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June 08, 2006


Good blog and exactly right. I had never heard of the family friendly line but bet most kids don't look at those magazines anyway. As your blog said, it's the stuff they can beg mom to buy that catches their eye. This is all about selling parents on something. The American attitude toward sex is stuck in the Puritan ethic of hide it. Nudity is bad but blowing people up is okay-- if it's done to increase 'patriotism.' If you had grandkids, your eyes would be opened going through the toy stores. The ones for little boys are so oriented toward war and destruction that it's unbelievable. For the little girls it's a lot of sexy clothes with surgery enhanced bodies.

Back East in the Mid-Atlantic, the big local grocery is Giant Foods. Almost as far back as I can remember, they had checkout aisles dedicated to helping parents out--they'd put a big sign up that said "No Candy In This Aisle."

It's a nice option, and as a parent of two small kids I know what it's like to be constantly hounded for sweets (or anything, really!)--but I'm actually a little insulted by the whole thing. Or rather, I'm annoyed that for some parents it's come down to having stores hide their merchandise, so Mom and Dad don't have to do the heavy lifting of saying "NO." What happened to answering "can I have (X)? Please please please can I?" with a simple, "No way, Jose?" My parents acted like it was the only free word in their vocabulary, and every other word cost $20 to use! The sad truth is that we're not coddling our children; we're coddling OURSELVES. We just don't want to do the work of parenting, imparting lessons and controlling access to material.

Mrs. Joe and I try to take some of the starch out of that checkout complaint by giving each kid the opportunity to choose a food item from the shelves while we shop. It can be anything they want, generally speaking--a can of chips, bag of candy, sweet cereal--but it's for regular home consumption, not as a treat, and they only get the one. So when we get to the counter, it's a lot easier to say, "You got your choice of items already."

As for the mags, I'm afraid I don't entirely share your view. I fully support the idea that being frank and non-taboo-making about a wide variety of subjects is generally the best policy. However, it's not the sexy looking women on the cover that I want to prevent my kids from seeing; it's the painfully shallow view of sex that predominates in them. "How to lose 20lbs by July 4 so you can get a man" is entirely the wrong set of messages I want my daughter to hear. Unlike with candy, there's no suitable denying reprimand to prevent your kids from being sucked in by mainstream female culture guidelines.

In the end I think you're right--it's better just to leave them there and use them as a tool to explain what's wrong with that perspective--but while I think every parent has time in the checkout to say "No," it's a bit more of a committment to unravel the concept of physical appearance bias against women (and men, for that matter; all of the guys in those magazines are given the Ken doll treatment too) to a 6 year old before the groceries are done scanning.

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