|Friendship is Magic|
I was immediately struck by the overarching messages - echoes of the exact same messages for girls I read in texts over 200 years old. I know change takes time, but the specific similarity was very surprising.
Happily, my daughter also currently enjoys (but for how long?) what could be called 'boys' programmes, including Paw Patrol and Blaze and the Monster Machines. These programmes have overwhelmingly male characters and focus on heroism, courage, winning and adventure. There are of course friends present, but developing friendships per se is not the focus. And it's fascinating that these specifically gendered messages and language are still in use for boys and girls today.
Rewind to eighteenth century girls' conduct books, and we read the same language. As the steady rise of the cult of domesticity began, revering the domestic role of women, we see a responsibility set out for women in which creating social harmony is vital. This was particularly seen through the encouragement of domestic music for girls, who were expected to play the piano and sing to soothe the worries away from wearied fathers and brothers. Hampshire Record Office holds hundreds of letters between two friends, Anne Sturges-Bourne and Marianne Dyson, one of which states "most of my evening is employed in singing Clarion, which Papa always asks for, & I really am not tired of it" (Ref: 9M55/F6/38) A similar sentiment is expressed by a teenager about 20 years later: "I feel that, situated as I am, an only daughter…, it rests upon one, to make our home bright, cheerful and attractive to the boys, and comfortable to Father" (Quoted in Solie, Music in Other Words, p106). Here we can see how girls employed a double meaning of the word harmonious, by literally singing melodic harmony but also creating domestic harmony.
While I am very used to reading this kind of message in eighteenth and nineteenth century texts, it's sadly fascinating to see this gendered language of creating harmony rebounding into our living rooms today.