Parenthood makes one see things from a fresh perspective most of the time. Sometimes one feels ready and most of the time it’s a shock to the system. It’s as if you child is born with a mirror facing you, forcing you to see yourself for who you really are. This is often tough but how else does one grow and learn? Another thing children force you to do is to see the world in a different light (not through their eyes mind you, otherwise we’d all be on seek-and-destroy mode as most children are). I’ll make an example; my toddler recently discovered cartoon channels on TV ‘amapopayi’ as she calls them. Usually I’d pick any channel and watch any show that seems interesting but not since noticing that my daughter is aware of fighting and display of emotion by the characters she sees on TV.
I browsed through the different channels and settled on the Disney Junior channel. It seemed stimulating enough for a child her age but not too stimulating with violence and other inappropriate things seen on TV everyday. This was until we both (my daughter and I) watched a show called Sofia the First aka 25 minutes of mind numbing television. Basically, the show is about a few princesses from around the world who are in some princess training school. Well it’s more like a finishing school teaching the girls how to behave like princesses this includes things like how to curtsy, how to fan and whatever else princesses do.
At this point I was looking for princess with brown skin and nappy or ‘naughty’ hair as seen on TV in a Johnson’s advert for baby hair care products but I couldn’t see one. There was a girl from Japan and one from India but no brown skinned girl with ‘naughty’ hair. All the girls were different shades of yellow and had well behaved hair. On a normal day I’d shrug this off but this time I was watching this show with my brown skinned princess who was coarse hair. Anyway, these girls are taught by old fairies with wands and given tests to see if they are true princesses or not. My gut tells me these fairies would not approve of my princess because she pees standing, among other things she would hate me for sharing with the internet one day.
I often see discussions on how brown girls are sidelined by mainstream media. What is not added to this discussion is that brown girls are sidelined from a young age and dare I say from birth? The majority of ‘princesses’ in South Africa have brown skin and coarse hair but they are given the impression that only yellow girls can be princesses. I wouldn’t mind if this didn’t affect the self esteem of young girls trying to find their place in their world. I wouldn’t mind if grown women’s magazines such as Destiny magazine did not have cringe worthy articles discussing head wraps in South African boardrooms. Just another way to make girls with brown skin and naturally ‘naughty’ hair feel like there is something inherently wrong with them and their identity.
I do hope I’m not breaking my own brown skinned princess raising her my own way with plaited hair and allowing her go through the pee-while-standing phase and if I am, I hope she forgives me. Most of all, I am teaching her everyday that she is enough and does not change anything about herself and her identity. I hope my voice, the reassuring voice, will always be louder than the other voices she will hear as she grows up.