Category Archives: Girls v. Boys

On Raising Girls & Raising Boys

This morning I noticed the lead on the network news was the 5 NFL football players who entered the field with their arms up, as a show of support for what is happening in Ferguson. What struck me was this:Here

Photo Courtesy Associated Press

Photo Courtesy Associated Press

were very influential men using their platform to continue a conversation, to make a statement, to influence others.

Step away from your own personal opinion on what they did and Ferguson for a moment to just consider the impact of NFL players using their platform in a very organic way to make a statement, to influence others. It was very authentic. Teams running onto a field in pink shoes. That ain’t authentic.

Five players on national TV making a statement on something they believe in, without saying a word? That is the sort of influence you can’t buy, you can’t plan for and you can’t manufacture, it’s real and it’s tremendous.  And it worked. Everyone is talking about it.

And then my mind started swirling around all the stories about violence against women right here in our country over the last two weeks. The year 2015 is tapping us on the shoulders and yet we are all stunned and shocked by the brutal gang rape of a UVa student during a frat party.

It could be any year with that story. Pick a year. It happened then too.

Where are the NFL players taking a stand with no one pushing them along?

Where are the Hollywood stars?

Where are the NBA players? The political leaders who once pledge a fraternity?

Who is organically leading a movement, who with a tremendous platform to influence MEN, is leading the movement of repulsion for raping women?

This is what turning 9 looks like.

This is what turning 9 looks like.

Because my daughter turned 9 in November. Which arthritis means we’re half way through with her living with us. I blinked and 9 years passed. I will blink again and 9 more years will pass.

Will I be sending her off to college, teaching her how not to get raped, in 9 more years?

What about all the other boys who just turned 9 too? Or just turned 10 or 11? They are going off to college when she is, what will they learn, how will they be influenced? Are their parents worrying and fretting about this issue?

Women were raped at college 9 years ago, 19 years ago and 29 years ago. So right now I am worrying about sending her off in 9 years and having many many hard conversations with her.

Don’t take a drink that you didn’t get yourself.

Don’t go upstairs in a frat house.

Don’t walk alone at night.

Don’t drink too much and lose control.

I keep the running list in my head each time one of these horrific stories breaks. I have 9 more years to perfect my list.

But see, that isn’t enough. It isn’t nearly enough.

This is a conversation about men and boys.  And their parents. And their peers. And their uncles, grandfathers and their idols.

Until we hear from them over and over and over again, spontaneously at the start of an NFL game being broadcast on national TV or at the start of a music concert from their favorite musicians and during a press conference, and any other time you can think of, that raping women is repugnant, evil and makes you a pathetic human being, the scum of the earth, then it won’t stop. Then I will be sending my daughter off in 9 years, hoping she hears my lectures on how not to be raped.

Gender Stereotypes: Kids, Clothes, Toys and the Box we put them in

Isn’t it so cliché to talk about how kids give us more than we ever give them? And some days, I think what they give me is a lost mind and fried nerves. Not only is it cliché but it also romanticizes the gritty reality of parenting.

But the thing is, it’s also true.

Now does she scream sugar and spice and everything nice? Unicorn dreams?

My barely 4-year-old has pushed me out of the box in thinking and opened my eyes to the pervasive gender stereotyping our culture pushes on extremely young children. And she started doing this before she was one, when she was busy climbing fences trying to get into the neighbor’s yard or kicking a soccer ball around the back yard. She was busy and fast and physical from the beginning. Moms of boys would say to me “Oh, you’re so lucky you have girls, they’re so much easier than boys, I am exhausted at the end of the day.”

And I’d think about that time my toddler had a neighbor boy crying in fear because she showed up at his house in a Batman costume. And I’d wonder why as women, they’d want to continue this absurd gender stereotyping. The truth is, we’re all guilty of it, and I wasn’t aware of just how guilty I was of it until my youngest came along.

She’s taught me and reminded me the following:

  • Girls are physical
  • Girls love to play in dirt and mud and dig for worms
  • Girls don’t all love pink
  • Girls don’t necessarily want to play with dolls
  • Girls love superheroes
  • Girls love pirates
  • Girls love dragons and knights and castles (castles that have cannons not princesses)
  • Girls love dinosaurs

Ever take a toddler who doesn’t fit the mold to Target or the Gap or Toys’r’Us?

I have. And you know what happens – they wander into the boy section even though they are girls and they want what they see in the boy section. But then they want to know why they are” boy things” and in their own little innocent way, they want to know if it’s okay that they want the boy clothes and the boy toys even though they are girls?

Ever try to buy a birthday card for a super hero loving little girl? Try finding one that doesn’t say “Happy Birthday Boy”  — it isn’t so easy.

These gender stereotypes we shove our kids into is something I’ve written about on many occasions. I’ve trashed the Gap for selling two piece bikinis to 3-year-old girls and superhero swimsuits to 3-year-old boys. I’ve done a creepy whisper video-blog from inside Target trashing their gender stereotypes in Halloween clothes. I’ve wondered why everyone thinks it’s so cool that my little girl is a hardcore tomboy but almost no one is comfortable letting their four-year-old boy out wearing a princess dress or pink nail polish. What about that one? Why is it cool to assign masculine tendencies to a girl but an embarrassment for a little boy to show an interest in things we think of as “girlish”? One is weak, the other is strong?

Really? Because I think my oldest, a very feminine girly-girl, is also strong and physical and amazing.

Way to go, Old Navy. I’ll come back again, and much sooner than before, because you’ve given me a great reason too.

So yesterday, I walked into Old Navy, not thinking about any of these things because I was ALONE and could actually, well, THINK.

And what did I find?
I found an entire section of super hero t-shirts for girls. And not shirts with slutty looking female heroines in bright pink. I found cool, edgy batman shirts and a Wonder Woman shirt. I found t-shirts with skeletons on them. I found a shirt that said “I love soccer.”

I hit the fashion jackpot for girls that had nothing to do with sparkles and unicorns and princess dreams.

Job WELL DONE Old Navy, whose sister company the Gap still sells that Junkfood t-shirt line that is marketed strictly to boys.

We’re a culture where a site like A Mighty Girl seems to grow daily in popularity and within minutes of them sharing the superhero underwear for little girls, it gets sold out. Yet mainstream retailers are asleep at the wheel.

Except, it seems, Old Navy.

Toy manufacturers and retailers, take note. And think outside the box a little, will you?

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Newsflash American Companies: Little Girls Like Superheroes Too

I receive emails from the Gap. Truth be told, normally I delete them. For some reason, Saturday morning, I opened my email from the Gap and noticed they were proudly promoting their new line of toddler clothes featuring Superheroes.

Then I hopped on my computer to actually check it out because the previous evening, my toddler girl spent the entire duration of her older sister’s T-ball game dressed like this, clearly fighting crime, with no regard for how profusely she was sweating under her mask:

Good versus Evil at Friday Night T-Ball...who will prevail?

There you have it. I have a three-year-old who loves pirates, Spiderman, Batman, any kind of superhero or dinosaur. She loves these things. She loves them so much that if she isn’t decked out in costume, she is wearing a t-shirt displaying one of these characters. Typically she also wants to carry a few more around with her just in case.

Back to the Gap, I logged on to eagerly view their new line, naively thinking that finally I could purchase something for my daughter that aligns with what she wants to wear but maybe isn’t in primary colors that boy clothes tend to be sold in. Why was I surprised to find an entire line of superhero clothes, bathing suits, flip-flops, sunglasses and sneakers for boys and when I clicked on Toddler Girl – which reaches up to age 5 – I could instead purchase her this outrageous zebra BIKINI…or better yet for a three-year-old – a one shoulder tank top.

Really, Gap? Really? Teach the toddler girls of America that being sexy begins at two  – I can see the endless value in that lesson.

Look, by this point I was seeing red. Now it was too late for me to go back to my happier place of not opening the emails from the Gap…all that was left to do was unsubscribe, obviously.

What is wrong with American clothing manufacturers that they believe little girls only should be wearing pastels with rainbows, horses or the peace symbol? Or zebra print bikinis and one-shoulder tank tops? Why can’t little girls shop in the girl section and find superheroes, dinosaurs and pirates? My little girl comes ALIVE when she’s in the boy section of a store and that doesn’t need to be the case. What about the little girl who maybe isn’t intuitively drawn to these types of toys but could see these things as options for her in the girl section and might begin to want those things? Why are we assigning such strict gender roles to kids as young as 2, 3, 4 and 5? The message being broadcast: Girls are sugar and spice, they care about world peace, brushing horses and glittery rainbows. Boys are messy and dirty, they like big scary dinosaurs, thieving pirates and strong superheroes who save people from large lizards.

It isn’t right.

Same goes with McDonald’s. Why do you have to choose “boy” happy meal or “girl” happy meal – why can’t you just choose the themed toy your kid wants without assigning a gender to it? All this does is open up unnecessary conversations between my kids – one wants a boy thing (hurled at the younger one as a criticism), no I insist, it isn’t a boy thing, it’s a Wired Momma’ette thing (names not relevant). It’s a thing she likes, or it’s a thing the other one likes, it’s not boy things or girl things, boy or girl shouldn’t matter, we don’t need to assign meaning and gender when we are three. It is CRIMINAL that she has to process this in her own way and try to make sense out of it because she goes on to say “But I am a GIRL” – and she is so confused.

YES – I insist.

Dear Gap: how about you take this into consideration next time.

You’re a super cool girl who loves pirates, dinosaurs and super heroes and the only people who seem to take issue with that are the close minded, totally sexist one-dimensional people working at American companies. These are the very people who are unnecessarily confusing my kid and dictating to her what girls should wear, what they should play with, what they like to watch. Except she doesn’t – and she won’t.

Oh, and she also doesn’t want to wear a superhero shirt with a slutty looking Bat Girl or Wonder Woman. She wants strong girl superheroes except she can’t articulate it that well, all she knows how to do is reject those things – and rightly so.

All of this leaves me in a conundrum – do I support the Gap’s toddler boy superhero line – by purchasing a few of the things for my daughter – or do I ban them from our house all together in a feminist protest because it is so condescending to look through the contrasting clothing options offered to girl and boy toddlers at that store. Gap isn’t the only company guilty of this – they just are the target du jour because of the email they distributed a few days ago.

What do you think? Do you find this at home? Is it me – or have we had enough of this and it’s time to view kids as more nuanced, complicated, open-minded humans who enjoy a variety of things and don’t need the gender assignments the adults want to push on them?

As for the WM Working Mom Hero Award series…..that will continue either later this week or early next week….depending on how the week pans out….but “Like” WM on Facebook so you don’t miss out….rage against patriarchal American companies is certainly never the only topic du jour. C’est vrai.

Growing up Girl: Societal Pressure, Messages & Parents

This week, MomsRising started a campaign against Gymboree’s new onesies bragging about baby being smart thanks to daddy…without any similar onesies noting baby’s smarts from mommy. MomsRising rightfully questions the harm of these kinds of negative gender stereotypes and starting them so young in life. Conicidentally, this week, my piece posted on HuffPost DC is about raising girls and the role of culture, friends, and parents in influencing how our girls come to understand their place in the world. I was horrified by the things I found in my research for this week’s piece: did you know parents buy thong underwear for 9-year-olds? Or that 4-year-olds think  they are fat?

What the?

Great that Barbie is a doctor but why is she dressed like a slut?

How the?

I hope you’ll read my piece…and share..or comment…or like on Facebook…or just read….oh…and in case you are wondering what my conclusion is: I think parents are insane if they buy their little girls thongs. And also, this all started because my 6-year-old one day informed me only boys are funny, not girls….and a few days later informed me only boys have muscles, not girls.