Pole dancing toys are the least of your worries

Well, the least of my worries. I don’t know about you.

Photo of two views of a product box purporting to contain a pole dancing toy.

Amy Graff of Mommy Files asked my perspective on a now-famous photo of a purported battery-operated child-like doll that gyrates on a sparkling pole. Yeah, a pole dancer with lights and sounds. A photo of a product box first surfaced on gadget blog Gizmodo, and that was all. Just a photo.

No one has found further information about the product online, but that hasn’t stopped a swarm of negative commentary from blogs and news organizations.

For her part, Amy asked the important question, “but is it real?” Who knows.

What follows is my e-mailed response to Amy. I’m sharing it with you so you can post a comment agreeing with me, except for the part where I got it totally wrong by assailing whichever innocent thing you do with your child that you don’t think is a big deal because you did the same thing when you were a kid and look at you, you turned out just fine.

Amy, I don’t have any deep insights into the pole dancer product. I say “product” instead of “toy” because it’s not clear whether this is intended as a children’s toy or just another strange desktop amusement for an adult. I don’t put much stock in it because we’re looking at a single photo with no background information, even from the website that first published the photo. We’re speculating in a near total absence of information.

Mostly I’m dismissive of news organizations and websites that hype a controversy surrounding what is, at this point, only a photo. Likewise, I smirk and shake my head at the legions of parents who go along with this morality play by posting their outrage about the sexualization of girls at earlier and earlier ages. Of course it’s an outrageous product, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of these parents who spew vitriol have little toddling girls sporting lip gloss and pierced ears and princess dresses and by 10 are drenching their girls in Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus or whatever pop role model comes along next and by 13 their cute little girls have the words “Pink” or “Tasty” embroidered on the butt of their jeans.

Parents scream and shout about overt overnight excesses while ignoring the slow indoctrination of their children into a shallow pop culture fantasy world that values personal beauty over academics and character. Sex over substance.

I’m not going to get worked up over a pole dancer toy. I find it indicative of the culture parents have embraced for their children.


7 Responses to “Pole dancing toys are the least of your worries”

  1. anjii says:

    Disclaimer: I don’t actually have a daughter. Only 2 sons so far.

    That being said, I agree with most of what you said today. While I don’t share your anti-pink/anti-princess philosophy, I DO share your anti-sexualization ideals! I won’t ramble today, but I’ll give you one quick statement… Bratz (and anything similar) are the most disgusting display of childhood demoralization, and I don’t understand how parents can buy into something like that for their daughters.

    But here comes my disagreement, lol… seriously… what’s wrong with Hannah Montana? She’s sweet as apple pie, not a sexpot, and has great morals. I think it’s a great show for it’s intended age group.

    September 4th, 2009 at 8:21 am

  2. AJ says:

    Hannah Montana is Stage 2 of Princess Syndrome. If all a child was exposed to was her music, hey, maybe not so bad. But Hannah Montana is a fashion merchandising empire built upon an obsession with personal appearance. Stage 2.5 is Miley Cyrus. Are either of these pop icons the best role models for our children?

    My daughter does own a single princess gown. It’s in her dress-up bin along with a firefighter, doctor and other outfits. It’s a pretend play item when playing with a friend, not an iconic idea that gets incorporated into her everyday life. We try to avoid wholesale preoccupation/infatuation with any commercial message.

    So the thing is, when you let your child be driven by marketing messages, you’ve set her on a path which extends well beyond toddlerhood. I don’t shield my daughter from it; she certainly knows what the pink Barbie aisle at Target is about, but she’s simply not that interested because her parents don’t surround her with those messages every day. We don’t buy the stuff.

    September 4th, 2009 at 8:37 am

  3. KGS says:

    More a response to AJ’s comment than the original post, but:

    My daughter was given a Disney princess dress of the pinkest, frothiest, most froufrou kind. I didn’t like it, but figured I’d let it go and see what she did with it; if bothersome patterns began, it could get “lost.”

    Guess what? The dress is so itchy, she can’t stand to wear it. HAH!!! Take that, silly-princessifying empire! The accompanying princess bear in matching dress has become a sort of toy-protector who saves smaller toys from dinosaurs using a wooden spoon “sword,” a form of princesshood I can definitely get behind.

    September 4th, 2009 at 9:15 am

  4. AJ says:

    I suppose, also, I’m jaded from being a garage sale fanatic. I see the continuum of childhood development through commercial products laid bare in driveways and carports. When there’s a sale advertising girl’s toys, the question is whether it will be Bratz or Barbie. Disney or Dora. And so on.

    In my long-term view, there’s little difference because children consuming any of them are walking the same path set before them by marketers. Extensive research and testing optimize product appeal to kids, and that’s okay because that’s a marketer’s job. They do it very well. The issue is passive acceptance by parents. A marketer’s interest is in selling you things, and if they could sell you a pole dancing toy, they would. That’s not a sound plan for parenting.

    Can a Hannah Montana infatuated kid be a high school valedictorian? Sure. Definitely. There is a spectrum of response to childhood influences. Some will be great kids, some bad kids, and a whole swath in the middle.

    My supposition is that the net effect of these influences is negative, decreasing the intellectual and cultural potential of the whole. So, yes, you (you being everyone reading) turned out okay as an adult, but we’re not hearing from everyone who didn’t because they’re not exactly the type of adults/parents who take a keen interest in parenting blogs.

    Well, no, that’s probably wrong. They probably read pop media parenting blogs. I’ll STFU now and let others sound off.

    September 4th, 2009 at 9:40 am

  5. Emily says:

    I think my family is pretty much out of the norm for today’s families. We don’t subscribe to cable or satellite TV, so we don’t get any television at home. (The girls do watch TV occasionally at Grandma’s & Grandpa’s house.) All we watch are DVDs we own and rent through Netflix. My oldest daughter knows who Hannah Montana is, and knows about Barbie dolls, but she is not interested. The other day she told me she’s more of a “yesterday’s girl” (in her words). I asked what she meant, and she said she’s more interested in being respectful, dressing modestly, and that sort of thing. She would much rather wear long skirts than pants any day. Yesterday we were in Walmart looking for long skirts, and were horrified to see the only skirts offered for girls 8-years old are mini skirts!

    My 5-year old wants to be a princess, so she usually picks out dresses from her closet, as well. We don’t have any princess costumes, but she can pretend in her dresses.

    It does bother me to see the way girls are being marketed to in our culture, but we try to avoid as much of it as possible. I know we can’t shelter them forever, but we’re trying to protect our girls as much as we can, and just let them enjoy childhood. I know this isn’t for everyone, but it works well for our family. :-)

    September 4th, 2009 at 10:20 am

  6. adrienne says:


    I agree entirely.

    We don’t like the simplistic corporate identities that marketing have developed for boys either.

    Actual life is so much richer than Dora or Diego or Hannah or football hero.

    Americans tend to expose their children to fantastic realities that are so limited (rock star, princess, professional athlete). I’m thankful for a world that also offers paleontologist, cartographer, software engineer, and preschool teacher (among thousands of other options).

    We offer our children glamorous treacle of inheritance (royalty) and the most mythical kind of celebrity where people seem to imbued with talent while expending no effort.

    A few weeks ago we watched a great documentary on ballet dancers. Our 4 year old could not stop dancing around the house as the dancers practiced, bought shoes, and did really mundane things. A few days later we received a kids’ dance dvd to review. The dvd skewed heavily toward girls and was of the “”oooo, pretty dresses” sort. When they talked about the dancers words like practice and hard work just weren’t present.

    We let our children buy into the myth of innate talent without dedication. We expose them to preposterous career options early on, and then spend little time remedying those misconceptions.

    It’s really sad to see a college student who has no idea of professions available in the world. Some think there are jobs just like on CSI while others choose careers based solely on the few models they have been exposed to (teachers, etc.). I was a college advisor for 7 years, and I’m convinced that an early investment SOLELY in fantasy (be it pink or blue) is not a kindness. We need to teach our kids to work hard at their passions and not rely on innate, but undeveloped qualities.

    September 4th, 2009 at 7:07 pm

  7. Mary says:

    I agree on most points being said. I don’t like the marketing ploys to our children. I don’t like that boys are influenced in one direction and girls another. But I do think that girls may have a tendency to do girlie things and boys boyish things. For instance, we didn’t push our son to be boyish, but he just is. Of course, some of that may have come from his preschool/daycare. We don’t have cable or satellite. But our children are exposed to media via the internet and dvd, supervised of course.

    As my children grow, I will offer both opportunities to learn regardless of stereotypes (let my boy play with dolls, if he so chooses, let my girl play with trucks is she so chooses). They will get influenced by the world around them and already have in some ways (especially my son). Their peers, their encounters in stores, the family’s influence, and so on. We can’t shield our children from what is out there. To deny them the experience of knowing about these things can be just as detrimental. I’m not saying go and buy into the Hannah Montana junk and such, but like AJ, educating your child to know the difference and the why’s.

    In a relationship where my husband seems to think buying into some of the pop culture isn’t that bad, it is hard to influence purchases for our children. It is a give and take. You get him that cool wooden kitchen set with felt food and I’ll get him the plastic Transformers toy (that, by the way, can break easily into lots of pieces waiting to get lost). I really wish it wasn’t a compromise situation considering this is our children, but my husband uses the same excuse that I’ve seen already, “I had these kind of toys growing up and I turned out fine”. I’d hate to point it out to him that he doesn’t have a college degree and works at a call center fixing peoples phones – but that is what I’m thinking. Though, I can argue the same. I had lots of Barbie dolls and Cabbage Patch Kids growing up. I eventually turned away from all things girlie and went tom-boy, but reverted back to pop culture as a teen swooning over teen idols at the time.

    Ultimately, my daughter will be allowed to wear pink things and dress up like a princess….if she wants to. I will be influenced by her desires and what she likes. Same for my son. Right now, he likes Transformers. He likes robots and cars, perfect combination. In a month or so, he’ll be on to something different. It could be anything. Childhood is meant for exploration and learning. It is finding out what great, wonderful things (and sometimes not so wonderful things) are in this world. This includes culture, technology, entertainment, and so on.

    September 4th, 2009 at 8:05 pm

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