking and you're in the front seat
and listening, eavesdropping ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and I was taking my daughter and a friend of hers to go scootering in the
park and her friend had a pink scooter and a pink Hello Kitty helmet and my daughter
had a silver scooter and a fire breathing dragon helmet. And the other little girl said,
"You'reYour helmet's not pink, it's not for girls."
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: And my daughter said, "Well it's for boys or for girls." And the other
girl kinda looked skeptical and I thought in that little interaction ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam,: there was so much going on about what the expectation is for
girls, what the mandate is for girls about what might happen if you don't follow that
and just as --. Even as girls are doing better in so many realms, the pressure to define
themselves through appearance and play sexiness and just this little pink box that starts
when they're young that gets smaller and smaller and defines girlhood increasingly through
pinkness and princesses, and then spa birthday parties asat four ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and makeovers and the whole thing. And it's just, it's too narrow. I mean
I just want my point is to just say it's too narrow --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and it's getting narrower.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Absolutely. Now I know you have tried to have those mixed messages,
multi messages that girls can do anything and I know as a parent of a girl I did the
same thing. But then they come to preschool ?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: and it's like you've lost all the ground that you've made. So what
is it that parents can do and what do you think that parents can do to combat some of
>>Peggy Orenstein: It's humbling to be a parent isn't it?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: It really is.
>>Peggy Orenstein: And I always like to say that in this book I really present myself
as a fellow traveler. I'm not --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: I am inconsistent, I am hypocritical, I am contradictory 'cause that's
what it means to be a parent, right?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: And I'm like not a tiger mom I'm like a --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [laughs]
>>Peggy Orenstein: dog on four roller skates mom, I think is what I am. But so I think
first there's two answers to that.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: The first is to understand why that happens in preschool. And what happens
is that kids don't understand the whole penis vagina thing. And let's just for the sake
of it can we just for the sake of this conversation say a penis makes you a boy and a vagina makes
you a girl, even though that's not universally true? So let's just go with that, okay?
So they don't get that and they think that you could grow up to be either a mommy or
a daddy and you basically wanna stay what you are. And so if a penis and a vagina doesn't
make you a boy or a girl, what makes you a boy or a girl? Well barrettes. B, barrettes
make you a girl, . Wwearing a princess dress makes you a girl, and so that's why when your
daughter hits three, you suddenly cannot wrestle her into pants because she needs to say, "I'm
a girl, I'm a girl, I'm a girl."
So it's natural for kids to do that. I, it's natural for them to start segregating by sex.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Iit's natural for them, much as I hated to hear it, to go for stereotypical
toys. And the difference in toy choice is one of the biggest gender differences across
the entire life span and it's universal. I, it's true when they do tests on monkeys. Boys
go for the balls, girls go for the dolls.
That said, so that's very humbling to me as a feminist writer --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: everything I've been fighting against for the last 30 years apparently can't.
But that said there's also a lot of research on the neuroplasticity ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: of preschooler's brains and the ways that the inborn differences
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: between girls and boys when left to flourish in their separate cultures
become big gaps. Lise Eliot writes a lot about that ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: in “Pink Brain, Blue Brain”. And so any time kids play across
sex, it is healthy and important and good for them cognitively, psychologically, emotionally,
and for their future relationships.
And so when the market is hyper segmented, when your daughter is sitting there in her
pink room, in her pink dress, reading “Pinkalicious” with the pink Scrabble set that says f-a-s-h-i-o-n
and I swear to you that exists, and the pink Monopoly set where the hotels and the houses
are replaced with boutiques and malls, -- that exists, -- it's very hard, it's very
hard to make those, to reach across those lines. And I didn't know that. W, writing
this book that was one of the things that was most surprising to me as a parent that,
it really changed how I thought of my daughter's friendships.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: But you know it's interesting 'cause I think new media really given an opportunity
for [ ] girls to somewhat break away from some of those chains because some of our early
research in chat rooms found that for instance, and you know of course chat rooms are pass?passe
now, but girls were making many more requests for partners than boys. At the same time
>>Peggy Orenstein: What does that mean?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Meaning back in the day when you went into chat rooms, one of
the things we found was very common was these conversation attempts to find someone to talk
>>Peggy Orenstein: Oh, oh, right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: And oftentimes they then went away into a little private --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: message room. So when you look at it what you found was that girls
actually made, although boys made many more explicit sexual comments and this is something
you expect, you also found that girls made many more partner requests. And so it almost
seemed like this new environment if you will back then which was new, where you had a certain
amount of dissemination if you will --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Uh-huh.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: let girls get sort of get away from those more traditional gender
>>Peggy Orenstein: It emboldened them.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: It emboldened them. Yep.
At the same time what's really interesting is you also see regular gender patterns illustrated.
So for instance when blogs were very popular --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: they were overwhelmingly female.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Way back when, last year.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Way back when, yes.
You know 90 percent female --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: I was pleasantly surprised. The boys would start the blogs but they just
would not go back to them.
>>Peggy Orenstein: But aren't blogs kind of like keeping a diary? I mean that's such a
girl thing.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Exactly. And that's the thing, what we have found repeatedly is
that traditional patterns of play and TV preference get --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Replicated?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: exemplified online. For instance, Patricia and myself, back again
in the 90s, wrote this chapter about Barbie Fashion Designer.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: This was a video game marketed by Mattel and it was one of their,
there was a big girls game movement --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right, right, right, right, right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [ ]. Brenda Laurel started --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Purple Moon and a bunch of other companies. All of them failed pretty
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yep.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: The only one that was as successful as it was, was Barbie Fashion
Designer --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: in a pink box with Barbie on the cover and what you did was you
went into the game and you made different outfits for Barbie.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right. And that's what you do on the Disney Princess site now. If
you go on except that we love Mulan in my house --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: On the Mulan page it says something like, "Come back later," or [laughs]
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [laughs]
>>Peggy Orenstein: "We didn't do anything on this page" ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [laughs]
>>Peggy Orenstein: because they don't sell Mulan swag. But they all have the same game
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: where you go on to whichever princess you pick and she says, [speaking
in a very high voice] "Oh, I just realized I didn't pick out my outfit for the tea party"
or the fair., " Would you please do it for me?" And then there's these predetermined
script --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: that the kids follow and they pick bomp, bomp, bomp. It's like so,
it seems so anti-creative --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Robotic almost.
>>Peggy Orenstein: And that's one of the things that's concerns me about the, and I did wanna
get back to kind of your what parents can do thing, but I was looking at this research
on doll play and the way that the sales of --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: dolls have plummeted as the enchantment with online dolls has grown
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and they had, and I don't know if they were just tryin' to be inflammatory
but they had quotes from girls saying things like, "I like to play with online Barbie better
because I don't have to make things up and it's really hard to imagine how I would play
with this doll if I have to make things up." And I mean what is that?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: You know I think you have to, there are, as great as technology
is and I know I'm at Google so I'll be careful --
but as great as it is, I think there are some definite downfalls. So for instance I think
I've heard kids saying they like paint online, for instance, color online. And you have to
wonder if that's taking away some of the creativity. The other thing I've noticed is what we say,
"Always connected, never alone."
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: I mean kids., I'm on a university campus. T they're in online and
they're on the phone. My daughter is walking across buildings and she calls me. It's like
this almost never have this ability just sit down, sit back, reflect, and observe people.
And you have to wonder about those lost opportunities --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: if you will, for interaction, for observation, for growth if you --
>>Peggy Orenstein: For loneliness --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: For loneliness.
>>Peggy Orenstein: solitude.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: And that's not, solitude is a good thing --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: once in a while.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Well I'll tell you I struggle, I mean I don't know about you guys, but I
start out sometimes where I'll be sitting with my daughter and it'll be ten minutes
'til swimming lessons ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and she'll say, "Mom can I have your iPhone?"
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [chuckles]
>>Peggy Orenstein: And I'm like, "No, um-um. You sit there and be bored." And I think,
"Why am I imposing boredom --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: when it no longer needs to exist. Is that a good thing?" I mean I
really struggle with right now with the notion of boredom.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Is there a value in it or is it just an obsolete concept? I mean
that's getting further afield but this is the stuff that I --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: That's an interesting --
>>Peggy Orenstein: that I think about.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: it is 'cause I often told tell my kids when I was growing up we
had black and white television, one channel, and I grew up in India so started at six ended
at eight.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Can I offer you a cane?
[both laughing]
You must be ancient.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: And it was great and I read a lot and I don't think where, it seems
like there's nothing new to do, . Oour kids are getting bored. So I mean I think that
is an important skill to develop as parents I think to encourage almost.
>>Peggy Orenstein: I guess. I don't know but I also see in this thenthing that parents
feel sort of disempowered by all of that to sort of cut it off.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: To just say, I mean I had this almost an argument last night in an event
that I did about saying no to something that your daughter wants. And I was just like well
so what if she wants it, just say, "no." She said, "Well how to you explain that to her?"
I said, "I don't."
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: No is no.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Just say, "No."
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [ ]
>>Peggy Orenstein: Why is that so hard. Well that is and I mean in that way ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [laughs]
>>Peggy Orenstein: I'm with her. L like just say "no" to the fifteenth princess dress
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: she really doesn't need it.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Yeah.
>>Peggy Orenstein: But when I think about what parents, that said, I had this moment
in the Los Angeles airport a few years ago on the Southwest corridor where there's a
newsstand. A and for about three years they had a rack of dolls called Ty Girlz. I always
called it "Girls with a Z" which always indicates a sort --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Huh.
>>Peggy Orenstein: diva girls power to me. I am woman see me shop kind of girl power.
And so Ty Girlz dolls are like you guys know what Bratz dolls are? They're like Bratz dolls
but plush, so they're like Bratz dolls meets Groovy Girls. And my daughter she was four
years old andwhen she saw those and just went, "Mom, can I have one of those?" And I just,
this is one of these moments where I'm hypocritical, inconsistent, and contradictory, I just something
in me snapped and I just went, "No. No, you are never, ever, ever getting one of those."
And she said, "But well why not?" And I said, "'Cause they're inappropriate." And she's
like, "But why are they unappropriate?" And I just had this moment where I thought, "I
don't wanna scream ‘Bbecause they're slutty that's why,’" at my four year old.”
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: And I just got so dang sick of these teachable moments. You always
have these teachable, you're supposed to use these as teachable, I mean I don't want my
whole life to be one big teachable moment for my kid --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Absolutely.
>>Peggy Orenstein: but I also felt suddenly like I was put over this barrel and that I
was being pushed into this position that was untenable where I was being asked, where I
was being forced to say, "No," all the time and believed that that was going to result
in my daughter thinking she had more choices. And that's not gonna work.
So at that moment I sort of had this epiphany and realized I have to find things that I
can say, "Yes" to whether it's online or off line that reinforce that desire she has to
celebrate being a girl in a fun and joyful way that is not linked with appearance, with
pre-sexualization, with sexualization, with hyper marketing, and that put me on a totally
different path. And it's some work, but on a different path as a parent to just think
more in a bigger and more creative way about alternatives that would, I like to say that
would fight fun with fun and be just as good for her.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right. I think it's interesting what you're saying because I think
all of these media choices, new media, Disney Princess, all of them really have impacted
family relationships, family dynamics.
If you look at new media, for instance, kids are often the expert. Now I think it's changing
as the younger generation, as they become parents themselves, but if you look at a lot
of families with teens and pre-teens almost, the kids are ahead, going ahead in terms of
the technology. And so to some extent they do set the conversation; I think they are
the experts.
And it's interesting to think about a situation where your traditional family roles are reversed.
Historically ?
>>Pegggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: parents have always been the ones with the information and the
power, if you will. And that's not, it's become must more egalitarian.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Oh, very interesting. So what do you do about that?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: I don't know. I think it's again as a parent I guess, it's interesting.
I think the challenge really is to keep up with the technology --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: I suppose, I don't know. What do you think?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Well I find, I mean we're in a room with really techno --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: I mean you guys are all so, you're techno people.
But when I talk to --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: parents like me --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: they don't think about technology as integrated in the same way into
their lives --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: So they think about it as this other thing in their kids' lives and
they're really focused on TV or movies or toys, but the online stuff is still kind of
hazy ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: both in terms of what's its impact is and also just the nature of
the marketing changes. I mean I was writing that kids under six can't distinguish between
advertising and programming.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Well that's irrelevant now because it's the same thing when you're
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: It's embedded, none of us can distinguish ?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: between advertising and entertainment anymore. So that's a whole new
[ ], but I guess we think -- we meaning me and not all of you --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: that online identity is a separate thing and almost a contained thing
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: not that it's an extension or an integration with your off line identity.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: But you know I think, and that's a very interesting perspective,
but if you look at the developmental literature and what we have found at our own center and
as well as research coming from other areas, is that actually there's a lot of connectedness
between online and off line worlds especially for young people. And so I often think people,
reporters will often call me and say, "Is this virtual world versus the real world?"
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: And I always ask them -- I said, "Who are we to say what is real?"
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: For a lot of young people the distance, if you will, the psychological
distance between themselves and what they do with these new technologies is very fluid.
And what is not real to us may be very real to them --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Exactly.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: and I think that there are those historical covert effects, if you
will, where you're gonna see different generations react very differently with these new media.
But again I think the challenge then as you say is what is it that we can do as parents.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right. And I think, I mean to me I kind of liken it to when I was a kid
and I'd take my mom's Shoppers Charge which was the credit card that we had in those days,
and hop on the bus and go to the mall --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and that was where I negotiated my identity and that was where I sort of played
with these different ideas of selfhood and acted it all out. And my mother didn't go
to malls. T, that was not something that existed when she was, because I'm from Minneapolis
and we had the very first mall --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [chuckles]
>>Peggy Orenstein: I would like you to know, and I went to that mall. And it almost feels
to me that it's useful to look at the online world as the new mall --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: for kids, that it's where they're negotiating identities, where they're
meeting peers, that's where they're meeting strangers --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: that's where they're encountering projectsproducts, that's where they're sort
of hitting our contemporary world and trying to figure out what it's about.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: I think so. I think, for instance, you see a lot of exaggerated
behaviors as well; it is widening their network. So I like to think about Facebook as widening
your networks, giving you opportunities to interact with more people than you could have
than before with just your face to face contacts and maybe even the telephone.
I think the bigger question to me is are all of these widened networks, if you will, is
it making us spread ourselves thin?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Is it, are they the same, I mean having a few relationships that
you invest in in depth --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: are they giving you the same, are they gonna be giving you more
support than say a wider set of networks where you are more intimately getting in touch with
them --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: but then now you have more opportunity for support and resources?
That's I think to me that's the big question with some of these new --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Well right and, and and --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [ ]
>>Peggy Orenstein: the invisible Adriana who we keep talking about --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: She's here , she's --
>>Peggy Orenstein: I know, but she's not on camera.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: No.
>>Peggy Orenstein: I mean she's here, but she's --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right, exactly.
>>Peggy Orenstein: in the back blushing, yes. I mean I don't know maybe you wanna talk about
this, but you'reyour research on branding and narcissism was really interesting. Do
you wanna talk, do you wanna come up here and talk about that for a minute? Come up.
'Cause I've, I mean your research was among the most meaningful pieces of information
that and perspective shifting pieces of information that I learned about so --
>>Adriana: Yes, so --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Have a seat.
>>Adriana: So --
>>Peggy Orenstein: You can't just stick to the format, right?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Adriana: Well --
>>Peggy Orenstein: This is Adriana Manago.
>>Adriana Manago: So I'm a graduate student at UCLA at the Children's Digital Media Center.
Yeah, so I guess one of the first cities we did was with MySpace so that was back when
MySpace was the it social networking site. And a lot of it's just qualitative but we're
trying to figure out [chuckles] some, we've also done some now correlational studies of
kind of relating to the last question you said.
But one of the first things that struck us was this idea of identity and how one creates
a sense of self in an absence of physical reality. So one of the things, I don't know
if you're talking about this, was creating social legitimacy. So the more people that
are commenting on the kinds of things that you're posting, the more that it gains a sense
of reality as least through consensus building. So that's something that we're interested
But as you mentioned as well there's this fluidity from on and off line and so often
participants in our cities talked about that.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Adriana Manago: You can't be this completely different person --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Adriana: it's not like, yeah, so when we're talking about Facebook and social networking
sites it's not so much about promoting some kind of false identity, but maybe it's an
opportunity to craft your ideal identity ?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Adriana Manago: and manifest into some kind of social reality, the kinds of people that
you hope to be.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right. And I think this continuity is something that we have
really found in our research that young people in particular really seemed to bring the same
kinds of themes and issues and people into their online lives as in their off line contacts.
So I think that's ?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: really the interesting --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah, well what interested me about your work was the ways you described
young people crafting identity ?
>>Adriana Manago: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: externally as opposed to creating it internally and shaping it based
on the response of their 622 BFF's --
>>Adriana Manago: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and hitting the like button or whatever. That's a really new, I mean kids
have always cared about what others thought and whether they're wearing the right clothes
or whether they're popular, but that invisible audience that was in their head is now actually
present and in a certain way 24 hours a day.
And when, and then for girls in particular that involves negotiating this fine and ever
shifting line between being sexy but not too sexy because they get positive feedback right
in their identify if they're sexy, but then negative feedback if they get, if they tip
over the invisible line --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Into too sexy.
>>Peggy Orenstein: into too sexy. So it's that same old negotiation that girls have
always gone through but now in this very public online way. And all of that I just found that
really fascinating.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: One of the things I wanted to ask you was if you look at the number
of women engineers, for instance, --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Uh-huh.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: which it's still flat and it's been flat for --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Zippo, yeah.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: and it's still like eight --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Seven percent or yeah.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Maybe 20 percent or something and it gets, the gender cleavage,
if you will, gets even worse as you go for the longer spectrum. So my question is how
do you think these, I know you went to a lot of different places as you wrote this book
and in your investigation you went to the American Girls show, [ ] the store, and you
went trade shows ?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: . How do you think --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Toddler beauty pageants.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right, the beauty pageants.
>>Peggy Orenstein: so you don't have to, Mylie Miley Cyrus concerts --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: so you don't have to.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Yeah, right.
I mean how does all of this, how does it set girls on these more traditional pathways,
if you will, and why it is maybe, this is not always, this sort of cleavage that you
see is not necessarily the piece --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: everywhere.
>>Peggy Orenstein: No, no, no.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: I was telling you, for instance, --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: in India we have many more women engineers than you have here, certainly
not as few as you but many more. So this --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Well, I didn't really think about it in terms of, well I guess I did sort
of in terms of traditional paths, I was looking more at not so much at their career choices
and such --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: though that said, there is some interesting research on that that
I talk about when I'm talking about the princesses because I'm sort of saying, "There's no research
that says if you play princess --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: you gonna have an eating disorder or --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: you’re gonna grow up. B, but there's a lot of research about the
impact of feminine stereotypes --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: on girls and women --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and that the exposure to feminine stereotypes encourages the embrace
of them for both girls and women. And there's always these like, I always wonder who funds
these studies; I hope the person who did the study isn't watching us but --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [chuckles]
>>Peggy Orenstein: so there's like, I was looking at these studies of basically stereotype
vulnerability. So they would take like college age women and men and divide them into four
groups and put them into dressing rooms in a mall. And then they would dress, they would
have one group of the women and one group of the men put on a bathing suit and the other
groups of women and men put on sweaters.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Oh, I see.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and then they would have them take a math test.
That's what I like to do in a bathing suit.
And they found, low lo and behold, that for the men it didn't make a difference what they
were wearing, how they scored on the test.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: For the women, those who were wearing a bathing suit, their performance
was depressed.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: And so that would indicate that a consciousness of body and feeling a
consciousness of stereotype and all that, depresses women's performance in non-traditional
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Yeah, because when you look at college campuses you have what
is, there's so many more women coming to colleges.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: If you look at MIT, for instance, look at the acceptance rates,
if you will, they're very different for males versus females. So there's no question that
there are more --
>>Peggy Orenstein; No question.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: women at colleges, but you still have the difference.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Well and there's so much to celebrate in girls' lives right now. I
mean they're doing wonderfully on the playing field --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: they're in leadership positions, they're going to college at greater rates
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Rates.
>>Peggy Orenstein: than young men. And so as a parent and as a journalist I found it
intriguing and confusing to think that this existed side by side with the fact that the
pressure to define themselves through appearance --
Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: had not abated and was actually growing younger. So even as that
was happening, you had little girls in elementary school since 2000, the rate of girls who say
that are more concerned about their body than their school work, their weight than their
school work --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: has gone up. The percentage of girls wearing eyeliner or mascara at ages
eight to twelve has doubled since 2008. I don't know why the percentage of girls, eight
year olds wearing eyeliner or mascara is not zero. Walmart just rolled out, -- did you
guys see this at Walmart last week, -- rolled out age defying line of cosmetics for eight
to twelve year olds?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Oops.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Oh yeah. I am serious. And so right you guys all go, "Ah," right
so this is the thing though is that we all go, "Ah," and a year from now those kinds
of trend setting girls will start wearing it, and two years from now some more girls
will start wearing it, and five years from now we'll be saying it's natural for girls,
as they said in the Wall Street Journal article, to want a little enhancement when their they’re
eight and not wanna leave the house for the playground unless they're wearing the right
lipstick color.
So that's how things sort of migrate down and become naturalized rather than natural.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right. Now I just wanna shift gears just a little bit. I know your
book is about girls, but what do you think just in terms of your observations, what about
boys? How do you think they're getting impacted?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Well --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: by all of this.
>>Peggy Orenstein; like I said, I mean I think it's really detrimental to boys when they
can't play with girls, when they feel excluded from girl play and the taboo against boys
who choose to do things --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: or appropriate colors that we consider to be feminine in our culture
right now, still remains huge and I think that both speaks to the sort of depth of homophobia
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Um-hum.
>>Peggy Orenstein: and also the idea that when girls choose to do something that we
consider to be more masculine, we think of it as reaching upwards.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Right.
>>Peggy Orenstein: And when boys do something that's considered to be feminine we think
of it as a loss or as reaching downwards , an inferior thing, and we don't want them
to do that. And that's why the worse thing a boy can still call another boy is a girl.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Is a girl.
>>Peggy Orenstein: So I think that reveals something really important and it's sad. I,
I mean there's a lot of things that used to be considered to be gender neutral like art,
music, that are now considered to be kind of for girls.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: For girls.
>>Peggy Orenstein: And so those are great losses for boys. Plus boys are gonna grow
up presumably and work with and even possibly marry these princess girls and do you guys
wanna work with and marry --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Simpson.
>>Peggy Orenstein: princess girls? You know that you can now, there are Cinderella, that
you can get married in a Disney princess wedding gown now?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: [chuckles]
>>Peggy Orenstein: They have them for grownups.
I'm kinda hoping they do like next is the Snow White coffin, t. That's what I'm waiting
[ ]>>Julie Wiskirchen: And we should probably take a few questions, it's getting late.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Take a few questions --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah.
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: now.
>>Peggy Orenstein: I didn't mean to make you stay here if you don't want to. You can, but
you don' have to.
>>Julie Wiskirchen: Anyone have questions?
>>female #1: This is a follow on to something that Peggy Orenstein said that was very interesting
discussion. So why don't we worry about male, this actually is, well anyway you started
talking about this, but I wanna take it a step further. Why not worry about male stereotypes
as negative?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Oh I think there's, it's a perfectly legitimate thing to be concerned
about. And there's a great book called “Packaging Boyhood” that I recommend to parents of
boys. I just happen to have a daughter so my book's about girls.
>>female #1: A follow on to that, w. Why aren't we putting equal effort into getting boys
to do traditional female roles? It seems to me that the liberation of women and their
freedom to go to school, have wonderful careers, really depends on men learning to do their
share at home with childcare, parenting, housework, and so forth. But yet why aren't we talking
>>Peggy Orenstein: Well that --
>>female #1: more about that?
>>Peggy Orenstein: gets into my second book. [laughs]
I mean two books back, two books back, I wrote that book. I, it was called “Flux” and
it was --
>>female #1: Sorry I missed that.
>>Peggy Orenstein: That's alright. It was looking at women's choices and men's roles
and it was really clear in that book that couples who shared household and professional
labor more equally were happier, that their kids were doing better. I mean there was some
great --, and the women I interviewed who were in the work force and thriving and doing
well and feeling like they could excel, had almost universally husbands who were equal
partners in the home.
So yeah, but then I would go and like I went to talk to a group of medical students in
Philadelphia at U Penn, female medical students, and they had just come back from a like a
panel thing for them on how to balance work and family with their medical careers for
women doctors.
And I said, "Wow, that's really great. That must have been real interesting. How many
men were there? How many of your male classmates?" And they just kinda looked at me like I just
dropped from the planet Romulus and just said, "None." And I said, "Well. O oh I get it.
T they're gonna have their own panel later, right."
And I thought that, I just thought like what do they think is gonna happen when they get
married to those guys, which presumably they will. And so yeah, I mean that's absolutely
vital and yeah, again it was a different book, but, but yeah.
>>male #1: Hi, I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about what you think
about the Computer Engineer Barbie which uses kind of these princessy, girlie troupes tropes
to promote something that's traditionally not. Like --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right. Ah, Barbie, Barbie, Barbie, Barbie, yeah.
Barbie's so quaint now compared to Bratz and Monster High. S, she's like --, it’s got
me beggin' for Barbie. I'll tell you one thing. Y, you can't find her anywhere. You try to
find Computer Engineer., I mean it's almost irrelevant because you can't find her in Toys
R Us. Y, you can't find her at Target. Y, you have to like go to a specialty place to
find Computer Engineer Barbie,. S she does not really exist.
Yeah. So Barbie used to be all kinds of things. L like in maybe the early 80s she had a real,
-- actually Barbie's supposed to be a teenage so it's a little weird, but she had all these
careers and I think that she did serve a certain fantasy purpose in that.
And then as her audience drifted younger because she's part of like the kids getting older
younger marketing construct, she was originally for nine to twelve year olds. And then she
drifted younger so now girls are kind of done with Barbie by the time they're about six.
And as that happened her, the fantasy changed and she became much more fairytopia Barbie,
mermaid Barbie, and stopped being career Barbie. Now she's just basically a baby doctor. T,
that's what you can find. A, and a fashionista.
So I don't know. I it's one of those sort of ambivalent things is that meeting girls
where they're at and encouraging them to do something that might not ordinarily do or
is it locking everything into that pink box and you could probably argue it either way.
But either way, if they're gonna make a Computer Engineer Barbie, I would like to have seen
her in a store just once.
I don't know. D do you have a feeling about her?
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: No, actually no. I guess it's the same thing that we saw with
the fashion designer too, I mean it's, they have the icon that they then try to parlay
into other domains, but really I think what you're getting at is you have to have this
midpoint meeting, if you will, between the kids' interests and what's being marketed.
If they don't take the trouble to do the marketing, then you're not gonna see it in the store
and it's not gonna have much of an effect either way.
But it's really interesting, I don't if you saw the New York Times had a story two days
ago that Disney's now going to maternity wards.
>>Peggy Orenstein: I'm actually mid working with NPR on this on a commentary. Yeah, yeah,
yeah, yeah, yeah.
Well, yeah.
Do you know what we're talking about, Disney's they have a new line called “Disney Baby”
that is, -- they're modeling it after the success of the princesses. And what they've
realized that they have a big hole in their consumer products that they're not, they don't
have anything, they have not hooked the zero to three year old crowd yet.
And so they are going into maternity wards and going into hospital rooms of women immediately
after birth and giving them a free Disney stretchy, those things that babies wear, and
signing them up for the Disney Baby email. And the executive in charge of this who is
the same guy who invented Disney princesses said this is a beach head for the newborn
market that they are intending to expand out from. So --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: It's only nine ninety-five.
>>Peggy Orenstein: It's only nine ninety-five. You can make your child into a billboard within
12 hours of her birth.
Yeah. You're on it, you're on it. You can't get 'em yet. If you go to the site, you can't
quite get 'em yet, . Iit's gonna be a little while. But they're gonna have eight, it's
gonna be yeah, yeah. So I don't know.
In other countries, you are not allowed to market, I mean this is not exactly marketing
to children it's marketing to adults to turn them into marketers for children. And at the
most vulnerable time in your life, so that your child will wear the Disney onesie and
go into the Disney princess or whatever the boy equivalent phase might, but they don't
really have, they haven't hooked boys in the same way. And then go along to Hannah Montana
and go along to High School Musical, and whatever's going on at that time.
Other countries don't allow marketing to children under 12. And they certainly wouldn't allow
marketing to people right after they have given birth. So I think there's a point where
we gotta put out feet down on that, or foot, our collective foot down so.
>>Julie Wiskirchen: Do you want one --
>>Peggy Orenstein: One more question.
>>Julie Wiskirchen: Sure.
>>Peggy Orenstein: Yeah. You guys have to go to work, right?
This is your job.
>>male #2: So I was wondering what you think about how much of this is trying to fight
something that you find to be specifically pernicious versus just how much of it is a
parent feeling like they want their child to do one thing and the world wants them to
do another and through every phase of the child's life, you basically are sometimes
capable and sometimes under powered to do it?
>>Peggy Orenstein: Can it be both?
>>male #2: Sure.
>>Peggy Orenstein: I mean why not both right? I mean you have a magnitude of marketing and
channeling towards your kid, I mean it's like the difference when you were saying before
the one TV channel. I, it's the difference between having five TV channels and a black
and white TV and having a satellite dish. And that is a lot of messaging, a lot of marketing
in an unprecedented way to little kids, and probably more to girls than boys 'cause girls
and women are bigger consumers.
So I do think that's pernicious and I also think that we're in constant negotiation with
our kids about what they want versus what we want for them, and sometimes those things
dovetail and sometimes they don't. And from a marketing perspective, there's always an
attempt to say that magnifying desires is somehow less coercive than instigating them,
. Wwe just gave them what they wanted. I don't really buy that.
But I think you do have to have the conversation with yourself and your fellow parents and
your community and also start laying the groundwork when your kid is small for what comes in the
house and what doesn't and what your values are, so that when they get older and you are
in more active negotiation with them conversationally as we all will be, as all adults always will
be with children, you can have those conversations in an intelligent, useful way.
>>male #2: [inaudible] Follow up so a little background: I have two daughters, ten months
old and two and a half years old and I'm just at the beginning of this journey. My approach
has always been you only say no to the things that are really wrong. So unless you can actually
explain to them why it's wrong, you don't say no because then they'll learn, "Oh you're
just saying no." So I want to be able to set myself up to have the right impact on them
when they're 15, 16 --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right, that's what I'm saying.
>>male #3: when things are actually dangerous --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Right.
>>male #3: and so I'm not going to fight the battles now because I don't wanna alienate
myself --
>>Peggy Orenstein: Um-hum.
>>male #3: as an authority figure.
>>Peggy Orenstein: I guess I would say a couple things to that though. One is your child also
has to get used to you laying down rules and accept that you are the authority figure who
does that. And you can't always. Y, you will find when your children get a little older,
if you wish you could explain everything maybe, but you're not gonna. Y, you cannot explain
it. Sometimes you just can't. S, sometimes it's either you can't because it's too hard
cognitively for them to get it. Like if you try to say, "Oh honey, you don't really want
that Disney princess Cinderella toothpaste because they're just trying to shill you into
buying some more toothpaste that you don't really want." They're gonna hear that, ;
they hear, “Cinderella! Toothpaste!"
And there are great minds and billions of dollars trying to tell your daughter that
these are the things that she wants and that isn't really a free choice at that point.
And that isn't really letting her make the choice or letting her make the decision if
you don't sort of set out some rules and some ground rules and some values for her, the
marketplace raises her for you.
So I think you do wanna have, you don't wanna say, "No, no, no, no." You wanna say yes judiciously
and like I said you also wanna provide alternatives. Like for instance, one that I always like
to say is when my daughter was little, we read a lot of child friendly Greek myths and
so rather than being a princess, a Disney princess on Halloween, she chose to be Athena,
the Goddess of War and Wisdom. Athena wears a really cool outfit and she's got a different
vision, a different idea, a different message about femininity that would not be out there
in the marketplace if we were just shopping, but is really worth her hearing and knowing
about. And that was about finding something that I wanted her to know about and say yes
to rather than just responding and reacting to the things that were out there.
And similarly the kind of tsunami of pink and sparkle was getting on my last nerve.
S so we went out and got a stack of cheap white T-shirts when she was I don't know four
or five and a lot of dye, and we temporarily ruined my washing machine and we made a whole
range of colored T-shirts for her together. And what was great was that then she went
to school with them and they were things she had made and she felt really good about having
this unique experience of making her own clothes and that sort of gave them a cache and a mystique
that other kids picked up on and also gave her the experience of being an individual
and a creative individual and not just, "I'm a girl so I wear pink."
So I think there's ways that you can say no while saying yes and that that's part of your
job when kids are little too.
>>male #2: [inaudible]
>>Peggy Orenstein: But what?
>>male #3: [inaudible]
>>Peggy Orenstein: Nature abhors a vacuum. And I think, and honestly I think that part
of the reason this has happened is that as women, we have talked a lot about feminism
and public achievement and such with our daughters, but we haven't really wrestled with femininity
much and what that means to us and what that means to them. And nature abhors a vacuum
and the marketplace ran in and filled a the breach. So --
>>Kaveri Subrahmanyam: Yeah, [inaudible] as parents we really have to set the limits and
>>Peggy Orenstein: And start the conversation.
So thank you guys so much for having us.
>>Julie Wiskirchen: Thank you guys.