I follow Pigtail Pals on Twitter and love their fresh message that little girls don’t have to be all pink and princesses… there are many ways to be a little girl that don’t involve butterflies, Cinderella and ballerinas. They recently asked “What terrifies you most about raising a girl today?” Since 140 characters wasn’t NEARLY enough (is a blog post even enough?), I decided to dive deeper.
In short? I’m afraid she will struggle to find an identity that embraces the fun and exciting things about being a girl and confuse that with sexualization and pop culture’s brand of girlhood. I’m afraid she’ll feel pressure from other girls to conform or feel “uncool” if she isn’t obsessed with princesses or Bratz dolls. I’m afraid of how different her girlhood will be from mine.
I recently read Cinderella Ate My Daughter which kind of awakened me to the task before me. If you are a girl mom, READ THIS BOOK. It was chilling and eye-opening and empowering. We say things are so different “these days” about so many things, but girlhood today is a different world from the good ole ’80’s. It’s an engrossing, entertaining and well-researched read and got me thinking about so many different things. Here are a few resulting resolutions:
Be Aware of Gendered Toys
WHY does a girl need a pink and purple doctor kit? Or a pink flowered baseball mitt? (hey, that rhymes!) The answer is she doesn’t, but you know why they exist? Because we’re buying them. And then we buy them again when we have a son. Annnd, long story short, we, the excited girl moms, are enabling this genderization of EVERY LITTLE THING. So, my resolution, which I’d been doing as much as possible even before reading this, is to keep it neutral. This is a fact of life that I’ll admit is probably worse for boys. If a girl plays with a truck (a “boy” toy), it’s okay but heaven forbid a boy picks up a doll. I hope to foster an environment where she can play with pink or red or blue or whatever. Recently, I bought
her a sippy with cars and a sippy with butterflies.
But, here’s the fine line. It’s OKAY to be a girl. It’s actually healthy and I don’t want to lose focus of that in a crusade against princesses and too much pink. In the end, I think diversity is the best policy. If she has a princess doll, fine. But I need to also be supplying other fun options and reinforcing positive messages, even critically discussing the princess stories. Like, is it okay to give up your voice for a man? (Ariel, I’m looking at you and your coconut bra.)
Leading right to my next resolution…
It might sound like this one is more for, oh, 12 years from now. But the emphasis our culture puts on looks and appearance are going to affect her way sooner. I even started to think about how often I put bows in her hair or call her my “pretty girl.” Even something as simple as painting her toenails can reinforce that what she looks like is overly important. Another big takeaway for me from this book was how influential MY body image can be to my kids. I’ve resolved to end self-criticism completely (haha, at least verbally ;)). Looking in the mirror and saying “I look fat in this” or sarcastically saying that when I’m at the pool it’s a whale watch? Even jokingly, it ends now. Incidentally, I think the Princesses can negatively impact this aspect of girlhood, what with their too teeny waists and demure smiles… and not much else to contribute to the world.
Stay Social Media Literate
Though the princess chapters were disturbing, the most awakening part of CAMD was the discussion on the new landscape of teenagerhood… specifically social media. Think about when you were 16. We all did stupid stuff, stuff we’re happy no one remembers or talks about. What if there was a picture of it online? And we all know we can “say” more online than we can in person, making bullying easier to consent to. Staying on top of what the kids are doing and teaching my child how to respectfully and responsibly use the tools of the day are a key priority. It’s crazy to think about the rate of change in technology… Margo is going to grow up always having had it there. Heck, an iPad 2 is going to be “from when she was a baby.” Putting that up against a tape recorder from 1981, my “when I was a baby” time, it’s eye opening.
Raising a girl is a constant battle for me in my head. I want her to be strong, smart, independent and kind (which I’d probably also want for a son.) But growing up these days, you know she’s going to get invited to a spa birthday party in elementary school. You know she’s going to ask me for a princess doll, or be “out of the loop” among other girls if she doesn’t have a princess interest (or obsession…) You know she’s going to want to wear something “too sexy” way earlier than when me and my generation pushed that envelope. And even though she’s only 18 months, I think about how I’ll handle these inevitable milestones.
Having a baby girl is a tremendous blessing and I’m so excited to see the girl she becomes. I feel like as a girl mom, if I stay informed and keep my eyes open, I can handle it. Bring it, Cinderella.