Raising Girls Today: Let’s start at the very beginning.

Okay, so as promised, here is my follow-up post to the girly-girl conundrum.

For those who haven’t read my first post (go read it now), I recently read the book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” by Peggy Orenstein.  This book covers so many facets about raising girls in today’s world that it’s so hard to voice my thoughts on all of them.  She hits on Disney Princess, American Girl, teen role models like Clarissa (from the 1990s, remember her?) to today’s Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana, Selena Gomez, et al.  She delves into the growth of online social networking in today’s society and how it completely changes the dynamic for girls today.  She brings up the tragic suicides of several teenage girls over the past few years due to online bullying.  And so much more that it almost makes my head spin.

To be honest, I’m not even sure where to start.  I will say that this is not a book review.  I’m not going to tell you whether I thought the author did a fair job covering topic X or whether she was biased in topic Y.  Also the intent of her book was to explore the over sexualization of girls today through these mediums.  I’m not ready (or educated enough) to go that deep.  I just intend to use some of the issues she covers and either ask more questions or give my thoughts, opinions, fears and suggestions.

I’d also like to mention up front that most of my experience in delving into the world of little girls relies on Carlie, who happens to only be 4.  Being my oldest she’s the one who has had the most exposure to this stuff.  But since she’s still so young, I know I’ve only tapped the tip of the iceberg with these subjects.  So all my commentary, criticisms or theories are completely based on my knowledge and experiences to date.  I reserve the right to completely change my mind as my kids get older.

Since there is so much to cover and I have so much to say, there is no way I could cover this in one post without boring you to tears making your head spin getting writer’s cramp so I plan to break this up into several posts hitting on the various topics that are closest to my heart.

So to quote Julie Andrews as Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music : “Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start.”

Exposure to all things girly and pink and princess begins at a very early age, pretty much from birth.  Just try to find a baby-themed picture frame for girls that isn’t pink or have “princess” on it.  Why must girls always be called princess?  Why not “Future Nobel Prize Winner”?  I guess that one wouldn’t fit too well on a frame, but you get the point.

(picture courtesy of Babies R Us website)

And why is everything pink?  Now I do like pink and of course with three girls we have a ton of it.  But does it need to be the only color we offer to girls?  It does seem that purple (and by purple I mean lavender) seems to be popular too, but so often you see it combined with pink.

Before Carlie was born I decided I didn’t want to buy into the pink, girly-girl theme.  Her room was yellow, her décor was yellow, green, and peach with splashes of pink and lavender.  And the poor kid has had four rooms in her short four years (we keep playing musical rooms each time another kid is born), but each room remains fairly pink-free.  Why did we do this?  Well, partially because I think subconsciously I didn’t want her to think that pink was the only option for girls.  Also partially because most of her room décor after she moved out of the baby room was items we already had, none of which were pink.  So it kind of happened by default.

My girls do seem to like pink.  But none of them (well, none of the two who can talk) would say it’s their favorite color.  In fact, Carlie’s favorite color is blue.  I think.  It does tend to change from day to day.  Whether this is her own doing or whether my not letting pink take over her life drove this I don’t know.  But I have to say it makes me happy.

The other thing I’ve limited, and this one was more intentional, is character-themed stuff.  Not just princess, but other characters like Dora, Barbie, even Elmo and Mickey Mouse.  I just don’t understand why EVERYTHING has to have a character on it.  Isn’t it enough that we have to watch these shows over and over (and over and over and over), play games with their faces on it and read them books with these characters too?  Now their shoes and their clothes and their bedding all has to be Dora/Barbie/Elmo too?  We have to pay a “premium” for something with a character when we’re essentially advertising that brand by letting our kids walk around with it on their feet, backs, etc.?  Not to mention that they like the character today but next week it’s someone else.  So then we have to go buy the next favorite for our kid.

(picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

When is enough enough?

Now I’m not avoiding character items altogether.  First, it’s impossible.  Second, I’m not opposed to it 100%.  I just think there comes a point when the kids should have things (toys, books, games, etc.) NOT associated with these characters.  And there are lots of non-character options out there, but it gets frustrating when you go to buy your kid new tennis shoes and over half of them have a princess or Dora on them.  I just want a plain pair of tennis shoes for crying out loud.  But you know what?  The shoes without characters?  Guess what colors they are?

Yep, pink or lavender.

Sheesh.

I get why characters exist in every facet of our children’s lives.  I get why so many girl toys (and even formerly gender-neutral toys now marketed to girls) are pink.  I’m no dummy.  I have an MBA and I’ve worked for a Fortune 50 company.

Because it sells.

But that’s a whole ‘nother issue I have a LOT of opinions on that I’ll cover next time.

Do you have girls?  If so, does pink rule your house?  Or do your girls seem to prefer other colors?

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6 responses

  1. My Caroline did own a “future valedictorian” onesie when she was a baby. Her nursery was lavender, not pink. Her room now has a pink and white quilt, but blue walls. They would be pink if I let her choose, but I learned with the yellow half bath that residents of my house younger than 5 should not be allowed to pick paint colors. The best we can do is steer them in the right direction and be sure to set firm limits when they get too far off course.

  2. I have three girls, ages 16, 12, and 4. Our nursery, which was used by all, was a barn theme with lots of red/blue/yellow/green. We had a giant cow, a few yellow ducks and the only pink thing in it was a pig! When we started moving people into other rooms we did floral wallpaper with a nice cheerful yellow and later really wild colors of walls and stripes with only one wall of pink out of 8 different colors. I have limited exposure to pink/princess/Barbie with all of them but the youngest is determined to be a princess! She is the “girliest” of the three, loves pink, loves babies, dresses up…as a princess! With having such varied experiences with the three of them all I can say is do what you think is right, limit what you want to limit, find books with really good characters and story lines and clothes that are appropriate and then stand back and watch! Love that you are dong this, going to go get this book and suggest a couple for you, but wait until they are older! Queen Bees and Wannabees and Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

    • Thanks Lauren for sharing your experience! I think it is very true that some girls are just wired to be girly-girl, no matter what you do to keep it at bay! Good suggestions on books, isn’t Queen Bees and Wannabees the book the movie Mean Girls was based on? I actually have a book right now called Little Girls Can Be Mean, about how to deal with this stuff from grades K-6. I just started it but it’s pretty interesting so far. I’m sure I’ll have a post about that when I’m finished.

  3. Guilty! I bought lots of pink for my daughter when she was little and now for my granddaughter. I like it because it’s a nice soft color that reminds me of innocence. The bigger challenge for me when my daughter was growing up was to find a variety positive female role models who were comfortable in their own skin and proud of their accomplishments. And Madonna didn’t count! 🙂 When she was six, my daughter sat on my lap and said, “mom, some day I’m going to grow up and be the president’s wife.” My response was, “honey, I hope by the time your a grown up, you can also be the president if you want to.” “Really? I didn’t know girls could be president!” Out of the mouths of babes.

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