Sunday, January 4, 2009

Girl props

I started a new drawing yesterday of some sort of epic best friend charm necklace thing. I'm trying to plan less with this one to see what happens-- hopefully something surprising. I did a little bit of research though, to check out what those best friend charms look like these days. When I was small I was the recipient of many of these-- little broken halves of hearts which sized up with the ones owned by my friends. I think it's weird and funny how little girls are trained to be romantic with their best friends-- I mean really-- those necklaces implied that my heart could only be whole in the company of my friends. What kind of message is that?! Last night I read a section in the book I'm reading where two women (both enamored with and by the same man) encounter each other on a boat and prove their friendship to one another with the most outrageous flattery and flirtery. My favorite part is when Fancy Gray tells Clytie Payson that her eyes are the most beautiful she has ever seen, a compliment that Clytie trumps by saying that her eyes are never as beautiful as they are when a little picture of Fancy Gray is being reflected in them. To be honest, I think this kind of flirtation is so amazing and I miss it a lot in this newish city. Remember when valentines were made for everyone in your class? This kind of friend romance seemed so much easier in Portland, land of huge house co-ops, where cheap cost coexists with high quality of living, where sleepovers abound, where bicycle gangs commingle and bad hair often means surprisingly-good-at-snuggling.

When I was looking for images of these girly best-friend pendants I found a bounty of them supplied through a commercial website called Girl props are self advertised as appropriate for girls of all ages. I think this is interesting because the word 'prop' implies a theatrical stand-in for something else, something that mimics reality. So, if you check out this website and all its glittery wares for discount prices you might start to wonder what reality these props are standing in for-- womanhood? Under the "Necklaces...Love" section you'll find a bunch of really great selections including a silhouette of a kissing boy-body and girl-body (called... "Kissing Cousins"-- what is that all about?), of a two-part necklace (one, a key, the other, a heart with the engraving"He who holds this key can unlock my heart"), and a chrome double charm, one saying "Always" the other saying "In touch." So, the thing about these gendered necklaces is that not just any boy child is going to wear a dainty-chained key around his neck. Let's talk about it. It just occurred to me that the website is also using the word "prop" to allude to the word "propaganda," which is also pretty interesting. Essentially, this overtly pink website is channeling Judith Butler and is a textbook example of contemporary post-feminism.

I love this picture-- there are more like it. Someone had this kid pose doing lady-jobs, here, doing the laundry. In others she is tending to a baby brother. Having grown up the oldest daughter I have to admit there has always been a sort of mothering impulse for my brothers. When I was a teenager I started to reconsider this impulse having become self-conscious when pushing my youngest brother around in a stroller lest someone think he had been born from my own 12-year old loins. This was encouraged, of course, with my own girlprops (mostly supplied by my grandmothers)-- dollhouses, small strollers, play kitchens and plastic food. This morning it was beautiful in the Mission and as I biked by the soccer and church crowd at Precita Park I saw a small gang of tiny-stroller-pushing children. One of them, I'm proud to report, was a boy. A couple of the girls were using their strollers to enact a demolition derby.

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