All it takes is one peek inside my 6-year-old's bedroom to know what gender kid I'm parenting. And the way society tells it these days, that makes me a bad, bad mamajama. How dare my female child have a dollhouse-shaped bookshelf with a pink roof! Surely that Tinkerbell bedspread is setting women back a good decade or two!
Yes, I'm raising a girl in world where, as writer Clementine Ford recently opined, "society doesn't like girls very much." And after 6 years of trying to defend her, I'm exhausted.
It's a particularly hard row to hoe when you're an equal rights-promoting feminist who doesn't see a problem with her daughter's affinity for pink and sparkly. And if I listened too closely to the current conversation about girlhood, I would be crying myself to sleep each night about my daughter's future fate. If she's not playing ninjas and out hunting frogs, she's missing out! She's being denied the right to run with the boys!
But as the world rails against the genderization of products and experiences in the name of protecting girls from being shortchanged, my daughter IS being left out in the cold.
Take the latest Change.org petition railing against the girlified LEGO Friends line. Signers are expected to agree with the statement that:
Marketers, ad execs, Hollywood, and just about everyone else in the media are busy these days insisting that girls are not interested in their products unless they’re pink, cute, or romantic. They’ve come to this conclusion even though they’ve refused to market their products to the girls they are so certain will not like them.
Funny. My kid loves LEGOs and has for years. But when I showed her the LEGO Friends line, her eyes lit up. I asked her what she thought as I handed her the box. "I love it already," she said. But why, I wanted to know (wondering to myself if it was the color). "Because it has girls!" she enthused.
Hear that, folks? She's a girl. She identifies with other girls. She roots for women's soccer and wanted her first grade teacher to be one of the females, not the male. And she wants more girls in her favorite toys and movies. Right now, at 6, she doesn't see "playing like a girl" as being a bad thing. And I wouldn't be a good feminist if I didn't say that I hope she never does.
I'd much prefer she saw that life is more about being proud of your choices than about trying to one-up someone else. And so I've gotten tired of "OK with being a girl" being equated with "doesn't want to be as good as the boys."
It's one thing to give our girls options. My daughter plays with trucks and dolls alike. But if we are forcing little girls to play with trucks when they want a doll, we don't make them equal to the boys. We tell them that their own personal likes and dislikes don't matter. We tell them that girl stuff isn't "good." WE -- not boys, not marketers, not Hollywood -- are telling them that girls aren't as good as boys. Isn't telling her that she's wrong for being attracted to the My Little Pony aisle instead of the science kits just another way of telling my daughter she's not good enough?
Corny as it is, I want my daughter to be all that she can be. But I'm also trying to raise a child whose worth is rooted in the self. To get anywhere, she has to like who she is.
If that means letting her be proud of being her kind of girl who likes pink and sparkles and will jump in a go cart to drive one of her little (male) buddies around while other girls wear jeans and t-shirts and play Star Wars at recess, so be it. Because it isn't the "stuff" or the color that makes a person.
Do you know a girl who actually really DOES want all this pink and glitter? Is it holding her back?
Image by Jeanne Sager