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Friday, March 25, 2011

Good Girls Gone Botoxed

Have you heard about Britney? Not Britney Spears, but Britney Campbell. Well, you might want to sit down.

Two days ago The Sun reported that mum Kerry injects her eight-year-old daughter, Britney, with Botox. Her first injection was a gift for her eighth birthday, in fact! Mom buys the Botox over the Internet and injects Britney herself-- but she tests it first to make sure it's "safe." Why do this? To be a pop superstar, of course.

Not only does Britney get Botox, she also gets a monthly "virgin wax." I confess I had  to Google virgin wax.  Apparently, I am way out of the loop because in 2008 MSNBC ran a story on this new trend.  Supposedly if you wax the colorless hair on a girl's legs and bikini line, it won't grow in once the girl hits puberty and the hair darkens and coarsens. I'm not sure why Britney gets a virgin wax every month though, as aesthetician experts suggest you only need to do it 2-6 times. By the way, my favorite line about virgin waxing is listed on the website of a New York City spa, Wanda's European Skin Care on West 57th: "Save your child a lifetime of waxing... and put the money in the bank for her college education instead!" Just think of how much more pocket change we all would have had in college...

There's a connection to child beauty pageants here, especially because Kerry Campbell says Botox, virgin waxes, and even plumpers/fillers are common practice on the San Francisco child beauty pageant circuit (I'm personally not aware of a big high glitz pageant circuit in the Bay area-- anyone else?).  On Toddlers & Tiaras this past season several moms were shown waxing their daughters eyebrows, as I've written about here; we've also seen moms shave their daughters' legs so the little leg hairs don't show up on stage. I can see some pageant moms doing the virgin wax, but nowhere close to all of them, especially those who don't do high glitz. As for Botox I just don't buy it. Some day when they are older I am sure a lot of pageant girls will pursue plastic surgery-- but trying Botox so young and risking disfigurement is simply foolhardy and too risky.

Not surprisingly, this story has some legs and got picked up pretty quickly. Jezebel's coverage concedes that neither the US nor the UK have laws preventing a parent from injecting their children with Botox. I mean, why would there be? We'll see if that changes; in the meantime it's quite possible Child Protective Services may be visiting the Campbell household in San Francisco.  Otherwise, as Perez Hilton said, let's hope this is a joke. Perhaps it is because, really, how did The Sun reporter find native Birmingham, UK resident Kerry in San Francisco? 

This story made me think of Charice, the Filipino pop star who has appeared on Glee. Last July there was a big brouhaha about her getting Botox to make her look younger and to smooth her eighteen-year-old face for the show. The media even ran pictures of her getting the injections. Clearly Botox is in among teenagers pursuing pop stardom-- but Charice is a decade older than little Britney Campbell.

Keeping female, teen popstars looking young and "pure" is quite a task on many levels, as the always informative and entertaining Peggy Orenstein explains in "The Good Girl, Miranda Cogrove" which will be in the Times Magazine this Sunday.  Her discussion of teen idols produced by the Disney and Nick machines is related to a chapter in Cinderella Ate My Daughter; Orenstein expands on that work with a thoughtful profile on "iCarly" star Miranda Cosgrove.  One of the most refreshing parts of the piece is hearing about, and from, Miranda's parents (her dad still runs the dry cleaning business he had before Miranda starting raking in seven-figures and her mom is with her pretty much all the time).

Somehow I don't think Britney Campbell will be the next Miranda Cosgrove, do you?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Shrinking and Pinking

I've been thinking a lot about women's sports lately, so when Amazon delivered Mina Samuels' new book, Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives, I started reading right away.  In no time I'd learned something new about women's athletics-- "shrinking and pinking." What does the term mean? It's how a lot of athletic clothing and gear were, and are, made for women. Companies simply shrink down the men's versions and dye them pink (Samuels discusses this on page 24).

It seems that shrinking and pinking is the state of affairs in some women's sports.  USA Today sportswriter Christine Brennan took quite a bit of flak last week for reminding people that the women's tourney is also part of March Madness.  She even dared to suggest that female NCAA basketball players not settle for shrunken media coverage and audience attendance in "the other tournament," and instead move their dates so they don't coincide with the men's tournament's dates.

But there are glimmers of hope, stories of women succeeding in sports-- and on their own terms. Four articles from the past week illustrate this point, and the first three are actually about basketball.

1. SI ran a story on women's basketball as part of their March madness preview; "The Cardinal Kin" is on Stanford standout sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike.  The Stanford team, favored in the women's Division I tournament, are led by these accomplished women who distinguish themselves on the court, in the classroom, and in their dorms (I wonder if they ever had access to Stanford's alleged "easy class" list that I mentioned last week?).  It's a great read, though I must confess my favorite lines from the article had noting to do with the fact that these are female basketball players.  Their mother, Ify Ogwumike, an immigrant from Nigeria, was utterly perplexed by the competitive youth sports culture of travel teams that prevails in in the US: ""We never knew there was a world out there where people sat in gymnasiums all day long,' she says of her introduction to the AAU circuit. Upon learning from a coach that her girls' team would be playing in a tournament in Dallas, Ify said, 'Why do we have to go to Dallas; why can't we just do it here?'"

2. Check out Parade Magazine's inspiring piece on the women's basketball team at Gallaudet University.  Gallaudet, a university for the hearing impaired, made its first NCAA Division III tournament appearance in twelve years after winning the Landmark Conference championship for the first time.  The article describes how the players communicate with one another non-verbally on the court, and how they communicate with others off the court.  While Gallaudet was eliminated in the first round of the tournament, these women are clearly on the path to future success.

3. Also inspirational? Dawn Barger who became the first female coach to lead a male basketball team to a state championship in Tennessee. Not only did Lake County High School win their first ever championship, but Barger became the first woman in the history of the 90-year tournament to coach a team in the men's state tournament. It was her first year as basketball coach at Lake County... I'm guessing they'll renew her contract.

4. And, finally, two female aces made history in California last week when, reportedly for the first time, two girls were starting pitchers in a high school baseball game.  I don't agree with everything written in this article about the game (especially the somewhat disparaging tone used when describing women's basketball), but it's never bad to expand, rather than shrink, the media coverage of female athletes.

Amy Moritz put it beautifully in her fantastic piece on last week's US Collegiate Synchronized Swimming Nationals: women's athletics is sometimes full of contradictions.  But wearing pink glitter and being athletically strong aren't mutually exclusive. In other words, the pinking of women's sports can be okay sometimes, but pinking and shrinking isn't a good combination.

PS. Justine Siegal, who I wrote about last month, continues making history during baseball's spring training. She has now thrown batting practice to the Indians, A's, Rays, Cardinals, and Mets. Note, they didn't make her wear pink (no word if they had to shrink the uniform).