As I watched a cartoon with my kids on Saturday morning, I saw a commercial for Huffy bikes where two little girls on new “princess” bikes decide to go rescue a prince. They jet off on their shiny Disney machines and successfully retrieve a teddy bear that had apparently been held hostage by nefarious forces.
Now, I have no problem with girl power, and there’s nothing wrong with the ad itself, but it does make me think about just how totally society has not equalized, but rather reversed, gender roles, to the exclusion of what comes naturally to boys. Would anyone be willing to make an ad that showed two little boys riding to the rescue of a girl? Would anyone support a product that did? Such a simple show of chivalry may well be met with protests and discrimination lawsuits.
I think the first real wave of “girl power” media hit when I was growing up in the 80s, when more TV shows had girls being assertive and competing with boys (thank you, Punky Brewster and She-Ra). By the late 90’s it had actually become a cliché, when Lisa Simpson dared to try out for a boys’ football team, only to find a warm welcome and three other girls already playing. So, by today, the Huffy princess bike ad is literal, devoid of any irony and of any especially empowering message it may have once had. It’s par for the course.
OK. Good for us. But has this cultural shift given short shrift to boys? I think that it has. Not only will we not find and media messages where boys get to act valiantly, protectively, or chivalrously towards girls, but the idea that a boy could actually compete with a girl and win has become loathsome, verboten, and vile. Such a thing reeks to the mainstream mind, and smacks of disenfranchisement to the new entitled class, the girls. Alas, our poor little boys are victims of politically correct affirmative action by the time they leave the sandbox. No wonder they act like such perverted thugs towards the emotionally needy young women in our midst when they reach adolescence: they’ve been denied the training in noble restraint that historically helped them to overcome such base impulses.
Think about it–when was the last time you saw a TV show or a movie where a boy and a girl compete for something…and the boy won? Even if you can think of an example, it’s certainly a rare exception. Our boys are given the tacit message growing up that they shouldn’t be able to win against girls, at anything.
I have to wonder if that’s partly why there are so many more women than men in American colleges these last two decades, or why there are more girls than boys in high school honors classes, even the male-friendly math and science ones.
“Anything you can do I can do better,” wasn’t simply a cute mantra for motivating little girls. It was practically a threat to boys to cower them into submission, and now it’s just a de facto law.