Libby Lu vs. Legos
I was in the mall this weekend (big shock) and passed a store called "Libby Lu." For the uninitiated, Libby Lu is a store aimed toward 7-12 year olds that pops up in malls across America, decorated in fushia with some purple thrown in for good measure, with the tag line "It's a girl thing."
The store markets itself as (and I swear I'm using their own words) "a special secret club for [sic] super fabulous girls can get makeovers parties, play games, get advice, and find really cool princess paraphernalia." One of the most popular words on its website is "sassy." Not surprisingly, the website also features many, many exclamation points ("Our fun, funky Club Counselors will create the perfect look for you!!! A sassy celebration!!!") and deliberately poor spelling ("shop 4 cool stuff;" a haircut called a "Libby du"). A peek into the store reveals young girls--never older than 10--trying on make-up, wearing crop tops, doing their hair, and trying on more makeup. There isn't a boy in sight. The store even has different types of makeovers: "rocker," "tween idol," "priceless princess," "super star" and "royal heiress." So even the makeover itself contains all of the creativity of a multiple choice.
I guess this is what women have decided to tell their daughters is important: make-up, all things pink and "princess paraphernalia." The mothers who allow their daughters to paint their faces and run around the mall with their bellies bared invariably say that the store is just "fun" and "harmless." Yeah, it's harmless to encourage your pre-pubescent to care about looks; it's harmless to encourage "shopping" as one their favorite activities; it's harmless to tell them that there are "girl" things like having makeover parties that boys aren't a part of; it's harmless to tell your daughters that they should get a makeover, but only if it is in one of five predetermined acceptable categories, so that you look just like everyone else.
Right next door to the Libby Lu store in the mall was the Lego store. A store where kids can use their imagination to create buildings, towns, and whatever else they can conceive. How many boys were in the Lego store when I walked by? At least 20. How many girls? One. I guess the sisters of all those boys playing with Legos were next door, applying mascara and asking their friends if they liked the sparkly blue eyeshadow better than the sparkly pink eyeshadow (actually, maybe that's too much choice--perhaps the more relevant question is whether they want to be "priceless princess" or "royal heiress").
Harmless? I don't think so.