A lot of geeks are really into Disney. So much so that Disney mash-ups are one of the most popular areas of focus in geek art. But even without the mash-ups, Disney is a strong stand-alone fandom.
I’m not against Disney, there are a lot of Disney movies that I love. (Like Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh.)
And a lot that I just didn’t enjoy nor appreciate my children watching. (Like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.)
To be honest, I never really could get into some of the stories, mostly the princess stories.
I didn’t like princesses when I was a child. I hated dresses. I didn’t have tea parties. I never wanted servants or a pony or jewelry.
I was a tomboy. In many ways I still am.
I remember when I was pregnant, every time I’ve been pregnant, I hoped and prayed that my child would a boy because I didn’t think I could relate to a daughter.
It felt like someone was playing a joke on me when my first born son announced that he loved tea parties and wanted to paint his nails everyday.
Then, when my next pregnancy produced a beautiful baby girl, I remember resisting all of the pink that was being thrown at me. It felt like everything in the stores was frilly and uncomfortable and pastel pink. I designed her nursery to be a gender neutral monkey theme with the walls decorated in artwork that her older brother had made for her. Her wardrobe was a third clothes from boy’s department that I purchased, a third clothes from the girl’s department that were given to us as gifts, and a third dresses that I sewed for her.
Most of the dresses I made for SunnyGirl were full of bright and bold colors. The only time that pink would be found is if it was an accent paired with a color like black or dark purple.
I still make her dresses.
Though not as many since now days she prefers to shop for herself in the boys’ department. Starting last year I have actually started encouraging her to shop in the girls’ department. It doesn’t work. Last time we tried, she threw down the sparkly blue shirt I suggested then ran back to the boys’ department and promptly choose a Spiderman t-shirt.
I can’t say that I blame her. The shorts in the boys’ department are longer and the pants aren’t as tight as girls’ pants are. The shirts are cut more comfortably. In general there are more colorful and more comfortable options in the boys’ department. Much more realistic to the gross motor play that occupies her days.
And why is it that the shorts in the girls’ department are so short anyway? Why are the shirts cut as if to accentuate breasts that are not even there on prepubescent children? I can’t help but feel that many of the clothes advertised for my three year old daughter would be better suited on a young woman. Three year old’s don’t need sexy skin-tight clothes that draw attention to their butt and chest! It is not only ridiculous, its also disgusting.
Besides clothes, I am also cautious of anything that I feel is forced upon girls by our society. We rarely (read almost never) watch a movie with a princess. We don’t have Barbie dolls at our house (though she is allowed to play with them at friend’s houses). I never make her sit still to have her hair put in pig tails or braided unless she wants her hair done. If she says “no” then I don’t do more than run a brush through it.
She says “no” to pig tails nine times out of ten.
Just last month at our homeschool gym day one of the other mothers thought she was a boy and got embarrassed when I corrected her. I told her, don’t be embarrassed. With her rough and tumble play, her consistently messy hair, her clothes from the boys’ department, her love of superheroes, and the dirt smudge that she somehow always has on her face no matter how many times I wash it… it is easy to mistake SunnyGirl for a typical three year old boy.
So it surprised me when two weeks ago, after a playdate with her best friend who is a “stereotypical girly-girl,” my daughter announced that she was a princess.
At first the word grated on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard. I said, “why would you want to be a princess? You’re better than a princess, you’re a power-girl!” (Power-girl is the phrase SunnyGirl came up last year to describe how strong she is, not to be confused with the popular comic book character Power Girl.)
But after about a week, I realized that I was making a mistake.
I spent most of my childhood rejecting things I didn’t like but were forced on me anyway. The pink walls that were painted in my bedroom despite my cries of, “I hate pink!” The Barbies that were purchased for me despite my lack of enthusiasm and the way I basically never played with them. The uncomfortable dresses that made it difficult to run fast, impossible to ride bikes.
And now I was doing the same thing to SunnyGirl, telling her that she couldn’t be a princess when thats what she wanted to be.
So I went to the store and I bought her a flower crown to wear. And I went to the library and I picked up a copy of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween.
Redefining Girly is an excellent book written by Melissa Atkins Wardy, the author of the website, Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies. Like me, Melissa is the proud mother of both a boy and a girl. Also like me, Melissa is concerned about the stereotyping and sexualizing of young children, especially young girls.
Unlike me, Melissa has done a much better job of helping her children combat against what society tells them they should like. Where I have avoided certain media and banned certain toys, she has actively engaged her children in conversation about these things and built an environment where all types of girls are welcome.
Redifining Girly isn’t about belittling girls who like princesses. Its about accepting all girls as they are.
I have to accept that my daughter is a rough and tumble, blue jean wearing, powerful geek-princess. And I couldn’t be more proud of her.
This post has been part of The ABCs of Raising Well-Rounded Geeklings series.