My 5-year-old is a tutu wearing, princess loving, twirling, dancing, glittery girl. She loves getting her nails polished, anything with sequins on it, and never met a piece of jewelry she didn’t like. When she played soccer in the fall, she did pirouettes and leaps down the field, and was more interested in talking to her friends than scoring a goal (although she did score quite a few in the season!). She couldn’t care less about The Ninja Turtles or Spiderman or Batman, but Cinderella, Tianna and Belle? Oh, those are her boo thangs! Pink and purple are her favorite colors. She is, without a doubt, the absolute definition of a girly girl, and I’m totally okay with that.
Over the last few years, in society’s effort to keep up with the times and be inclusive when it comes to girls, there’s been a huge focus on celebrating differences and highlighting so-called alternative personalities. I’m referring to the little girls who would rather play in dirt than in glitter, who play with balls instead of dolls, or who would die before being caught in anything pink. Those little girls, the “tomboys”, are called out for being awesome and featured in news articles, folks are making memes out of their images, and they’re put on a pedestal for breaking gender stereotypes. It’s as if the less “girly” a girl is, the better.
What I’m not cool with is diminishing the girls who do love princesses, pink dresses, and ponies.
I mean, all of that is cool, and I’m always down with celebrating a little girl and letting her know that she’s special. What I’m not okay with is diminishing the girls who do love princesses, pink dresses, and ponies. Let me tell you, my Ayva is a smart, creative, expressive, kind and sweet child. I don’t know if she’ll grow up to be an engineer or a fashion designer, but I do know that she has the potential to be either one of those things, and both of them are pretty awesome careers to aspire to if you ask me. I get the importance of introducing girls to STEM activities, but I also know that not every child is going to be interested in, or even good at STEM activities. And what happens when I push Ayva into robotics camp because “that’s what smart girls do”? Imagine the hit her self esteem would take knowing she’d much rather be in a dance studio than in a lab, but Mommy, and society, say it’s not good enough.
And, can I be honest for a minute? A lot of times, this gender thing really has nothing to do with the kids. There’s no data that proves that tomboys are happier than girly girls. The truth is there is a residual spotlight on us moms when our children are extraordinary, so some of us try to shape our children in a way that will make ourselves look more special or unique. You’re raising a girl that rides motor bikes? Cool! I’m raising a daughter that makes up THE best stories with her stuffed animals. Equally cool! One day she might be the head of a movie studio. Or a blogger. Again, both jobs that are worthy of aspiration.
How about this, if we’re going to celebrate differences, let’s really celebrate differences. Instead of sticking our girls into the Girly or Tomboy group, and trying to make it easier for us to categorize them, how about we let them be exactly who they are, period. Let’s stop looking at the package our girls come in, and worrying about whether it’s covered in camouflage or glitter, and spend more time helping them to know their worth and be brave and strong, no matter if they’re into dirt or dolls.