Hold onto your hats, I’m getting all thoughtful and perhaps a tad intellectual this evening. The reason being is that as a mum and as someone who works in the arena of family and child marketing, it’s hard for me not to record my opinion on the recent Bailey Review and the Government’s commitment to clamping down on the commercialisation and sexualisation of children.
Big breath, here goes…
From the moment you discover you are pregnant you look at the world through different eyes. Pre children, there is an inevitable amount of selfishness that controls the way you live your life. I miss that selfishness sometimes. It’s the selfishness that allows you to spend your money on whatever you want, it’s the selfishness that lets you lie in on sunday mornings, it’s the selfishness that allows your mind to occupy what now feels like a ridiculous amount of time thinking about yourself. At this time in your adult life, the world looks like a different place. Throw your own child into the mix and suddenly that world is now their future playspace, a place which you realise will grow and evolve with them at a pace you yourself may not be able to keep up. Suddenly issues that may have been a bit of a concern before, are now spiralling out of control. News headlines which suggest a change the future landscape for the worse, propel themselves into your chest like threatening blows. You do what you can to create the best internal ‘nest’ but what happens when they fly, what does it all of that mean when you’re powerless to the external?
I was convinced I was having a girl. I had loads of girls names lined up. I had to have a girl. I had to have a girl because I couldn’t think of one boys name. Of course, I had a boy. I love that boy. That boy was named Phoenix. I found a name I loved to match the boy I love. It couldn’t have been any other way. During the thought process of imaging myself with a little boy, I stumbled across the following thought crossing my mind – ‘well, at least I won’t have to deal with all that sexy girl shit you get with girls’. And that right there is a sad thought. ‘The sexy girl shit’ which brushed across my unconscious is predominately what the Bailey Review is all about, and the reason that fleeting thought is so sad is that because this thought occurred to a new mum thinking about the future of a child inside her only a few weeks old. It was the first associations I had with having a girl – there were many positive, amazing ones too, but that one was well and truly there. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think that may be sufficient enough evidence to show that whatever this ‘sexy girl shit’ might be, it’s out of control.
Blame is a beautiful thing. Our society thrives off it. The line up to blame for the commercialisation and sexualisation of children is pretty long. As a parent I will have to join the other mums and dads towards the back of the queue behind what I believe are more worthy winners of this particular ‘blame game’. So who’s in the queue? Step up Bratz, come forward Facebook, enter You Tube, MTV, Rihanna, KT Perry, and take your place fashion retailers, Katie Price, lads mags, porn, glamour modelling and reality TV….etc, etc. It doesn’t take a genius to conceive that it’s a combination of all these things surrounding our children. The world has moved so quickly we’ve failed to keep up, things have gotten out of control and somehow we’ve ended up in a place where kids can be sold pants saying ‘pop my cherry’ and singing along to ‘I kissed a girl and I liked it’. I think we better stop right there and sort this out. Enter Bailey review.
I’ve read some comments online that the Bailey Review is pointless and patronising to parents. I wholeheartedly disagree, it should come as a relief to parents that this issue has been thrust into the spotlight and finally been given the attention it deserves. But despite best intentions it does beg the question – what next? The players in that queue are mighty machines, most of whom will argue they are not intended for children, they will jeer at the parents at the end of the queue for allowing their kids to even get near them (I would like to try and see a parent ‘banning Rihanna’!) The recommendations in the Bailey Review do seem sensible, tangible steps that need to happen, but as the wider world becomes available to kids in pocket size devices (hello smartphones) it seems like an impossible mission and one that will not be over anytime soon.
As a marketeer working regularly with kids and kid brands my view on the commercialisation side of things is perhaps not the most unbiased. I do believe there is a place for exciting cool kids brands and that they are a part of a child’s world as much as adult’s. There will always be fads, crazes and ways kids build their identity, brands and products are part of all that. It’s not that I have an issue with, it’s the laziness I can’t bear. When brands don’t bother to try harder and make something better for kids – something healthier, something more kid friendly, something inspiring, something with an attitude that tells kids something new, takes them to a creative place. I wonder if we just made better things for kids they wouldn’t need to stray so far from their world so soon? Moshi Monsters is a great example of this. It’s safe, it’s fun and pokes light hearted fun gestures at the adult world – Lady Goo Goo a stroke of genius. When you capture kids attention like this, when you just get it right, they will stay in places intended for them, for how long I don’t know but examples like Moshi clearly show that kids do enjoy being kids.
I am finding it difficult to end this post. It is an endless issue. I would like to think that the Bailey Review as well as doing what it is doing in terms of rules and regs, will inspire parents and give them confidence and empowerment. I hope it will tell them that something can be done even it feels impossible, that there is a light. I am fortunate to meet and interview 100s of children in my work. I have met kids who want to be authors, kids who talk passionately about their grandads as their greatest role model, kids who declare they prefer being on the trampoline to the x-box, kids who are simply just fabulous, gorgeous kids.
Hope is not lost. Onwards on upwards.