Sexism From The Back Seat: What Women Want

At least no one said "thigh gap".

At least no one said “thigh gap”.

While driving with my children this morning we heard an obnoxious morning radio program ask a trivia question for listeners. “What do forty percent of women wish they had?”

 
My kids – my kids, who live in the epicenter of media literacy, critical thinking, and gender equality – began yelling out their guesses from the back seat.
 
“An engagement ring!”
“A husband!”
“A nice kid!”
“Coffee! Tequila, probably, if they have kids.”
 
Ummmm…..what? I wondered why these were their answers. Did they really think this is what women coveted, or did they think this is what women would probably answer? Would those have been their answers had the question been about men? Probably not, and I wanted them to think about that. 
 
Then the callers were put on air with their answers: husbands, bigger boobs, lose weight, shopping spree, better hair, etc.
 
“What total, sexist crap,” I said as I flicked the station.
 
So I shouted out my own answers:
 
“Diversified stock portfolio!”
“An executive position and house husband!”
“Equal pay for equal work!”
“Win IronWoman!”
“Sell off a successful business and travel the world!”
“An all-female government!”
“A Woman Card-toting sparkling UNICORN!”
 
My unamused ten-year-old said, “Okay, okay you’ve made your point.”
 
“Thank you, 1956. You had me worried there for a moment. Marriage and kids are nice, if that is what a woman chooses for herself, but these days women can dream about things beyond being a wife and mother,” I replied.
 
Gender stereotypes creep up everywhere, all the time. It is not unnormal for your child to repeat them, whether or not they are reinforced at home. They are influenced by society just like we are.
When you hear stereotypes, you need to redirect them. Even when your kids don’t readily agree with you, (hello, parents of four-year-olds) your comments will challenge their thinking and lay a foundation for them to question the gender binary and stereotypical boxes we place people in.
 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author ofRedefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween”. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her onFacebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies).

Daughters, Boyfriends, and Terrified Dads

The control of female sexuality, the paternal version.

The control of female sexuality, the paternal version.

My kids, ten and eight years old, both have their first crushes. Nothing more than “playground love” and I can see why my kids are crushing on the other two individuals. I adore the other children, they are great kids with fun personalities. While all very cute, the other parents and I agree they are entirely too young for romantic love and so instead we encourage strong friendships and do not tease them about “being in love” or being boyfriend/girlfriend.

That is a much different approach than viral dad-of-the-moment John Tierney took with his four-year-old daughter. When little Grace waved at two boys as they passed the family car her father told her “not to wave at the boys “because they’re smelly” and that sparked a debate about whether she could have a boyfriend,” as reported by the Evening Times.

Their conversation goes on and we hear “Dad of the Year”, as he has been called, telling his preschool-aged daughter he will break the legs of any boyfriend, kidnap the father, and eventually force her into a convent because she will “work for Jesus.”

Mr. Tierny’s parenting skills have been praised world wide and the video has been dubbed “hilarious” by several media outlets. Most of my conservative Christian friends loved it and shared it. Most of my progressive friends were horrified by it.

As the mother to a son and a daughter, it made me ill. And angry.

Can we please stop being so fearful of and trying to deny our children’s sexuality? They are human beings, they are going to develop into sexual creatures. It is a biological truth that got them here in the first place.

Dad of the Year? No. There is a lot going on here that is undoing the healthy development of this child. Maybe it is a harmless viral video, but it is upholding several highly problematic beliefs in our society that harm children.

First, this girl is exceptionally young to be focused on boyfriends. Her father encouraging the conversation as if it is age appropriate for her is sexualization. A more empowering conversation for this child would have been to have her list all the amazing things about her she sees in herself and that her friends and family love. She needs to be her own person long before she is anyone’s girlfriend.

Building on that idea, preschool is also a vital time to encourage friendships between boys and girls. The more time they spend together and the stronger friendships they develop, the better understanding they will have for each other and the more respect they will hold for each other.

Research supports the idea of boys and girls playing together, which makes sense since boys and girls will study, work, love, and live with each other for their entire lives.

Second, I don’t like the idea of a father controlling a child’s sexuality and tying that control to violence. Violence has no place in romantic relationships, and I’d rather see a father uphold that example than perpetuate the idea men hold title over the females in their lives.

In my family we prefer a more sex positive approach, and teach our children that having crushes on people is normal but dating and boyfriend/girlfriend stuff is best left for teenagers and college kids. In the meantime, there is a lot of growing up to do. For now, boys and girls just make really good friends.

Third, a “good father” does not threaten violence upon a child, especially the child of another family. Your daughter may be a very sweet girl, but I wouldn’t want my son anywhere near a crazy family like this. I can’t recall Jesus saying anything about breaking peoples legs or holding them hostage….Maybe we should review the work Jesus actually did.

Instead, a good father might allow his daughter to speak her mind as opposed to dominating the conversation, find out what she finds attractive in another person and use that as a teachable moment to review their family’s expectations and values.

A good father would raise a child whose judgement he can trust, instead of fear and control.

A good father raises a child who wants to keep company with other awesome people and sees the boyfriend/girlfriend as another unique, special, lovable young person.

A good father would raise his sons to be young men no family with daughters has to fear.

It takes a village to raise a child, so let’s raise them well.

To the boys or girls my children will date sometime in the future – Welcome to our village. We are big fans of respect, honesty, maturity, and no texting while driving. We have rules and expectations for our children, while in their company those also apply to you. We look at you as an awesome addition to our family. Let’s take good care of each other.

 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author ofRedefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her onFacebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies).

File under I Need Feminism Because…..Twin Peaks and Bosses

My husband is at a business dinner at Twin Peaks. And that's a bunch of bullshit.

My husband is at a business dinner at Twin Peaks. And that’s a bunch of bullshit.

I need feminism because…My husband is at dinner with his boss and his boss’s boss at a restaurant where the waitresses dress like this. The name and logo of this fine establishment are a play off women’s breasts. The company’s website  invites you to “come enjoy the views.” 

Should my husband have declined the invite? Well, do you decline dinner with the boss’s boss even if the restaurant of choice is exploitative and sexist? How do you walk away from the group? Could that decision impact your career? How big is the strength of your convictions?
I am quite sure my husband is aware when he gets home he is a dead man walking.**
 
Now imagine you are a new, young female hire of my husband’s employer and you are excited you were invited to dinner with the corner office. You are excited to talk about clients you want to bring in and show off your expertise on a particular product line. Maybe drop a mention of a conference you want to attend and how you could build business there. And then you arrive at dinner. At this place.
How big do you feel now? How are you sure the boss’s boss isn’t just staring at your tits and thinking about f*cking you while you talk about profit growth and project acquisitions? How likely are you to feel respected at work tomorrow? How do you maintain respect your bosses knowing they chose this place because it is as close as they could get to expensing a jaunt to the strip club? And you know they all have wives and children waiting for them at home.
Is my husband in trouble with me? Well I tell you what, my ten-year-old daughter just asked where her daddy is as this is our normal dinner time. So I’ll tell her.
 
And when he walks through the door I’ll watch her eat him alive. I’ve found it is far easier to justify sexism to your wife than it is to the fuming, disappointed face of your daughter. Somehow the rationale withers away when you have to spell it out for a person who still holds faith this isn’t how the world is supposed to work.
She’s watching me type this, looking over my shoulder. You should see the look on her face, the moment she saw the photo of the waitresses. She asked if the women in the photograph were strippers. She is hurt and confused.
And she is angry.”It makes me sad. I feel badly for the women, they should have undershirts on and not booty shorts. You mean they have to wear that to work? If I worked there as a waitress I would quit. If I worked at Daddy’s office, I wouldn’t feel valued or respected. Honestly? I think that is b.s.”

I asked my son what he would do if he were part of the dinner group. He replied, “When I got there I would not go in. It wouldn’t feel right.”

Should have husband have said no? Should they have picked a different restaurant? I’ll ask you again, how big is the strength of your convictions?

 **I felt the need to add this edit because I after reading many of the comments it seemed the point of this post was missed. This post is more about shaming the business practice and the sexism in the workplace than it was personally shaming my husband. He was in a hard spot, one I point out in the post, and really there was no winning for him. He didn’t really have any good choices here, but he did know ahead of time our family’s opinion of these places. That was clear by the strong reaction my daughter had. Intelligent, outspoken girls with strong opinions are not “weapons”.
Either way, while this specific situation involved my husband, how many fathers/husbands/brothers are party to a sexist workplace – whether their participation is voluntary or not? This situation could happen to any guy at work – the post was to ask people what the strength of their convictions was because at some point it will be put to the test, and to consider how frequently women have to deal with this in the workplace.**

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author ofRedefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her onFacebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies).

Mom and Daughter Question the Gendered Difference In Boys’ and Girls’ Clothing Sizes

If you’ve shopped for children’s clothing in the past few years you understand not all things are created equal. Despite parents loudly supporting moves to get away from gender stereotypes in the children’s marketplace and a new bunch of small businesses popping up to offer more gender neutral (we prefer “gender inclusive”) children’s apparel, when shopping mainstream it is very difficult to find clothing that is not segregated by color, theme, and even fit. From infants to youth, the problem persists with very troubling messaging behind it about what size girls’ bodies should be and what things they should like. 

In the guest post below, Gabrielle New and her daughter Sparky, 9, unpack all of this following a recent shopping trip for youth t-shirts. 

I have a nine-year-old daughter whom I refer to online as “Sparky”. She’s barely 4’ tall and weighs about 47 lbs, so she’s usually in the 1% on the growth charts and wears a size 6.  She’s also a geek and a Disney fan, like her mama, so she enjoys t-shirts with her favorite characters on them.  Recently, we went on a shopping trip to our local Target, and saw that character tees were marked down, so we glanced through them.  Sparky found a shirt from the girls’ 6-16 aisle that she liked with Mal from Disney’s Descendants, and then we checked the corresponding boys’ rack, as they often have characters there that she likes (Target is getting somewhat better at including super heroes on the girls’ aisle, but there is often an overabundance of glitter and pink, and we both get tired of that.)  We found a cute Star Wars shirt on the boys’ rack, and decided to get both shirts.  We chose a size Small for both shirts, knowing the boys’ shirt would be sized a little differently.  Then we got home and compared them.

We were both shocked at the extreme size difference between the two shirts.  A size Small should fit the average 6-7 year old child.  I can’t image there is usually such a huge dichotomy in the bodies of children of different sexes at that age.  It struck such a note with my daughter that she decided to write down her thoughts,

Why do some places, for example, Target, have different sized shirts for boys and girls? Well, I think it’s unfair. Why can’t they just have different sized kids shirts? Here are some reasons I think we should just have different sized kids shirts.

Here is my first reason. I found a “boys” shirt I liked. My mom bought it for me and it was big around the waist. The shirt probably won’t be found in the “girls” side and we couldn’t find it in a smaller size. That is my first reason.

My second reason goes something like this. The “boys” and “girls” shirts might not fit the boys or/and girls. The shirts might be too slim or too wide for both genders. They could also be too small or too big. That is my second reason.

These are the reasons I have for why “boys” and “girls” shirts should not be different sizes.

Her teacher might be pleased with her paragraph structure but I am very proud that my daughter is aware of two kinds of sexism at play here.  First, the assumption that Star Wars would be uninteresting to girls.  While Disney is doing better with Rey, we are still seeing most geeky merchandise reserved for boys.  And when it is marketed to girls, it’s often pastel or pink, glittery, and missing all the cool jokes or mash-ups.

Second, there is a measure of body-shaming inherent in only selling “long and lean” overly fitted shirts for girls and huge, square-ish shirts for boys.  My daughter may enjoy a fitted shirt sometimes because she is so petite, but her friends come in all sizes.  So, she argues that all shirts should be available to all children, in a variety of sizes, so everyone can enjoy whichever shirts they like.

Once you see it, you can’t unsee it, and you may even speak up about it.  I hope my daughter continues to speak up when she sees something she thinks is wrong, and I thank this community for helping me teach her.

 

Gabrielle New is actively raising awareness for gender equality while working and raising her family in California. Sparky is a fourth grader, a junior red belt in Tae Kwon Do, a geekling, and a world-changer in the making.

Have you experienced this with your family? What do your kids think about marketers telling kids what their bodies should look like, and what characters they should love?

 

Big Shake Up In the Princess World

Mulan: Hasbro on the left and Mattel on the right.

Mulan: Hasbro on the left and Mattel on the right.

A big shake up in the world of twelve inch princesses – the license for the Disney dolls has shifted from one toy giant to another. What does this mean for the toy industry, but more importantly, what does this mean for your child and the marketing coming our way?

Via Bloomberg, “Hasbro’s researchers talked to thousands of girls at the company’s Pawtucket headquarters, as well as in Hong Kong, London, and Los Angeles, and found that girls thought about princesses in much the same way that boys viewed superheroes. Sometimes they liked a character because of her dress; other times they focused on her abilities, such as archery and sword fighting (Merida, from Brave) or the ability to conjure ice and snow (Elsa). “Sometimes they want a prince, sometimes there is no need for a prince,” says Frascotti. Disney didn’t have to reimagine the princesses, it turned out. Girls had already done it themselves. The dolls had just never been marketed like that.
 
You don’t say.
 
Disney wants more empowered heroines. Can princesses pull that off? Well, Andrea Hopelain is VP for global brand strategy at Hasbro, who now holds the coveted princess doll license, is quoted in the piece saying “We can reintroduce Mulan. We can play up that Tiana is a great cook.”
 
Tiana was a great cook. But in 2016, parents – and their girls – are looking for toy companies to play up that Tiana was a savvy female entrepreneur who went after her dream and became a dedicated business owner. Her business happens to be cooking.
There is a difference, and that difference is a very important one when we’re talking about empowerment and little girls.
 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies).