In my last post on this book, I discussed some articles that critiqued Thanksgiving, historical fiction books, and movies. After returning from spring break, I continued to read Rethinking Popular Culture and Media during my train rides to and from school.
I finished reading part two that focuses on the framing of historical events and actors. Ozlem Sensoy and Elizabeth Marshall’s article, “Save the Muslim Girl!” revealed the bias in portrayal of Muslim girls as victims of violence who must escape to enjoy the freedoms they see in the Western world.
The next article, previously read in another publication, analyzes the American Girl messaging and commercialization. The author found that the characters in the books, “The girls rarely participate in historical events in any substantial way.”(p. 130) They looked on from the windows of their houses or heard about events from fathers or brothers. Additionally, the catalog of high-priced items, “undercut the lessons about empowerment that the books offer.”(p. 131)
Besides avoiding lessons on social activism to fight gender and racial discrimination, the “Corporations play on the feminist and/or educative aspirations of parents, teachers, girls, and young women and turn these toward consumption.”(p. 133)
Part Three, Examine Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality, and Social Histories in Popular Culture and Media, starts with an article about a teacher’s attempt to respond to second grade girls declaring they were too fat and needed to diet. This is something I have seen in my years teaching in elementary school, and it is one of the driving forces that led me to develop a health curriculum that included materials on body image, nutrition, and many other pieces to combat the incredible pressure young children feel from media. One of the books referenced, Stories for Free Children, has come up several times in my reading. On impulse I looked it up on Amazon: $269.95, but used for$5.18. I found it even cheaper on Better World Books, so I ordered it. More resources for my kids that will balance out their immersion in sexist, stereotyped, racist media that surrounds all of us.
Our few books and media can’t hold back the flood of damaging images and messages that pour incessantly over our children; nothing can. It is not a case of a finger in the dike or a twig in the dam. Instead, I hope to equip my kids with aqualungs that can help them breath in such a suffocating environment; a tool that lets them analyze and live in their culture rich world.