Category Archives: Political Parent

Hurting our daughters

It sickens me to think that these girls are the same age as my daughter. My reaction in seeing these photos was nothing short of visceral. Disgust. Sadness. Anger.

These are some of the images from the December issue of Vogue Paris, featuring models as young as 6 years old.

“Cadeaux”. Translated it means gifts. I am sure they title refers to the clothes these little girls are wearing. After all, Vogue Paris is a fashion magazine, and what 6 year old girl would be complete without their Bulgari bling.

Others have written about this much more eloquently than I have, including spelling out the reasons why these types of images are dangerous to our daughters. Therapist Ashley Solomon, who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness, said this on her blog.

Portraying girls in adult apparel and situations and portraying adult women as young girls (à la Britney Spears sucking on a lollipop in a Catholic school girl uniform) reinforces the sexualization of youth, something that harms both girls and society.

In fact, the American Psychological Association created a Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls and found that these media, products, and societal practices are significantly harming the healthy development of young girls. Dr Eileen Zurbriggen, Chair of the APA Task Force, stated unequivocally, “We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.”

Jennifer Grant also makes a point about this particular issue and the guest editor, Tom Ford that I also think is relevant.

Fashion designer Tom Ford was the guest editor and designed the controversial issue, including “Cadeaux.” Is it relevant that Ford is a close friend to photographer Terry Richardson (whose work is featured elsewhere in the December/January issue), and that Richardson has been accused of preying on child models and has written and gleefully performed a song called “Child Molester’s Coming For You”?

I think so.

And just to put this in context so we don’t miss the blatantly obvious point that this issue and magazine are all about the sex and not fashion, let’s look at the other photo essays in this magazine – one entitled “Pussy West”, and the other entitled “”Forever Love” featuring two elderly people who (according to this sensitive description by Hilary Alexander of The Times) are:

…so wrinkled they clearly have never had an intimate relationship with Botox, demonstrate that you may be geriatric but you can still get it on….

Well, good on them for still being able to “get it on”, but when you position provocative photos of little girls between other photo essays so obviously sexual, well then this becomes more than just pictures of little girls playing dress-up.

Dads, we need to be aware of these types of images, and how they harm not only our daughters, but society as well. This has to become an issue that we Dads not only talk about, but shout loudly about. Our young daughters are depending on us.

So please, spread the word. If you are a Dad who blogs and has a daughter, spend a few minutes and write a post about this yourself and send a message across the Dad blogs that this type of portrayl of our daughters is just not cool.

Embracing the chaos – build a fort in the living room (if you can find the living room)

Giant Kid Fort

I loved this article from the NY Times on the movement to restore children’s play – a rallying cry for us parents to let go of our control freak order tendencies and leave it to the kids to rip apart the house and tackle some unstructured, imaginative play that involves loud noises, yells and dismantling of furniture.

Much of the movement has focused on the educational value of play, and efforts to restore recess and unstructured playtime to early childhood and elementary school curriculums. But advocates are now starting to reach out to parents, recognizing that for the movement to succeed, parental attitudes must evolve as well — starting with a willingness to tolerate a little more unpredictability in children’s schedules and a little less structure at home. Building that fort, for example, probably involves disassembling the sofa and emptying the linen closet. (A sheet makes an excellent roof.)

If you pop over our house, it’s a bloody mess most of the time. And sometimes the chaos does overwhelm and stress me out. Clutter everywhere. But I also see in that clutter the various superheros costumes my son dresses up in, the tinfoil robots and cardboard Viking shields, and my daughters ever present art supplies, strewn across three split levels.

And, as frustrating as I occasionally find it being asked to play with them only to be verbally thrashed and admonished because I am “not doing it right” when I have no idea what the hell “right” is, or even what it is we are playing, I know that I need to suck it up and have fun because it is important for them to be in control of whatever is going on, and for me to just go along with whatever scenario it is they have cooking up in their mind. Because in their mind me not “doing it right” is usually whenever I try to inject something of my own in their play, when in reality most of the time they just want me as a prop – a supporting actor in whatever epic fantasy they have cooking up in their heads but can’t always fully articulate.  It’s just part of the chaos. A challenge, for sure, and one that I am glad I am not alone in.

But promoting play can be surprisingly challenging to parents. Emily Paster, a mother of two in River Forest, Ill., a Chicago suburb, tries to discourage screen time and encourage her children to play imaginatively. That usually works fine for her 7-year-old daughter, who is happy to play in her room with her dolls for hours. But her 4-year-old son is a different story, especially in the cold weather when he’s cooped up.

“If he wants to play, he always wants me to play with him,” Ms. Paster said. “This child has a million toys. Every kind of train you can imagine. But he really wants a partner. If I’m meant to get anything accomplished — dinner, laundry, a phone call — then it’s really difficult.”

I feel your pain, Emily. It’s bloody hard work when you are nothing but an ever present prop for a 4 year old’s imagination.

On a bit of a side note, another section of the article reinforces something I wrote about a couple days ago about overly safe (and ultimatley sterile) playgrounds for kids, and how play spaces these days are designed more for adult peace of mind that developing children.

Ms. Rosker has also campaigned, although unsuccessfully, to bring recess to her son’s elementary school. But school officials were too worried about potential injuries, unruliness and valuable time lost from academic pursuits to sign on to her idea and, she was surprised to find, many parents were similarly reluctant. “They said: ‘I’m not going to sign that. I’m sure there is a good reason why this is good for our kids — our school has good test scores.’ “

So, not only do we not want to give our kids challenging play spaces that help them develop, but we don’t even want to give them the time to do it because we are too concerned about “injuries and unruliness”. Something just feels wrong about that.

Image credit: Giant Kids Fort by Dave Bates used under Creative Commons license

Pole dancing for kids

Seriously. A studio called Tantra Fitness in Vancouver is offering summer classes in pole dancing for kids.

The Canadian company, which operates in Vancouver and Langley, has taught students age nine and up in regular classes, and has gone as young as five years old in private lessons.

Maybe I am wrong here. Maybe the type of pole dancing being taught at Tantra Fitness is rooted more in the ancient Chinese circus tradition of pole dancing. Oh, wait a sec. What did you say the names of those pole dancing classes were? Bellylicious, Sexy Flexy, Pussycat Dawls and Promiscuous Girls?

Apparently, it’s an awesome ab workout. Yeah, well, if I want my 6 year old daughter to have rock hard abs, I’ll pick an activity that isn’t rooted in thousands of years of sexual history, like maybe the monkey bars.

“Children have no [erotic] association with the pole whatsoever,” says Morris, arguing that kids would see the same apparatus at a firehall, playground or circus. “Unless you teach someone how to grind and make reference to taking off your clothing, there’s nothing wrong with it.”

Oh, wait. This is MY issue. I am the one who is making the act of pole dancing sexual, projecting MY opinions and attitudes about the sexual nature of pole dancing onto the activity. Because, you know, the little girls (thank goodness) have no idea that there is anything sexual about dancing around a pole. But doesn’t that fact make this activity even more repulsive? Hey, I have an idea! Let’s teach our little girls to be sexual without them actually realizing they are taking part in an act most of society finds sexual. Nothing like preparing them early on with the necessary skills they will need to understand the hyper-sexualized world they inhabit. I mean, being a kid is already confusing enough, let alone being a girl. Do we need to make it even more confusing for little girls by adding in the complexities and gradient shades of gray involved with sex? Why even go there with 5 and 6 year old girls?

Yep, nothing says wholesome summer fun like pole dancing.

The Girl Effect

Brian at RebelDad tipped me off to this video and the website The Girl Effect. It’s a very nice piece of social activism aimed at getting people to support young woman.

The site and video speak to the power of potential in young women as agents of change in their communities. Girls grow into women, strong and powerful women who ae capable of becoming lynchpins of their community. Like Brian, I am the Dad of a daughter and these types of messages resonate with me. It is a powerful piece and message.

Handmade Toys Under Threat From New US Law

Wood Toys

Image by Serendigity via Flickr

Early in the new year a new law will go into effect in the US that may have severely damaging effects on small, independent toy makers.

The new law, called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, was designed to prevent unsafe toys (like the made in China toys that seemed to be under constant recall last year) from entering the marketplace. Unfortunately, it appears that the new law is a blanket law that will impose strict mandatory testing of all toys in the marketplace, regardless of where they are made.

A group called the Handmade Toy Alliance fears that this will have a devastating effect on independent toy makers, not only in the US, but small scale international toy makers who sells products in the US market

For small American, Canadian, and European toymakers, however, the costs of mandatory testing will likely drive them out of business.

International toy makers like Selecta Spielzeug, who are already governed by strict regulations in their home country of Germany, have already announced they will no longer be selling their products in the US because of the law.

On their website, the Alliance spells out a couple of different scenarios.

  • A toymaker, for example, who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income cannot afford the $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
  • A work at home mom in Minnesota who makes dolls to sell at craft fairs must choose either to violate the law or cease operations.
  • A small toy retailer in Vermont who imports wooden toys from Europe, which has long had stringent toy safety standards, must now pay for testing on every toy they import.
  • And even the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.

While it is nice to see a government act to prevent threats to our children’s health, I would sure hate to see small, independent toy makers who make safe, high quality toys hurt in the process. The amendments that the Alliance recommends (things like exemptions for toys made from trusted countries and for toys made from raw woods and food grade materials) seem like a good starting point to make sure there are alternatives to Fisher Price and Mattel in the marketplace.

Thanks to Craftsbury Kids for the info.

Parents of soon to be born twins fight for extra parental benefits

I remember clearly when my wife told me that she was pregnant with our first. “Holy crap, We’re going to have a baby!!!!” This was followed about 30 seconds later by, “holy crap, we’re going to have a baby.” The difference between the two is in the tone. Excitement and joy for the first, fear and panic in the second.

I bring this up because a little part of me feels that the same fear and panic may be behind the lawsuit that Christian Martin and Paula Critchley are threatening to bring against the federal government should their request for twin parental leave be denied.

In Canada, we have a pretty good batch of parental benefits. We lag behind many European countries, like Sweden, Estonia and Bulgaria, but are far ahead of our American counterparts.

In Canada, birth mother’s get 15 weeks of maternity leave. Then there is an additional 35 weeks of parental leave that can be taken by one parent, or split up by both parents. Both these benefits are paid for by the federal Employment Insurance Program.

But whether you are having 1 kid or 4 kids, the time remains the same at 35 weeks. Christian and Paula are arguing that, since they are having twins, they should be entitled to double that parental leave – 70 weeks. And if you listen to the interviews they have been giving (the audio and video clips are available in Real audio format on the CBC site), I think you can hear the voice of freaked out first time parents going, ‘holy crap, we are having babies! WE NEED HELP!”

Still, the have a point. And you would be hard pressed to find me, a guy who believes parents should be with their kids as much as possible in the early, formative years, arguing that they should not get this. After all, if they had one baby now and a second a year from now, they would still be eligible for 70 weeks of parental benefits. So they happen to use them at the same time. Is there really anything wrong with this?

Economically, we as a country can afford this. Despite the fact that the incidents of multiple births have been on the rise, multiple births still account for only 2% of overall births. The effect this precedent will have on our national bottom line would be negligible.

As well all know, having kids is hard work. The first year with one kid was a haze for me, trying to figure out just how profoundly my life had changed. Yeah, people tell you, but you just don’t realize how much it does change until you are there. So, if bucking up a few thousand dollars is going to mean this family will have a better shot at riding it out, then so be it. I would rather my tax dollars go to this than bailing out failing companies with bad business models who refuse to create products that consumers really want. Oops, sorry…another rant.

Is Quebec the best place in North America for working families?

{{fr|La chef du Parti québécois, Pauline Marois.

Image via Wikipedia

In Quebec, families pay $7 a day for childcare. Or, to put it into terms I can directly relate to, if our family lived in Quebec, we would have $862 a month more in our pockets. $10,344 more in disposable income each year.

Talk about an economic stimulus package.

But beyond the economics for working families, the societal benefits in Quebec have been dramatic. According to research done by CBC’s The Current, in the 10 years since Quebec has adopted universal child care (at a cost of around $1.8 billion dollars per year for 209,000 children), Quebec has seen their child poverty rate cut in half, school test scores have gone from the lowest to highest in Canada, and maternal labour force participation has gone from the lowest to the highest in Canada.

Now, not all of these outcomes are solely the result of the implementation of universal child care, but it is hard to argue with the author of the program when she asserts that the universal child care system has been a major contributor in each of these factors.

That author is Pauline Marois, the current leader of the Parti Québécois in Quebec. Pauline Marios was recently recognized as a Champion for Child Care by the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. Gordon Campbell and Stephen Harper, I hope you are taking notes.

17,325 kids – 5150 childcare spaces

There are 17,325 kids aged 5 and under in the city I live in, and room for less than 1/3rd of them in child care. That’s the finding of the 2008 Victoria’s Vital Signs report released this week by the Victoria Foundation, a local non-profit group dedicated to strengthening the community in the city I live in.

These number both illustrate and quantify the problem parents are having finding child care in Victoria. I suspect if this type of analysis was done in other regions, the findings would be similar.

Granted, not all of those 17,325 kids are going to require child care. Some will be at home with Mom, Dad or other relatives, usually supported by federal maternity and paternity benefits. But it’s hard to deny that the gap between what is out there and what is needed is significant.

What is even more alarming are these statistics, pulled from a recent PLAY Victoria study.

Within less than a 10 month period (March 2007 to January 2008), our region has witnessed:

  • a decrease of approximately 60 spaces for children aged birth to 5
  • no new Group Child Care (Under 36 Months) centres created
  • a net loss of 9% of Group Child Care spaces for infants and toddlers
  • a decrease of approximately 133 spaces for children aged birth to 12

And while there has been an increase of 53 preschool spaces, the fact that the rest of the numbers are dropping, especially the 9% drop in infant toddler spaces, will added further anxiety to the families currently looking for childcare in Victoria.

If our political leaders were kids

Rick Mercer (Canada’s Stephen Colbert – or is Stephen the US Rick Mercer?) rocks. This probably won’t make much sense to my US friends, but I am sure you have enough of your own political humour to occupy you right now.

Federal Election 2008: Where the parties stand on child care and parental benefits

On October 14th, Canadians go to the polls to elect a new federal government. For parents with small children, child care is a key issue in the election. Here’s a quick rundown of what the 4 major national parties (Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Green) are promising in terms of Child Care.


When it comes to child care, the Conservatives seem to be focusing on what they have done in this area in the past 2 years, specifically the introduction of the Universal Child Care Benefit last year (which not only misses the point of the child care issue for many working parents, but also managed to decrease BC’s annual transfer payment by $150 million dollars and increase daycare fees by $2 per day).

The Conservatives are also touting their $250 million per year increase in transfer payments to the provinces which, they say, is to assist in the creation of new daycare spaces. Yet the transfer was introduced with no strings attached, so in essence the provinces could take the cash and use it for many other projects other than child care.

One new promise the Conservatives are making is to extend maternity and parental benefits to self-employed Canadians. Currently only people who pay into EI are eligible for parental or maternity benefits. The Conservatives promise to do away with this.


The Liberal Party has been promising child care spaces since the days of the Red Book, and they have consistently failed to deliver what is needed. To their credit, it is the Liberal Party we have to thank for giving us a full year (pdf) of maternity and parental leave.

This time around, the Liberals are promising to:

  • increasing child care funding over a four-year period to $1.25 billion annually. This money is to be used by the provinces to create new and improved quality spaces and increase accessibility for families.
  • Keep the $100-a-month Universal Child Care Benefit.
  • Introduce a new refundable child tax credit worth $350 to families for every child under 18.
  • Provide up to $1,225 per year to Canada’s poorest families through a new Guaranteed Family Supplement.


The NDP’s are promising to spend $1.45 billion dollars on their 3 point child care plan in the first year and steadily build on that.

Like the Liberal Party, the NDP are promising to keep the $1,200 per year Child Care Benefit, but instead of delivering $100 monthly cheques that are taxed, they plan to role it in to an expanded Child Tax Benefit.

As for child care spaces, the NDP is promising that provinces get the multi-year funding in the 2006 budget so they can plan effectively and create 150,000 child care spaces, with the longer term goal of a space for every child needing one.

Point 3 in the 3 point plan is the creation of a national child care program outlined in the NDP’s Early Learning & Child Care Act (Bill C-303), which, (for local readers) was authored by Victoria NDP MP Denise Savoie.


Like the NDP, the Greens say they are committed to a high-quality federally-funded universal child care program in Canada. Specifics of the Green plan are:

  • Restore and revamp the 2005 agreement reached between the federal government, provinces and territories to achieve a universal child care programme in Canada.
  • Specifically ensure that Canada’s universal child care programme provides workplace child care spaces wherever possible.
  • Tax shift to make advertising directed at children ineligible for corporate tax write-offs.
  • Accelerate the creation of workplace child care spaces through a direct tax credit to employers (or groups of employers in small businesses) of $1500 tax credit/child per year.
  • Value the decisions of parents who choose to stay home with children.
  • Promote and facilitate access to Roots of Empathy Programme to every Canadian child at some point in their elementary school years.