Category Archives: race

the cheetah girls

Cheetah Girls

There’s a post over at the main blog about the Cheetah Girls as a symbol of the Girl Power movement.  As a Disney Channel creation–a made-for-TV-movie based on a book series spawned the real girl group and various merchandise–they’re definitely relevant to the tween market right now.  There’s a lot to positively acknowledge here–they’re closer in age to their market than a lot of other girl groups (such as the Pussycat Dolls) are, they present themselves more age-appropriately while still being ‘cool’ and fashionable, they have a ‘sisterhood’ message as opposed to girls being pitted against each other for men’s attention (again, look to the Pussycat Dolls’ breakout single, ‘Don’t Cha (wish your girlfriend was hot like me)’, and most importantly I think (especially in light of my recent post about tweens and race), they’re diverse–racially, body shape, ‘image,’ etc.

Here is a song/movie clip from the first Cheetah Girls movie, “Cheetah Sisters”:

I think this song has a really great message for young girls who are at an age when they probably start feeling like they need to compete with their friends for boys and popularity.  It emphasizes unity, no matter how different girls are from each other: Cuz we are sisters we stand together / we make up one big family though we don’t look the same our spots are different / different colors we make stronger, that ain’t ever gonna change, and it even emphasizes global unity with We’re from everywhere all around the world.  Furthermore, I think the fact that the girls are fashionable and show off their dancing skills without being sexualized is really important–it’s letting girls have fun without introducing them to things that they’re not ready for yet.  And astonishingly enough, all of the girls seem to matter in the group, with their own personalities–everyone brings something to the table, and everyone has something that makes them special.  In this way, the song teaches girls to trust in themselves more: Got the brains got the power and we speak the truth.

So what problem do I have with “Cheetah Sisters”?  Well, I wonder if it doesn’t emphasize unity a little bit too much.  The girls don’t just benefit from having each other around, they depend on each other for the strength to follow their dreams: There’s a time when we all choose / To either quit, or follow through / To just loose faith, or trust your heart somehow to lead you through the dark / We’re not the only one who’s dreamin’ / Who needs help to carry on / We might geet lonely but we’re not alone.  Saying that the girls need help to carry on departs so shockingly from the other Girl Power narrative we’ve been looking at this semester: the one of the individual woman, underestimated by society, who fights her hardest and maintains her composure, in order to be accepted in a (traditionally male) position of power, e.g. G.I. Jane.

However, the individualistic narrative of ‘girl power’ can be troublesome too, because it so often involves a woman fighting for her own right to occupy a traditionally male role of power, almost always without regard for other women, and often even at their expense.  So the ‘sisterhood’ message of “Cheetah Sisters” seems pretty great for what it is.  I actually wonder if the unity message isn’t so strong precisely because Continue reading

ha! aka, mattel does india

After writing the last post about young girls of color and which dolls they prefer, I was bothered by the fact that I couldn’t remember what the Indian Barbie doll I had when I was little looked like (maybe when I get home once the semester is done, I’ll look through all the closets in the house for it…).  So I did some research on Mattel’s history of releasing South Asia-related Barbie dolls, and found these two:

India Barbie – released in 1982, as a Special Edition, part of the ‘Dolls of the World – Asia’ line

India Barbie

India Barbie 2nd Edition, released in 1996, as part of the Collector Edition for the same ‘Dolls of the World’ line:

India Barbie 2nd Edition

Is it just me, or is Continue reading

keisha castle-hughes is now a mother! & more on teen pregnancy

There was a post over at the main blog about Keisha Castle-Hughes’ now being a mother!  I talked briefly about the issue in a previous post in which I wondered what ramifications this would have on ‘girl power’ and young girls who look up to either Castle-Hughes or her character in Whale Rider.

keisha castle-hughes, mother, actress

The post on the main blog brings up how teen pregnancy is usually brought up in the media, though–as a ‘problem’ in poor Black & Latino communities.  So far I haven’t addressed race on this blog, and I think this is a grey issue that relates to some of the other themes of cultural studies.  Obviously, we don’t want babies to be born into the world unwanted.  So why not celebrate pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood?  However, there’s also the fact that a lot of these babies are born into poverty, and that possibly if the parents had received the same opportunities that people in wealthier communities receive–namely, access to the same standard of education and being put on the track to college–they wouldn’t have had the babies.  It’s that question again–can you really be empowered when your options are limited by society?  In the case of the ‘problem’ of teen pregnancy, it definitely seems good that people try to create their own narratives within the system by celebrating pregnancy and making it something worthwhile, even if it’s just for lack of a better option.

The case of Keisha Castle-Hughes, though, is a strange one.  Continue reading