Written by McClung’s incoming co-editor-in-chief Mai Nguyen
I was skimming through the contents page of a recent issue of Maclean’s when this title caught my eye: “It’s ‘wife camp’ for 10-year-olds.” Say what? I quickly flipped through the thin, glossy pages until I finally hit Joanne Latimer’s story. The first page shows a photo from a scene of the TV hit show, Mad Men, which portrays the hellhole that was the 1950s (for women at least). The image shows a Stepford wife obediently fulfilling her duties as an entertainer and server for her husband and dinner guests, while her eyes show a look of wanting out. No surprise there. It’s an image that one would expect of the 1950s.
But is it often we see this kind of image in 2009? I should hope not. Not in the sense that women shouldn’t be living like it’s a Martha Stewart episode. In the sense that women shouldn’t have to be a miserable, domestic entertainer because of their biological makeup, especially with the advancements that have been made that have expanded women’s equality and opportunities.
That’s why it disgusts me to have read about something called a Makeover Camp, a two-week summer program for girls that was established by Wonny Song of Montreal’s Lambda School of Music and Fine Arts. No, it’s not the kind of camp where you come out of it with a 24-inch waist and an entirely new wardrobe topped with a fresh haircut. This is worse. Girls come out of this camp with improved posture, voice, conversation skills, table manners, music appreciation, wardrobe choices, makeup application and (gags) party-planning skills.
This camp is aimed at girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Song says that this camp will provide girls the skills they need to enter the professional workplace. Mr. Song, a nice wardrobe can only get you so far in your career, much less your seemingly poised posture.
What scares me the most is that some mothers have already expressed utter excitement in enrolling their daughters in this camp. There’s nothing wrong with being ultrafemme or learning proper etiquette at the dinner table. (I hate it when people chew with their mouths open, too.) But what this Makeover Camp instills in these young, impressionable girls is a set of ideas, beliefs and standards; ones that tell them that the woman they are to become must fit a very strict and, often times, compromising model.
According to Wonny Song, “There was zero per cent interest from the boys. Look, this is not a boot camp to reinforce the notion that girls should stay home. It’s not sexist. We would love to include boys, but what can we do?”
Okay…. The fact that no boys have expressed any interest in this camp is another reminder of that cultural force that has been placed, and always has been, on girls to improve on themselves, whether sexually, physically, emotionally, socially. You name it.
Young girls need a boost in their self-confidence, not a lesson on how to display a platter of fruits.