Boys Who Play With Dolls

I have never and won’t ever understand why people discourage their sons from playing with dolls, playing house, or being tender and affectionate. So many of these sons grow up to be fathers, a role where “tender and affectionate” is part of the job description.

This evening I fell asleep with my daughter while snuggling her at bedtime and woke up to the sounds of my son choking on his vomit as he tried to call my name while he was getting sick. I jumped off the top bunk, reached for my son and cleared his throat in time for him to continue throwing up all over me as I picked him up and raced him towards the bathroom. We collided with my husband who had come running from the kitchen because he heard the commotion while he was doing dishes.

I stayed with our little boy while my husband went into the bedroom to start stripping the bedding and take everything down to the washing machine. He scrubbed the mattress and carried it outside to air out. He then sat holding our son while I, and I’ll spare you the details, did damage control to the pillow, bed sheet, and stuffed animals that were hit the worst. We made a new bed for our little guy on the couch and my husband sat on the floor and stroked our son’s hair and quietly sang to him while I went upstairs to change my clothes.

I’m hugely grateful that my husband doesn’t see family life as having a male and female side. He doesn’t see dishes, laundry, and sick kids as “mom’s territory”, he sees it as “our territory”. He isn’t afraid to sing to our son and tell him he loves him and that it is okay to be sad when you throw up, especially when you throw up all over your stuffed puppy.

If a little boy were doing all of this while playing some would worry he might think he is a girl or that he might grow up to be gay. I’d argue back that there is nothing to worry about, the little boy will grow up to be a terrific father someday, should he so choose.

And I don’t see terrific fathers as anything to be scared of, do you?

In our family, being a father and uncle is celebrated.

In our family, being a father and uncle is celebrated.

Ben's 1st Bottle

If you love when your husband does this, why not let your son play at doing this?

E&L 027

This is my brother, teaching my brand new son how to be a man.

Tio Meets Ben

In my family, men show their love. That is what my son will learn about being a man.

There is some really important learning that takes place during doll play, and since all kids’ brains need to learn the same things my recommendation is to make sure the play center in your home or preschool that offers dolls, baby items, play kitchen, etc is open to all children rather than one gender.

This concept may not go over immediately in all families, and to those who feel boys playing with dolls is unnatural I want you to think about this: Being a father, if he so chooses, is the most important thing he will ever do with his life. When you allow your son to play with dolls (which is essentially family role play) you are allowing him to role play the people he values and looks up to the most in the world. One of those people is you. YOU. 

When you watch him play this way you get to see yourself through your son’s eyes. You will see what it is you model for him. And what you learn from that is how you will teach him to be a man. Allow him the space to act that out and process it, whether he is being a daddy to a doll/stuffed animal or leaping off your swing set as a super hero. Let him understand there are many ways to be a boy and man, caring for others is just one of those ways.

My kids would be missing out on so much if their father wasn't interested in being a "dad".

My kids would be missing out on so much if their father wasn’t interested in being a “dad”.

The Stories We Tell Our Children

My daughter, the fierce Original Pigtail Pal, has some pretty serious school and social anxiety. She loves learning but hates school, it is her kryptonite. She will do anything to avoid school and has been this way since preschool. Yet this past week when we were at the Field Museum my little learner walked up to a security guard and asked how much it would cost to buy the building because she would like to live there.

She is a mighty and wild girl who is reduced to tears at the thought of another day at school. She is a popular second grade girl with nice teachers in a nice school but she hates being in that building.  Outside of that building, she is an entirely different person. Her courage returns.

She is different from me, my daughter. I am an outspoken person, daring, fearless. My courage is very clearly something I wear on the outside, it is always with me. My daughter is the opposite. She is outspoken, but not in the same way. She makes her point in quiet ways, she is more the steady pace of a river than the roar of a lion. She is daring, not in ways thousands can see but rather in ways that challenge her perception of herself. And it would seem odd to say a little girl who cries so often at school is fearless but she is. It takes courage to show up day after day, full of anxiety and fright you cannot control, and do it anyway. To be on display for everyone you know.

Courage is not the absence of fear, it is being scared and doing it anyway.

So I tell her stories of people just like her. I tell her stories of women of courage.

It took an hour to get Amelia adjusted to school this morning. We had no tears on a first-day-back-from-break which is a HUGE accomplishment for us. Amelia and I had made the plan the night before that we would read our Rosa Parks book in the Resource Room and ease into our day which really seemed to help her. For an hour we read about Rosa and her steady courage. We talked about how dangerous it was to fight oppression at that time and how bold Rosa and her friends were.

Take that, Anxiety! You fill my daughter with fear and I will fill her with stories of American heroines who defy authority and change the course of a nation. This morning we read about Rosa’s stand on the bus and her work through the NAACP registering scores of disenfranchised black voters so that their vote would give them a voice. We read about Rosa working for years for the Montgomery NAACP as their secretary and eventually taking over their youth group. We read a passage in the book about a young black boy being denied the privilege of checking out a book at a public library simply because of the color of his skin and Amelia gasped aloud.

Injustice is something that Amelia seems called to. She idolizes Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, rarely a day goes by when she does not mention one of them. When I was her age I idolized Amelia Earhart and Joan of Arc. I fancied dare devil history makers and legendary warriors, she prefers a minister and a lady who sat down on a bus.

I like to roar. Amelia likes steady. Two faces of courage.

Through parenting Amelia she has taught me a new face to courage, one very different from my own. From the time she was tiny I have filled her library bag and her bookshelf with stories of girls and women being smart, daring, and adventurous. We’ve intentionally avoided stories and characters that did not demonstrate these things. I have always felt it was important to tell her stories of women who are/were the type of woman I want her to become. I try to act mindfully every day and model for her the woman I want her to be. And from those stories Amelia has formed her own sense of courage.

So this morning when we read that one of Rosa Park’s colleagues from the Montgomery NAACP felt that black men should have equal rights but that a woman’s place was at home in the kitchen my eight year old put her hand out and exclaimed, “Oh. I. Am. Sorry. But. What. Did. You. Just. Say. To. Me? You did NOT just say that women are supposed to stay home in the kitchen. And what? Cook for the men and for their babies? No way. That is just rude. Women can be whatever they want to be.”

I sat there in shock for a moment and then said, “Right Smalls, equal rights means every person should be equal to another. ALL humans are equal, boys and girls, every color. If a woman chooses to stay home to care and cook for her family that is fine because that’s a big job. But….”

Amelia interjected with, “I would tell him if she chooses to love science instead of a husband or climb mountains or be a police officer or something then she has every right to do that and no one can tell her what to do with her body and her brain.”

We sat there for a moment, me looking at my little girl who was still feeling too nervous to go into her classroom, yet possessed a fire in her belly to take on the big challenges in life. The fire to call out injustice when she sees and hears it.

I don’t know if she’ll stand up or sit down when Life calls on her to demonstrate courage, but I do know my little girl knows how to follow her heart for what is right and how to use her voice.

And maybe that is the most important lesson she can ever learn, inside or outside of the classroom.

I tell my daughter stories of women of courage.

I tell my daughter stories of women of courage.

 

Image Source: Half The Sky Movement

All These Girls In Pink

Girls are not the problem.
Pink is not the problem.
Limiting girls to pink and to a narrow definition of what it means to be a girl is a HUGE problem. 
 

We went up to the cabin this weekend, located in the vast north woods of Wisconsin. Within thirty minutes of arriving we had set out on our first adventure with the kids. I took this photo of Amelia as she made her way down the steep, rocky drive and it struck me how much pink she was wearing. This is something not common for her and it seemed like an odd color to wear to go explore the muddy, early spring trails.

Heading out to explore the woods in pink and more pink.

Heading out to explore the woods in pink and more pink.

She had marched out of the cabin happy and confident, so I bit my tongue over telling her to change into pants she can get dirty and muddy. She howled for wolves on her way down to the meadow and creek. As we threw rocks and snow into the water Amelia and her best friend who was our guest for the weekend begged to trek across the road to the neighbor’s house where a team of sled dogs live in order to ask the neighbor if she would take them mushing. Dog sledding? I don’t know the term for that one.

After the girls finished shooting their bow and arrow they hauled rocks out of the woods to make benches near the fire pit.

After the girls finished shooting their bow and arrow they hauled rocks out of the woods to make benches near the fire pit.

I do know this — Pink can get dirty and muddy. Pink can go on adventures. Girls wearing pink are not going to not get dirty and muddy because of the pink. Not unless we tell them not to.

Racing snow boats in the creek.

Racing snow boats in the creek.

Much thought and debate is given to such a simple color these days. The gender stereotypes so often packaged in pink are far less simple. I am frequently involved in these conversations and I often find myself thinking about what girls think about all of this pink. Do they see it the same way adults do? We definitely hear from girls who are tired of all the pink, but do they see the color as limiting or as presenting limitations like so many of their parents do?  As far as my daughter goes, the answer is no. Well, the answer is actually more like “sometimes”.

If you were to ask Amelia what her favorite color is she will sometimes say pink, sometimes blue, and sometimes “all of them”. She will rant for hours to anyone who will listen about the gendering and sexism of Legos. But when her dad presented her with her first red Swiss army knife this weekend she asked if they also came in pink. She is eight years old and seems to be going through a very feminine stage right now (on some days), but she is overall a very balanced and well rounded kid so I’m not freaking out over a little pink and princess. It is a small part of her total package.

I find myself wondering all of the time what girls make of all the hullabaloo about girlhood.

I find myself wondering all of the time what girls make of all the hullabaloo about girlhood.

Pink has become a sort of uniform for girls, and that does bother me a great deal. I dislike the loss of individuality for herd mentality. I dislike that gender has to be the most salient quality about our daughters. Have you been to a preschool or elementary school lately? Herds of pink little girls. My daughter and I are often frustrated at the lack of color choices when shopping for things like coats, boots, and outdoor gear. Such was the case when we found the coat in the photo above. Our choices were pink, pink, and pink at the time we needed to buy one. We bought the blue rain boots from the “boys” section. Though my daughter’s closet includes a rainbow of color, there are definitely days she trends towards the monochromatic look. The day after she wore all pink she wore all blue.

And here is what I was thinking as I watched Amelia, her little brother Ben, and her best friend Maddy explore the great woods of Wisconsin that hold endless adventures for them: I think it is important for adults to be wise to the gendering of children’s products and the stereotypes packaged in pink. But more importantly, I think we need to be very, very careful we do not package our girls in those same stereotypes just because they are wearing pink. 

The presence of pink does not preclude the craving for adventure.

The presence of pink does not preclude the craving for adventure.

 

I say YES to limiting gendered products and unbalanced media.

I say YES to dismissing the gender stereotypes.

I caution you about limiting or dismissing the girls in pink. 

"I gotta bail before I go into the drink!" Amelia screamed while sledding.

“I gotta bail before I go into the drink!” Amelia screamed while sledding.

 

 

 

 

Resources for Boys

Parent question:  “I really enjoy your blog and am working hard to raise my daughter with a broader view than just princess, even though they are her first love. I also have two boys. One almost two the other almost nine. I was hoping you could help me find some good balancing resources for them as well. I feel like I’m focused on making a whole girl but not the whole boy. Thanks.”

 PPBB Answer:  Thanks so much for your kind words! Finding info for boys is not as easy as it would seem, but there are good resources out there. For online sources I like Achilles Effect , Let Toys Be Toys – For Girls and Boys, and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. All three address issues around gender + marketing + culture.

As for books, I recommend:

“Packaging Boyhood” by Sharon Lamb, Lyn Mikel Brown, and Mark Tappan

“Achilles Effect” by Crystal Smith

“Real Boys” and “Real Boys’ Voices” by William Pollack

“The Men They Will Become”  by Eli Newberger

Also “Pink Brain, Blue Brain” and “The Gender Trap” are good. Diane Levin does great research on violence + play (The War Play Dilemma), and Jackson Katz is pretty much God when it comes to this stuff.

Keep your eye out for The Representation Project’s “The Mask You Live In”.

How do we raise sons into men we admire?

How do we raise sons into men we admire?

Amelia and I Embark on a Journey: The Barbie Project

The Barbie Box arrives. Naturally, we spent lots of time just playing with the box!

The Barbie Box arrives. Naturally, we spent lots of time just playing with the box!

My daughter Amelia is eight years old, a wild, imaginative, creative, artistic, prone-to-mud and snail hunting kind of girl. She is in many ways so much like me when I was her age. She moves easily between dressing up as a queen and wallowing in the mud pit she built in our back yard. She loves building things, reading, playing outside, and recently, she really lovesplaying with Barbie dolls.

When I was her age, I loved playing with Barbie dolls, too.

I had a tempestuous relationship with Barbie  in my early years of parenting, but as my daughter has grown in maturity and demonstrated really solid body image and critical thinking skills I’ve relaxed on my stance on the twelve inch doll.

We balance hours of play with our Barbie Mermaids or Dolphin Trainer dolls with a discussion on whether or not Barbie’s eye makeup comes off when she swims or if her pointy feet are safe to balance around the edge of the animal enclosures or sea rescue boat. We talk about how we like that Barbie comes in different skin colors just like our friends but how all Barbie dolls have the same body. We enjoy putting cool outfits together and sometimes we adjust ensembles with a really short skirt and pair it with leggings. Amelia enjoys the fancy outfits and shoes, as they allow her to play at being sophisticated and grown up. She also enjoys the uniforms like the astronaut suit and wetsuits, as they allow her to see her Barbies as a change agent or hero in a story.

What I’ve learned while watching Amelia play over these past few weeks, and while getting down on the floor or climbing into the fort to play with her, was that Barbie can be many things. According to my eight-year-old, Barbie can be more than meets the eye.  I had spent the summer playing with her and her mermaid dolls in the pool, combing hair tangled mermaid hair, rescuing mermaid tails from the back of the dog’s throat. I wondered how or if our Barbie play would change as we were stuck inside during the long Wisconsin winter. Would we still make up great adventures?

Amelia really enjoyed opening her astronaut and dolphin trainer dolls that arrived in the big box from Barbie. She carefully inspected each package and carefully unpacked each item, outfit, and high heel. She spent quite a bit of time experimenting with the pooping Barbie Pet Trainer dog. She then madly stripped all of the dolls naked and began rearranging their outfits and creating new character roles. She was making the dolls her own. You could almost hear the wheels turning in her head as the story churned and developed.

I had thought it would be super cool to play with Astronaut Barbie and then watch “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage” together and do art projects about space. I had thought wrong. Amelia had every intention of turning her Barbies into pirates, the space suit was needed to serve as a ghost pirate, natch.

And so we played, in a giant fort built by Amelia in the family room. The ghost pirate had stolen the treasure of the mermaids and the mermaids needed the pirate Barbies to help them recapture the treasure and return it to its rightful place in the sea.

While Amelia played her characters worked together and the dialogue was hysterical. I got to peek into her imagination and see her resolve conflict, create leadership roles among the characters, and demonstrate bravery, evil, and justice. If we didn’t like the ending, we’d go back and rework the story.

It was so interesting to see how the story shifted and sorted itself while we played. I never really knew where we were going to end up. And I think that is what interests me most about The Barbie Project, I have no idea where Amelia’s imagination is going to take us. I cannot wait to find out.

 

Learn more about The Barbie Project and meet the other bloggers on the project.

On twitter, look for hashtag #BarbieProject and join the conversation.

{Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign as part of The Barbie Project. All thoughts and ideas are my own.}

Exploring all our new Barbie dolls....and Barbie dog poop.

Exploring all our new Barbie dolls….and Barbie dog poop.

Why I Am Participating in the Barbie Project

The Barbie Project A few weeks ago I received a unique invitation from Barbie™ to participate in a play experiment with the brand. The idea behind the project is to have a group of moms with young daughters observe and engage with our girls as they play with their Barbie dolls and share on our blogs what we learned about the space the girls create with their play. What stories and characters, creative themes, adventures, and challenges did they imagine while they played?

Our two main objectives with the play experiment are:

  1. W e are to watch and engage with our child during play, challenge our own stereotypes, and get to know our child better by discovering more about the stories they create while at play. In fact, the only real directive we were given about the project: Get down on the floor and play.
  2. We are to focus on the act of “play” in general, the value of it, and think about how little of it we really allow our kids these days and how we can increase that.

Before I go further I want to say this, because I realize my involvement in this project with Barbie™ may come as a surprise, but Mattel and Barbie™ knew exactly who I was and what my brand and message was about when they invited me to join this project. I think that invitation is really important, and here’s why:  It creates conversation.

Through my work with Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, the Brave Girls Alliance, and my book “Redefining Girly” I am committed to two things: honoring childhood through the value of quality play and media, and creating meaningful change.

I feel The Barbie Project gives me this opportunity. This project brings together a diverse group of mom bloggers from the United States and Canada to share what we learn from our daughters. Most importantly, we get to share what we learn in our own words, on our own blogs. Our observations, comments, and photos will then be shared with the Barbie social media community. None of us are sure what we will discover along the way or how this will end, so it feels like an organic journey. I’m really interested to see what I learn from my eight year old daughter Amelia, and I’m particularly interested to read what the other seven mother-daughter teams will share.

We learn from each other by listening to each other. I have a seat at the table. Amelia has her voice represented at the table. What can all of us learn from each other? During the lead in weeks to this project the Barbie Team has been really wonderful to work with, right down to the thoughtful products they sent Amelia to play with. I requested Barbie dolls that focused on doing something and we received a huge box of toys that included Barbie I Can Be….Astronaut, a scuba diver, and dolphin trainer among other things. (They also included a great learning game for Ben so he wouldn’t feel left out!)

As you consider my participation in this project and as you read my posts each month along the way, here’s what I want you to consider:

  1. I am working from within. To be invited inside requires trust and respect. I am making strides and working internally with stakeholders in women’s and girl’s conversations and experiences, especially within the parenting space. This is a unique and difficult position to earn.
  2. Working internally isn’t always splashy, viral, or “press worthy”. A lot of times it is slow, quiet work. It isn’t about making someone right and someone wrong, it is about understanding and educating and the best way I have found to do that is to have a respectful conversation.
  3. I was invited to have a conversation on a platform where I can share my experiences, Amelia’s experiences, and our points of view on girls + empowered play with a new and enormous group of parents. By virtue of showing up for that conversation I am bringing our voice and our POV to a new community.

 

I am bringing my points of view on girls + empowered play directly into the center of Barbie’s space. I want that to be what you take away from this post.

If nothing changes, nothing changes. Change is a journey. I hope you’ll join me on this one.

 

Learn more about The Barbie Project and meet the other bloggers on the project.

On twitter, look for hashtag #BarbieProject and join the conversation.

{Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign as part of The Barbie Project. All thoughts and ideas are my own.}

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redefine Girly: Moms Edition

This morning I painted my nails a pretty rose color (with glittery pale pink ring finger) before I dressed in a nice blouse with bright flowers all over it, dressy jeans, and heels so that I looked polished for a pair of workshops I was presenting. Afterwards I went to the sports store to buy my kids their first real baseball bat and baseballs. I had a question about the bats but I didn’t call myhusband or a friend’s husband, I called one of my girlfriends and we talked about baseball cleats for ten minutes. I managed to refrain from buying a pair of kayaks. When I got home I changed into play clothes and sneakers and went out for burgers with the family. And I ate dessert. Following that we headed to the field behind school to play baseball, football, soccer, and hoola hoop. I taught my son how to switch hit and blew his mind when he was coming in to score a run and I didn’t back off a collision at the plate to tag him out. We went home for a pit stop and then the kids and I took one of our dogs for a walk through the park. On the way to the park one of my girlfriends who is a Sheriff drove past and waved at us to which my daughter replied, “She’s a badass”. We arrived at the park and went down to the river because my daughter requested we go look for dead fish heads. In the absence of dead fish heads I taught the kids how to read how many hours of sun are left in the sky and how to find north by looking at plants and mosses. On the way home I raced my kids up the hill and tripped one intentionally with a stick and threw a doggie bag of poop at the other because I like to build their character by providing surprises and because I don’t like to lose.
Now we’re snuggled in the family room and I’m going to make dinner (okay, I’m actually going to make a snack plate) and then I’m going to open a beer and scream like crazy for the Badgers in the Final Four.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because there are many ways to be a girl. Even when you are a grown up girl. And I want my kids to know it, so I show them it.

I broke these boards in my martial arts self-defense class. I got home late from class so I left them out for my husband to see. In the morning my daughter read the note he had left on top of them that read "SO proud of you Babe!"

I broke these boards in my martial arts self-defense class. I got home late from class so I left them out for my husband to see. In the morning my daughter read the note he had left on top of them that read “SO proud of you Babe!”

Tonight I Will Be Attacked: 1 in 5

**TRIGGER WARNING**

“The price of a college education should not include a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted.” – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

One in five collegiate women will be raped during their time at school. One in five.

One in five collegiate women will be raped during their time at school. One in five.

Tonight I am going to be attacked. The lights will be off so I won’t be able to see but I’ll probably be able to feel it coming, if only a second before contact. A man who is bigger than me and stronger than me is going to grab my wrists or grab my throat or come from behind and bear hug me with so much force my lungs empty with a blasting cough. His hands are huge and his arms are strong, stronger than mine, so I really have to scrap for any inch of freedom I might gain as we struggle. Stomp, kick, hit, bite…I’ll do whatever it takes. I’m going to try to fight him off while I’m still on my feet and hope he doesn’t take it to the ground. If we do end up on the ground with him on top of me I am going to try break his choke hold before he starts bashing my head on the floor or block his punch to my face, wrap up his arm with one of mine and grab his head and neck while I flip us over so that I can deliver a hit and kick before I try to run. At that point I’ll be hoping there isn’t a second attacker.

I know the man who is going to attack me, kind of. I’ve spent several hours with him over the past six weeks, so we’re acquaintances I guess you could say. That is usually how it goes, right? You know the guy who attacks you. So many times it is a friend or a date or a boyfriend, and that is what makes it so much worse. I remember thinking that when it happened to me a month before I went to college. In my case tonight my attacker will be one of my self defense instructors. We’ve worked for the past five weeks on fight and survival skills and tonight is the last class, when the attacks come in the dark. I’m scared out of my mind. I’m still showing up for class.

The same could be said for countless collegiate women all over this country. They are scared yet they still show up for class.

1 in 5.

Despite the bruises I have on my wrists and arms from previous classes, this is all just practice. It is pretend. We laugh and joke around during class. If we didn’t do the break away correctly they choke hold or head lock us again, making sure we understand how to correctly break free and get to safety. During class we’ve said how important it is for high school girls to take this course and I keep thinking what epic bullshit that is. We have courses that teach women how to not get raped, but nowhere in my town is there a course teaching boys and men not to rape. The male instructors at class are beyond respectful and nice to all of the women. They take extra time to really make sure we understand the moves, they are invested in our safety. The head female instructor is great. Still, every minute of every class I think about what happened to me at 18 years old.

I think about my daughter, when she will be 18 years old. 

I essentially have no fear of my young daughter being kidnapped, therefore I let her run free to explore her world. Of the 74.5 million children in the United States only 115 are abducted by strangers per year.

Yet even though her journey to college is ten years away I am already worried about her safety there. She has a 1 in 5 chance of being raped. 

1 in 5. 

When we look at the mathematical probability of our children being abducted by a stranger they have a greater chance of being struck by lightning on a trip to Florida than being abducted by a stranger in your neighborhood. And I’ve never worried about my kids being struck by lightning. I think stranger abduction is a deep, dark fear for ALL parents because it is our worst nightmare. But it is EXTREMELY rare. Yet our entire generation has changed the way we parent because of fear mongering and misinformation.

What we should be concerned about is our daughters being raped and our sons being rapists. Yet I never hear parents talking about that. Ever.

1 in 5.

I read about these issues online, but in my day to day life I have never heard a parent correct another after “Boys will be boys” or “that just means he likes you!” is uttered, explaining that is what builds Rape Culture. I almost never hear a parent teach their sons about consent. Maybe the occasional, “We don’t hit girls.” Perhaps it is because my kids are still young, but I don’t hear parents talking about what seems like the systematic covering up of rape by high schools and universities. I have never, ever heard a parent of a boy wonder aloud if they could be raising a rapist. And this is odd, because many of these mothers would have gone to college, so they either were the 1 in 5, or they were the other 4 but knew someone who was the 1.

Why aren’t we talking about this?

1 in 5.

Which numbers do you think American parents should be obsessing over and completely changing their parenting in response to? Which number should inspire a rash of safety products and apps to be developed and marketed? Which number should be discussed by parents at playgrounds and playdates? Which number should be covered relentlessly by media?

1 in 5.

Tonight I will be attacked, I know it is coming. I know who is going to do it. And I know when it is over that I’m going to be okay. This should never be what goes through the minds of our daughters when the embark on their journey to college. Rape should not be a foregone conclusion, part of the checklist we review when packing our children off to university.

Rape should not be the price of college admission.

 

This is how I teach my children:

1. Your body belongs to you, no one may touch it in a way that upsets you or hurts you. You own the right to demand people respect your body.

2. You must respect other people’s bodies. It is never appropriate to hurt or violate someone’s body. I will teach my son never to rape.

3. You must ask if it is okay to give a hug, kiss, hold hands, etc. Wanting to show affection is sweet. Making sure it wants to be received is critical. No means no.

4. My husband and I demonstrate respect towards each other so that this is the foundation my children grow with: Men and women respect each other. We are equals.

5. My children are young and establishing their framework of the world. I do not allow media that normalizes violence against women nor that which sexualizes and objectifies them. (As my children grow our conversations about this will dig deeper into cultural attitudes about women’s bodies and Rape Culture. We will also talk about boys/men as victims.)

6. If you see someone hurting someone else you must speak up, stop it, or seek help. You may not be silent.

More on this:

One Student - become a change agent on campus

NPR: Rape On Campus: Painful Stories Cast Blame On Colleges

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month 

If You Don’t Like “Rape Culture” Then Focus For A Minute On Sex and Status

Huffington Post series for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Establishing Healthy Body Image in Young Girls: Start Early

There are two very powerful influences in the lives of young children that impact their body image: the media and their family. This can start as early as AGE THREE.

Are you prepared? Is your home a space where positive body image is upheld?

Think about your role as you read these statistics and take responsibility for your child developing a healthy body image:

~ According to a study from the University of Central Florida, nearly 50% of girls aged three to six were already concerned about their weight.
~ 42% of 1st through 3rd grade girls say they wish they were thinner.
~ 81% of ten-year-old girls experience a fear of being fat.
~ Roughly one half of girls in 4th grade are on diets. More than half of nine and ten-year-old girls admitted that they felt better about themselves when dieting.

What are some things that you can do?
1. Demonstrate self love and being kind to your body.
2. No “fat talk” allowed, about yourself or other people.
3. Focus on nutritious, mindful eating + activity = health, as opposed to dieting and using exercise as a punishment.
4. Seek balanced media with responsible depictions of girls/women’s bodies.
5. Create spaces for discussions while watching media or shopping that allow for critical thinking about body image messages being sent.
6. Define beauty for your family on your OWN terms.
7. Teach her that what she can DO with her body is far more important than what it LOOKS like.
8. Make sure she sees you enjoying your body — race down the slide, kick the soccer ball, bring her to yoga class, go for a bike ride or walk the dog.
9. I’m not kidding, knock off the Fat Talk.
10. Turn off the screens in the house and go outside and play!

Focus on what her body can DO, not what it LOOKS like.

Focus on what her body can DO, not what it LOOKS like.

Here are more statistics on body image in women and girls.

Girl Scouts of America has conducted excellent research in this area.

The Difference Between Being Anti-Pink and Being Anti-Limitation

Pink as a color has never been the problem. Girls as a group have never been the problem. Pink as a vehicle for limiting girls is the problem. Pink as the ONLY color is a problem. There is a difference between being anti-pink and being anti-limitation, and as someone who educates thousands of parents every week on this issue I feel most parents fall into the second camp. We are not anti-pink. We are anti-limitation.

We are asking that our daughter’s gender not be the most salient quality about her. When everything for girls is color coded pink and when so many of those pink things are gender stereotypes marketed as toys, families have every right to speak out about it.

(I’ve written about this so many times, most recently here and here, and earlier here.)

The real issue is the stereotypes, sexualization, and limitation that is packaged in shades of pink but is glossed over in irresponsible articles like this (and the Slate piece and the NY Magazine piece) because the focus is on feminist moms being anti-pink and needing to “chill out”. Families who want more for their daughters are not the problem.

I really like the way one of our PPBB Community Members said it, “We could even go shorter and make the statement: Limitation is packaged. We all know that an orange jumpsuit means limitations–the person is imprisoned. A yellow star or pink triangle meant limitations and we are still justifiably ashamed of that. Yet we don’t, as a society, freak out over the pink limitation???” -Frieda Toth

Image source: TIME. Article linked below.

Image source: TIME. Article linked below.

I’m a feminist mom and my daughter and I love shades of pink. Pink isn’t our issue. Try to limit or sexualize my daughter, and we’ll have words. At the same time, try to shame and ridicule my son for liking pink or “girl” things, and we’ll have words. 

In my book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” I take great care to establish that we are not empowering our girls or winning against toxic media when we allow for traditionally “girly” or feminine interests to be  denigrated and seen as frivolous. Being female is not shameful. Being given a narrow, limiting version of what “female” should look like or can be is the issue we are fighting.

Redefining Girly is about letting girls show you who they want to be in the world.

If that includes a little or a lot of pink by the girl’s own choosing, then that’s great. But let’s take care to leave the stereotypes based on gender and limitation behind.

Pink as a choice is wonderful. Pink as an obligation to your gender is limiting and overbearing. There are many ways to be a girl.

Pink as a choice is wonderful. Pink as an obligation to your gender is limiting and overbearing. There are many ways to be a girl, including wearing pink to hunt for snails in a lake in the North Woods of Wisconsin.

 

TIME did a very good job of addressing the pinkification of girlhood here, and interviewed my colleague Dr. Elizabeth Sweet for the piece.

As my colleague Rebecca Hains said, “By pontificating on the subject without actually talking to the moms they’re criticizing, they’ve missed the point. I’d like to state this categorically: No one is blaming girls. To suggest otherwise is to make a straw man argument that distracts from the real issues at hand.”

And as another colleague Avital Norman Nathman wrote, “Pink is not the problem. What I do have a problem with, however, is the co-opting of pink for all things girly. The issue for me is two-fold:  1. It boxes girls in.    2. It boxes boys out.”