If you’ve visited the girls’ section of a chain store recently you’ll have noticed that unicorns are in this season. These 2020 unicorns are a particular type of unicorn — coloured in soft pastel colours and with their eyes closed. It’s not just unicorns with their eyes closed this year — all the cute animals seem to be sleeping. Below are three of the products available at Target Australia this season:
There is quite a bit of commentary around this, as in, is this an example of retrograde feminism? Over at Think or Blue, Catherine makes the following point about the sleepiness of modern cartoon characters marketed at girls:
Over the course of history, women and girls, especially women and girls of color, have been told to relax. Don’t be hysterical. Anger isn’t flattering. Stop being so over-emotional.
We expect girls to sit nicely, behave, smile, and speak politely. As if that weren’t enough, we now expect them to sleepwalk; go about life in a dreamy daze.Think or Blue
Pair this article with this week’s episode (42) of the Fuckbois of Literature podcast: “Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today” and with the entire corpus of feminist literature and the sleepiness of these femme coded unicorns does feel a bit icky. Why are we still hung up on unironic “Sleeping Beauty” narratives, with the implication that girls are waiting around for things to happen to them?
Though this is not necessarily a defence of all the sleeping characters marketed at girls, I believe the closed eyes are an aesthetic from UwU culture. The exonym for this is ‘soft culture’. This article from The Guardian asks if this so-called ‘Soft Girl’ version of femininity is a form of empowerment (a word I am beginning to despise).
The impulse to dismiss the soft girl as silly may overlook the deeply felt vulnerability of girlhood, and the desire to reckon with it on one’s own terms. In 2015, the author Lucy Ellman described teenage girls as living “in terror of the society in which they find themselves … their main aim is to reach adulthood without being raped, shot, manhandled, or murdered.” It’s a dark statement, but not an inaccurate one. Teen girls are often discredited and exploited for being pretty and eager to please others, characteristics dominant culture pressures them to have. Girls are disproportionately penalized by school attire policies, body-shamed, and blamed for “inviting” sexual harassment, which most begin experiencing at about 14.The Guardian
If you’ve spent much time around adolescent girls, you’ll be familiar with the phenomenon in which girls (not all girls, but many) revert to faux-babytalk for a brief period, as a way of coping with the terrors of adolescence. I noticed while teaching in a girls’ high school that some teachers responded by talking back in this way, thereby encouraging it, while other teachers had no patience for it at all. However it’s treated, the vast majority of girls grow out of it within months.
I have wondered how many boys feel similarly vulnerable and toddler-like at adolescence, because in a patriarchal culture young men are denied any form of vulnerable expression. I welcome softboi as a subculture for this very reason. If I am prepared to embrace soft, UwU culture for boys, I must therefore embrace it as an option for girls.
Another important point: Not all cute-looking creatures need to behave in a cute way.
Continue reading “Taming The Unicorns”
YOUR NEW LEADER ##animation♬ original sound – emmywithlove