Expectations for Girls in Little House on the Prairie and Country Music

Country music duo Maddie & Tae’s debut single, “Girl in a Country Song” and Laura Ingalls’ Little House on the Prairie both portray expectations for girls during “Girlhood.” In Keywords for Children’s Literature, Jacqueline Reid-Walsh wrote an article on “Girlhood.” She briefly touches on the doll play involved in a young girl’s life. She includes an excerpt from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile which discusses how enthralled young girls often are with their dolls. I was most interested by the final line, “But the time will come when she will be her own doll” (93). It made me realize that it seems girls are always someone’s “doll,” whether they are their own doll or another’s. Traditionally, women were raised to be poised housekeepers and caretakers of children. For example, in Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls portrays Caroline Ingalls as the more domestic of the two parents. Her responsibilities are with maintaining the house and caring for the children. Jacqueline Reid-Walsh’s “Girlhood” claims that dolls are used to teach young girls of their mothers responsibilities so that they are better prepared when it is their time to take them on. Walsh writes, “Doll houses and dolls were intended to teach girls how to be good housekeepers and seamstresses by organizing a kitchen and other rooms of a miniature house, and by making dolls’ clothes and house furnishings” (95). There was a strict set of expectations for young girls. These have changed drastically over the years. Females, both children and adults, now have much more freedom in their behavior and lifestyle, but modern-day stereotypical expectations remain. Country music duo Maddie & Tae were bold enough to fight back against societal norms for girls in the country music scene. They did this through their debut single “Girl In A Country Song.” It is often overlooked that most country songs today set expectations for girls in their lyrics. The women depicted in the songs are described as being good-looking, and often said to be dancing in minimal clothing. Their descriptions make them sound as if they are just dolls for these boys to play with. Maddie & Tae took the liberty of bringing up this overlooked stereotyping by referencing a variety of different popular country songs from recent years that include lyrics like those that I have mentioned. While women have gained more freedom, expectations still exist and they are often communicated through lyrics. Although I only discussed the current expectations for women in country music, each genre of music communicates different expectations for women.

 

4 thoughts on “Expectations for Girls in Little House on the Prairie and Country Music”

  1. With much of contemporary media going against the stereotypical portrayal of girls as being domesticated and “doll-like”, do you believe that the present-day American Girl Doll Company collections of their non-historical line of dolls has similarly strayed away from such stereotypical representations?

  2. I think in most genres of music girls are depicted in this same way, as “dolls” for the boys. It is interesting that not just male musicians and artists sing about females in this way. Female musicians and artists are making themselves be seen this way through the lyrics in their songs, the dancing in their music videos, and the clothing they are wearing in their music videos.

  3. You made a great connection with modern conceptions of girlhood and lyrics to songs. As you have mentioned, “girls are always someone’s doll.” More importantly, I am wondering why in R&B and Rap music, girls are always sexualized with “big booty’s” and with heavily applied make-up? Does this send the wrong messages to girls growing up in their prime girlhood stages, that in order to be beautiful they need to dress skimpy?

  4. I think this song and music video are awesome because they clearly express the message that girls, in not only country songs, but also all of popular culture are objectified by men. The video featuring men dressed up in minimal clothing the way women often are dressed looks totally ridiculous which I think was brilliant to include because it points out that treating women in this way is absolutely ridiculous, too.

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