A comment that came from my blog post yesterday brought up a good discussion topic and inspired my post for today.
Should we discourage girls from liking anything that’s considered traditionally “feminine”? Even if they’re exposed to a variety of activities and interests? I don’t think we should label “girl” activities as bad. That in a way is putting women down as well.
My daughter seems to like a bit of everything, but she does it all wearing pink from head to toe.
A little background info — I was raised by a single dad, so I wasn’t really exposed to too many gender roles. My dad did it all. My dad went to work every day at a demanding job and came home and cooked us a wonderful supper. I never really appreciated all that he did for us until I was older, and especially when I became a parent myself. I know there are many single moms out there doing the same thing. I’m pretty sure single parents are superheroes.
I used to think I was a girly girl because I like to do my hair and makeup. But now I see these makeup tutorials on Youtube with a million different steps and products. No, thank you. If it takes me more than 45 minutes to get ready for work in the morning I’m not doing it. I’m learning that I’m not as high maintenance as I thought I was. My daughter doesn’t see me going to fancy salons or spas or getting my nails done. (I work at an arts center so most of the time there’s paint under my nails.) But at the same time, I don’t want her to see those things as bad or wrong.
My husband and I have been married for 10 years, so for six years, we lived as a couple before having a baby. We were never really a traditional couple. My husband and I both work and divide household chores. It’s only been in the last year where I’ve felt we’ve fallen into more traditional roles. My husband works second shift, so I’ve become our daughter’s main caregiver. I get off work in the afternoon and pick up our daughter from daycare. I am the one making supper and taking care of her every night. This isn’t going to change any time soon. My husband and I both love our jobs, and while it’s hard not having my husband home at night, he makes twice as much money as I do. We don’t have much of a choice. I wonder what effect this will have on our daughter. We don’t mean to have “roles” but right now we are just doing what we need to do to get by.
So back to my main question, do we discourage girls from doing “girly” activities? Is it wrong for a little girl to like pink? Is it sending the wrong message to allow your daughter to like these things even if it’s their choice?
I feel my daughter’s play activities are pretty well balanced and I don’t push her in any direction. She’s a little human and she likes what she likes.
Right now her favorite thing is to have battles with her dinosaur toys. But we also play with beads and make bracelets for each other. (Actually, they usually end up on her dinosaurs or other toys and stuffed animals.) She loves playing outside and getting dirty but also watching me put on my makeup. She has a wide variety of play activities and she always adding new things to the list.
Regardless, she really likes pink. I am aware of gender stereotypes and I encourage my daughter to make her own choices. Sometimes she puts together crazy outfits for daycare and it makes us all smile.
If my daughter chooses to have a tea party or dress like a princess, then so be it. I am okay with this because she has a wide range of interests.
Judging people for what they wear or are interested in is a big reason I speak out against the conservative groups where I live. It’s definitely not something I want my daughter exposed to, but I know I can’t protect her forever. Ideally, she should feel comfortable in her own skin and respect others as well.
I think the best thing we can do for girls is to empower them to make their own choices and to make as many opportunities available as possible.
Like I said yesterday, with everything a parent has to worry about, what your kids wear is pretty far down the list. It’s important as a community that we support each other because we all want what’s best for our kids.
Are there any other girl moms and dads out there juggling with the same issues?
We trans women often get a lot of grief from the more doctrinaire feminists because if we do things that are labeled “feminine” we are supposedly reinforcing patriarchal gender norms. Julia Serano in her book Whipping Girl argues that this attitude is actually a form of misogyny.
Even cis women get this kind of criticism if they do anything that is seen as traditionally feminine — being a stay-at-home parent, changing their name upon marriage, wearing a dress, etc. IMHO, this position actually supports patriarchal standards, since it’s the Patriarchy that links name changes, choice of clothing, or career choice with gender. Why should wearing a dress, or wearing pink, or whatever have anything to do with what the doctor thought he (intentionally gendered pronoun!) saw when you popped out of your mother’s womb? For instance, I once saw a blog post by a rather militantly feminist woman who changed her name upon marriage because it was a convenient time to get rid of her hated father’s name.
Nothing wrong with pink as a colour choice. I recently saw a male cyclist go by with a pink top, at least he was very visible. No doubt your 4 year old daughter will have many changes of mind over her life time so might wake up tomorrow and demand all green instead.
Wow, there’s so much to say on this topic, and many fine books written about it. Dislike of anything coded “feminine” just because it’s coded “feminine” is misogyny. Some teens and women will react against the misogyny by being “the cool girl”, the one who wins approval from the guys around her by…spitting (yeah, let’s keep this G-rated)…on anything coded as feminine. Others police and shame other women for not being “feminine enough”.
Sounds like your daughter is a well-balanced human person.
Have you talked to her about working, and how her dad’s work schedule means he can’t be home to feed her dinner or put her to bed during the week? Does he do this when he is home?
I think you have a good idea of us talking to our daughter about our work schedules. Every day she picks up more and more. She asks more questions and repeats things she hears. I don’t think my husband has talked to her as much as I have, simply because my daughter used to ask at night where dad was. Now she’s at a point where she understands he’s at work and doesn’t ask anymore. Yeah, I really think we need to open up the conversation more.
Hello, my name is Giliell. My hobbies include photography, cooking, baking, sewing, embroidery, jewellery making* and expensive eyeshadow. I have dresses, some even in pink.
I do all this in a house where I tore down tiles and ripped out flooring, plastered the walls, put in new flooring, fitted the kitchen, put up all the furniture, painted the walls, put up and connected lamps.
I also do this while raising two daughters, most of the week alone as my husband works in a different city and work full time. And I absolutely hate femmephobia as well as the policing of little girls and boys one way or the other.
I absolutely hate how the world told and tells my daughters how they should be a girl. It broke my heart a little when #1 started daycare and switched from loving all colours of the rainbow to pink within a couple of weeks. And I ranted and raged about how Lego, at the start of the Lego Friends series (they have vastly improved in terms of diverse activities) did this with all “girly” sets and felt the need to put a pink bow on a bear to make it a she bear, reinforcing the idea that male is the default and female the marked exception. But it was also something we could use as a starting point for talking about gender and gender roles: How bears don’t wear bows and how roughly 50% of T-Rexes were female.
For me there are two aspects to this whole discussion: For one, there is a whole world, a multi billion dollar industry telling our daughters how to be girls, putting a lot of pressure onto them, and we cannot shield them from it. My eldest’s choice to love pink wasn’t one made in a vacuum. It was one made in a world where kids and adults alike police their choices. And I can hate it, but I will also never ever shame my daughters for liking “girly” things. What mum would I be if I exerted ever so subtle pressure onto them, telling then that I will only approve of them if they choose what I deem right? Forcing them to choose between me and the rest of the world? There’s absolutely something like toxic femininity, but the colour pink in and on itself isn’t damaging. Sure I drew and draw lines, and often we could also have discussions about why I disapprove of certain things, like those cute white sandals (even with heels for a primary school kid!). Let’s get those sturdy sandals that will allow you to ride a bike, climb trees, run and have fun and I don’t care if they’re pink.
The other aspect is femmephobia: the devaluing of everything deemed feminine. Right now, at least in Germany, at least in some parts of the web there’s the discussion about how in this pandemic all those devalued women’s work is essential, while we can all do without the manly men making cars for a couple of weeks. Suddenly sewing masks is an important skill (but don’t ask for money). Being able to make bread (and therefore stay at home) is a good skill. Being a nurse is the ultimate skill. But every now and then some feminist will tell you how liking cooking and baking and caring and all that jazz makes you a bad feminist* and how you should be doing the hard sciences. To me that’s actually a form of misogyny: things that are male coded are inherently better than things that are female coded. What’s the alternative to letting a girl wear pink stuff from the girls section? Right, the blue stuff from the boys section. “Gender neutral” somehow always means “male” and superior, “female” again is marked and inferior. And if you say “that’s not true” I challenge you to find the gender neutral skirt or dress.
Fuck that shit. I want a world in which everybody can wear pink or blue, use make up or not. I hate how boys are discouraged from liking glitter just as much as I hate girls being discouraged from liking cars. Except we should stop fetishising cars, they’re bad for the environment.
*My favourite articles are by young, conventionally attractive women on how make up makes you responsible for being sexually harassed and that women who wear make up are the ones who support the patriarchy.
*Since I use resin this also includes the use of some heavier tools like jigsaws, belt sanders, power drills etc. I quite own a range of quality tools and when i say I, I mean I, as most of them were gifts from my husband.