As a parent and as a feminist, I have some pretty big beefs with Monster High. Amanda Hayes does a great job explaining these problems here. In short, the dolls and cartoon characters all have one body type: little waist, big breasts, thin. We have to remember that there are all kinds of healthy body types, and we shouldn’t promote one “best” body type to our children. The characters dress sexily, short skirts, exposed midriff, etc. In general, that doesn’t bother me, but I do think it promotes sexuality and being sexy. Kids don’t need help with this. They will eventually become interested in sex and attracting partners on their own. I’m bothered by TV’s need to focus on this aspect of adolescence. Sexuality can be expressed in a variety of ways and in different degrees, and this is a part of one’s journey into adulthood. I don’t think we need to tell kids exactly how they should be expressing their sexuality and to what degree. I also don’t like the amount of make up the female characters wear. I feel like it sends a message that in order to be considered pretty, you must wear make up.
These ideas are bad for boys and girls. For girls it presents an ideal that 1. a girl may not be able to reach and/or 2. a girl may not want to reach (but instead feels pressure to do so). For boys, it presents an ideal girl that simply does not exist, so they could be left looking for the “perfect” girl instead of looking for the perfect girl for them.
The cartoon, however, does have some redeeming qualities. In general, the movies spend a lot of time promoting being happy with who you are and embracing what makes you unique. But one movie in particular, called Friday Night Frights, did a great job promoting some really important feminist ideals.
Here’s a summary of the plot: The all boy roller derby team gets hurts in a competition and can’t continue in the tournament. A group of girls decide to replace the boys so that the school can continue to compete. But no one supported the girls because it’s a “boys’ sport.” The boys made fun of them and refused to help. After watching the girls work hard, the injured captain of the boys’ team decides to coach the girls. The girls lose their first two matches. This is when they realize that they can’t compete or play like the boys. They realize that what they need to do is play like girls. After they adopt this new style of playing, they start to win all of their matches. They begin to gain more support from the school including support from the injured boy players. In the end, the girls win the tournament, and the next season is a mixture of boy and girl players.
Here’s what I love about this episode. It recognizes that boys and girls are different, but equally good. In short, there’s more than one way to do something. Boys and girls can work together towards a common goal; there is no need to constantly be in competition. The male players did not feel emasculated by the girls winning. Instead, they were proud of the girls and wanted to play with them. This is the exactly the kind of feminism I promote. For all of its flaws, shows like Monster High have something to offer young people.