I came across this piece at Slate — and I end up feeling a little bad for that little girl.
Her dad, the author of the article, is WAY over thinking her toy interaction and play.
My approach to play has always been… like, way less fraught with this. Did I want to have girls who were obsessed with princesses, or dresses, or pink? No, not necessarily. But I also did not completely shield them from any of these things. Furthermore, as much as I feel STEM fields are where the future jobs lie (STEM and healthcare), I am not inculcating my girls to love math.
Because that would not end well.
Tell a child what to do. Let me know how that goes.
This was my favorite sentence: “I think the onus, unfortunately, remains on individual parents to make sure their boys and girls question every instance of groupthink, whether it’s which toys girls should have or whether Frozen is actually all that female-empowering.”
His daughter is 4. She doesn’t care if Frozen is empowering, she just wants to pretend to freeze stuff and sing “Let It Go”.
Additionally, by attempting to steer a girl away from princesses and dress up, these parents are simply reinforcing that idea that girlie things are worthless! “No, you can’t be a princess because you’re smarter than that.” “No, stay away from pink; it means you’re a weak girl.”
Guys, you’re doing it wrong.
On a recent Family Movie Night, we all watched Mr. Peabody and Sherman. I didn’t like it. And, part of the reason I didn’t like it was that the two main female characters were mean girls — mean, bossy, bully girls (okay, one girl and one woman).
You know what I did? I said that out loud. “I don’t like that these female characters are bullies and mean girls. I just want you to know portraying girls and women like that in a children’s movie offends me. I don’t like the message.” (I also didn’t like Mr. Peabody. He was a smug, pretentious know-it-all. But, ya know, he was a dog. So.)
Girls can like pink and math. Smart girls can also be pretty girls (and vice versa). Girls can play with Legos, and Barbies, and LPS, and do science experiments at the kitchen table.
Having an attitude like the author’s sets our girls up for a false dichotomy. Limiting their choices to STEM-only is just as limiting as saying, “You’re a girl so you can’t play with cars.”
And instead of fretting, talk to your children. I do it all the time. Teach them to think critically about the shows they watch and the toys they play with and the school work they like (or don’t like).
Flora HATES math homework. She loves science and social studies, and reading books. So I focus on math with her because that’s what she needs to work on. But she’s not bad at math because she’s a girl. She doesn’t want to practice; practicing math takes focus, which Flora is famously lacking.
I asked my girls what they wanted to be when they grew up on the ride to work this morning. Flora wants to be an ornithologist. Kate went into goofy mode; she wants to be a turtle. She also did a word problem about selling turtles.
Children can do anything. It’s up to us as parents to show them the options, and then stand back and let them be themselves. Instead of worrying about them playing with dolls.
What do your children want to be when they grow up?