Sunday, February 21, 2010

Packaging Girlhood; a book I wanted to like

I wanted to like Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown’s book, Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes. I really did. I mentioned previously, I am working on a series of posts called "Getting a Clue" where I attempt to disclose aggressive marketing techniques. I was hoping this book would provide insight into the marketing schemes that target young girls. Unfortunately, after about 150 pages I can’t bring myself to read another page. For me, this book is too focused on gender stereotyping, mired in detail and repetitious. I can no longer sift through example after example of gender bias in search of the actual marketing scheme.

This is a shame because I do believe the authors had important information to share; before abandoning I came across these interesting points:

-Until about the age of six, children can’t separate TV shows from commercials. To them it’s all the same and it’s all reality. Your young child can’t distinguish between a TV show's positive message and a commercial selling them a happy meal.

-Advertisers are aware of TIVO and the option that DVD movies provide of skipping trailers and ads; it is the reason that immersive advertising and product placement in kids shows are on the rise.

-Despite the movie Shrek's anti-fairy-tale message: “looks don’t matter,” Fiona the princessis featured over Fiona the ogre in most merchandising campaigns. Why? The human princess Fiona has a product selling face and marketers always choose pretty over ugly, ignoring the story line. Changing beloved movie characters slightly in order to sell products happens all the time.

What could the authors have done to make this book more readable?

I recommend beginning with a strong paragraph similar to this one found in Anne Lamott’s book Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith:

This culture’s pursuit of beauty is a crazy, sick, losing game for women, men, teenagers and with the need to increase advertising revenues, now for pre-adolescents, too. We’re starting to see more and more anorexic eight-and nine-year olds. It’s a game we cannot win. Every time we agree to play another round, and step out onto the court to try again, we’ve already lost. The only way to win is to stay off the court. No matter how much of our time is spent in pursuit of physical beauty, even to great success, the Mirror on the Wall will always say, “Snow White lives,” and this is in fact a lie ~ Snow White is a fairy tale. Lies cannot nourish or protect you. Only freedom from fear, freedom from lies, can make us beautiful, and keep us safe.

Follow this paragraph with actual concrete marketing schemes, including only "one" good example. Close with (what I consider the strongest feature of the book) the lists of alternative books, Web sites, movies and magazines that provide positive role models that help both parents and daughters make better choices.

Perhaps, if I had a daughter of my own I would have found this book more readable. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?


  1. Thanks for the head's up - that is a disappointment. I find a lot of "magazine article"- length investigations get bloated into book-length when maybe that was not required. I want to read your version of this topic.

  2. For a media ethics class, I researched this topic, and I was amazed at how prolific marketing towards children has become. It's a great topic parents and adults should educate themselves on. Good post!