Sunday, April 01, 2012

Girls Girls Girls

This week one of my coworkers invited to me to what he called "E's fourth birthday or really, an excuse for the adults to drink beer and listen to music on a sunny day." They were also getting a bounce house so obviously I was in.

So Friday night I braved the toy section at Target, pretty excited to buy little girl stuff for a change. Imagine how my excitement turning to horror as I realized that little girl's toys are actually THE WORST. Everything is pink and apparently little girls like hair, makeup, clothes, horses, nails, shoes and dolls with giant breasts. Jon and his wife are smart, cool people with two smart, cool daughters and I just couldn't imagine they would be thrilled for me to walk in with something wearing a halter top. I walked around and around until I found a Lego set made just for girls. It was pink, and apparently you build a cute pink house but it was definitely something smart and more aspirational than the ten thousand items you can buy so your little girl can grow up to be a princess.

When I was a preteen, my mom wouldn't let me read The Babysitter's Club books or the Sweet Valley High books. I was a pretty obedient kid and instead, I spent a summer reading all the L.M. Montgomery books. When I did finally sneak and read a BSC book, even my teenage brain understood that while there was nothing particularly offensive about the series, there was certainly a disproportionate emphasis on boys and clothes and popularity. Meanwhile, Anne Shirley and Emily Starr were imaginative young writers who had adventures and kindred spirits and went to college and didn't worry about soul mates until they had the careers they had dreamed of. Anne doesn't marry Gilbert Blythe until book five and she meets him pretty much at the beginning of book one.

Look-I love clothes and make up and boys and popularity. I played with Barbie's and My Little Ponies and walked around in my mother's high heels. But my parents also let me play with the bag of organs in the Thanksgiving turkey because they wanted to encourage my dream of becoming a veterinarian. I have observed over and over that being the SMART girl in a pair of great heels will get you way, way further than playing the dumb girl in any kind of clothing.

So yesterday at the party, I found myself saying to the little females-tiny girls really-"oh you are so cute, but you are also so smart!" Cheesy? For sure. Possibly unnecessary at 2 and 3 years old? Maybe. But I met my nephew Brady tonight-the one we were eagerly awaiting in December-and these are the girls that Brady is going to hang out with. I want them to be the kinds of women who get up on Saturday morning and ride their bikes to the top of a mountain instead of taking pole dancing classes.

Watch out little future nieces, I will totally be the aunt who buys you a microscope.


Kelly said...

Love this! We have friends with 2 little girls who are completely over-princessed. We bought one of the girls a Fisher Price airplane for her 3rd birthday, and it really stuck out amid all the princessy pink floofy stuff, but she really liked it.

I am a girly-girl, and I grew up with Barbies and My Little Ponies, BUT I also played with Hot Wheels and trains and Star Wars. And I remember two of my favorite things when I got a bit older were a chemistry set and a little electronics set where you could make a working circuit that lit up a tiny lightbulb. So cool.

I just hate how everything is so aggressively gendered now. Much moreso than when we were little, I think. Dolls are fine, but let's make it ok for girls to go outside of the pink aisle! Or even for boys to go in it.

Haley said...

This post exemplifies the reason you get the title of Haley's Life Mentor. Even though this post is about 3 year old girls, it 100% relates to my 27 year old life.


miche said...

Katie, you have no idea how much it disturbs me to shop for my kids. Grace is a total tom-boy, so I shop completely in the boys section for her toys and buy her the most generic clothes we can find. She wears only t-shirts gathered from cool museums and outings for tops. Harriet loves being feminine and I find that my struggle is even greater for her. Heading into the pink section makes me want to vomit every single time. Why can't they have t-shirts with something smart on them that also look feminine? Why are our options 10 shades of blue or pink? What is up with the animals wearing jewelry on every article of clothing? Where are the green, orange, yellow, red, and black shirts?

Oh man, you hit a nerve with that post for me. I'm so glad you were so thoughtful in your gift-giving, and I'd love anyone who would tell my girls they were beautiful and smart in the same sentence.

Stacey said...

I can't agree with this enough! Despite modern feminism, I feel like the choices for kids' toys these days are more drawn along stereotypical gender lines than they were when I grew up in the 80s or when my mum grew up in the 60s. If I ever have a daughter, you can bet this will be a focus of my parenting.

It goes both ways, too. I try to discourage my nephews from passing by things just b/c they're pink or "too girly." As you alluded, they'll be hanging out with girls in the future and I want them to be comfortable with everything, not just stereotypical "boys toys."