Day 36: What To Do About the Girly Girls?

I finished Cinderella Ate My Daughter last night. I had already been fighting a battle to keep away the princess-y claptrap that seems to surround pre-school girls if possible. This has been an intuitive reaction on my part, with no real reason behind the emotion. My daughter seems to gravitate towards pink, tulle and flowers, which I do NOT push on her. The book was very alarming.

Before I begin my critique, here’s a pop quiz to take the pulse of how “girly” I am:

Which of the following are true?

A. I took ballet until I was 14.

B. In high school, I was a cheerleader.

C. On my wedding day, I walked down the aisle to the theme from “The Princess Bride”.

D. On my wedding day, I wore a tiara.

E. A and C.

F. All of the above.

G. None of the above.

I’ll let you know the answer at the bottom of the post.

Peggy Orenstein’s research comes to a few scary conclusions: today’s princess culture teaches young girls that being “the fairest of them all” is the most important trait, encourages young teens to be “hot” and “sexy” too early, and has led to the large increase in eating disorders of all stripes. Some pretty serious accusations. Apparently, most young girls naturally need to define themselves as female, and the Disney princess gear allows them the chance to do this, but the gear is really bad for them.

She doesn’t really provide any solutions or alternatives to counter this culture, other than “say no” to your daughter when she asks for the Sleeping Beauty Manicure/Pedicure Station. Which I already do. And also, to tell her she’s beautiful when she’s doing hard work or pursuing an athletic activity, not when she’s wearing a pretty dress or has her hair done.

I had mentioned that one thing I liked about the pioneer, stoic culture of the mid 1800s was that they valued in appearance stoutness and the ability of the physical body to do hard work. If you were thin, you were to be avoided as a spouse because you were probably sickly.

So I guess I should encourage my daughter to appreciate what her body can DO and not what it looks like.

Does anyone have any other ideas about girly girls? Because I’m afraid the answer to my quiz is F. I am a girly girl myself. I hated sports, and dance was the only activity I was good at. I planned my wedding when I was 5. My mom, a tap-dancer and high-school cheerleader herself, discouraged the ultra-feminine. Barbie was not allowed, and sports were encouraged. It didn’t work. Is my daughter destined to be a girly-girl? How do I help her avoid the traps associated with such things, if so?

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9 Comments

Filed under Discovering joy, Family, Fear

9 responses to “Day 36: What To Do About the Girly Girls?

  1. Esperanza

    I wish I could give you some advice, but I’ll be asking the same thing when my daughter gets old enough to want all things pink-princess. I was not a princess girl, but I loved dolls and always wanted to play house. So I did gravitate towards that anti-feminist agenda has a child.

    I think the best thing to do is to allow it to a point, maybe really limiting the actual trademarked Disney Princess stuff (what a horrific, yet ingenious, marketing ploy) but allowing the tutus and tiaras and other pink paraphernalia. And then make sure you also do a lot of sports-centric activities and explore nature too.

    I’ve read many places that one of the most important things you can do for a girl’s self esteem is have her enrolled in some kind of sport. Knowing her body is for movement and that she can be appreciated for her abilities and not her looks is really helpful for girls. Girls who are involved in a sport are less likely to have eating issues, friend issues or self esteem issues. We’ve read a lot about it at my school, and it makes sense, and I see it with the 7th and 8th graders who are into soccer or basketball.

    Sorry I don’t have more answers! Good luck!

  2. chhandita

    the stoic people would have shunned me completely then I guess!! lol

    I honestly don’t have an answer. My parents were simple people, who never did girly stuff with me. yet I grew up wanting to be pretty and wanted by boys (yup!) it took me some time to understand the reality of being pretty from inside.

  3. i may end up eating my words in a few years, but….

    as much as i am a dyed-in-the-wool feminist of the power over beauty sort, went to a reasonably radical women’s college, etc., i think this stuff is blown a little out of proportion. and i take real issue with the idea that beauty and brains/strength are somehow mutually exclusive. i don’t especially like the disney stuff because it is commercial and flat, and yes, my freshman comp students used to have to write papers about things like how Belle is not really all that transformative of a heroine, even if she likes books, but i don’t see what’s wrong with liking tutus. hell, a tutu and a hardhat is pretty much the best outfit i can imagine.

    i do think that it’s okay — maybe even important! — to tell a girl she’s pretty, as long as she also knows she’s smart and strong. i was told i was smart all the time — very empowering — and since no one ever mentioned my looks, i pretty much assumed i was horribly ugly. that’s not a helpful thing to think, confidence-wise. better i had been told both.

  4. I agree with trying to strike a balance.

    When I was young, there was that awful Barbie doll that could speak.
    “Math is difficult” she said. That would be on my blackest of black list, if Barbie wasn’t on it already as such.

  5. geochick

    I think you’re cognizant of the traps and are trying to keep balance. She might be a girly girl no matter what. I totally was. My parents tried to keep me from being to caught up in image and I think they succeeded. 🙂

  6. amy

    I struggle with this too. My personality tends towards bucking convention, and as such, I kind of took pride in the “you could be pretty if you only tried” -type comments I got a lot in high school. I didn’t WANT to be “pretty,” because I wasn’t comfortable with the attention. (Yeah, I had seriously self-esteem issues.) The pretty people intimidated me.
    I worry that I’m passing on THAT crap to my daughter. She likes the princesses and loves pink (of her own volition, I hate it) but has picked up on my “you’re pretty without j.crew skirts [that my MIL buys her constantly, she is THREE!]” attitude and wants to wear sweats most of the time. My point is that it’s a fine line and I certainly haven’t found it. So…umm…good luck with that. 😉 I’m so helpful.

    Thanks for your comment(s) on my blog! I laughed at your comment about tandem nursing because I was the same way at first. I had a visceral “agitated” reaction where my blood pressure shot up and my pulse raced and I wanted to punch something. It eventually passed, though, and doesn’t bother me anymore…though I prefer to nurse them individually. I let them cry to sleep last night and, while it took 45 minutes, it did work eventually. Of course then I went in to sleep next to them, so maybe it was pointless, I don’t know. Anyway, thanks!

  7. If you do not want your kid to be totally girlie girl, I say you need to strike a balance between girlie girl and non-girlie girl (I am so going to get shot for saying this but I need to say it). It is okay to let your daughter love pink but please make sure you teach her that she can do better than just sitting pretty doing nothing whilst waiting Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet. At the same time, talk to your daughter about real-life and fictional heroines who are clever, independent, brave, loyal, kind, resourceful and strong (of course, some butt-kicking ones).

  8. Pingback: My Twitter Addiction, er, Problem | Too Many Fish to Fry

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