Q&A With “Powered By Girl” author Lyn Mikel Brown

powered-by-girl“Powered By Girl” is part critical commentary on a “lean in”, “TEDified” view of girl power and versions of the “exceptional girl” breaking down barriers on her own when in actuality they have benefited from a support system of adults behind them. PBG is also part playbook for working with girls to be activists of their own social movements. Brown writes, “We have to challenge that assumption that women and girls cannot work together – that women are too old and out of touch; that girls are too young and misinformed.”

The book is out today! Order from Amazon here or find your local indie bookstore here.

Q&A with “Powered By Girl” author and girl expert Lyn Mikel Brown.

  1. The Introduction to the book literally had me clapping as I read; you had me by page 5. Your observations and commitment to authentic empowerment of girls is so inspiring. You open the book by deconstructing the phenomenon of the “media generated kick-ass wonder girl” and call out the concepts of “Girl Power commerce” and “leaning in”. How can we encourage other women to think critically about these things, especially when mainstream feminism feels like it has become a shopping spree of “fempowerment” marketing, excusing sexualization as personal agency, and hyperfocus on “exceptional individual” perfectionism? The Disney Princesses and Barbie have both jumped on the girl power train, and while sparkle dinosaur t-shirts for girls at giant retailers pass for apparel equality I cannot stop thinking about what a crazy trip this is becoming.

Yes, such a crazy trip!

It sounds so simple, but I think we have to encourage women to really listen to girls. I anchor myself there. They are endlessly interesting, complex, funny, bursting with new ideas and fresh perspectives. Simply being with them, paying attention to their questions, what puzzles them, what they love and care about is a daily reminder that consumer culture misses the important stuff. I think our job is opening up possibilities, and since media is everywhere we pretty much have to use it to our own ends. We can help her identify stereotypes and point out when the world is limiting in some way or when it starts to foreclose on what she loves to do or wants to be. If we question, she will learn to question. This ability to step back and question puts a little thinking and breathing space between her and all those pressures bombarding her to look and be a certain way. In that bit of space she can reflect on what it feels like and think about what she wants to say and do about it.

 

  1. I highlighted so many passages in the book about adults letting go of their ego, truly tuning in and listening to girls’ voices, honoring girls’ expertise on their own experiences, forming genuine relationships built on respect and trust, etc. Why do adults find it difficult to take girls seriously, is it internalized sexism? What are some rookie mistakes adults can expect to make when they are guiding and working with girls?

I think we want to protect girls from all the sexist stuff coming at them and all the potential harm out there, some of which we’ve experienced. We assume we know better than she does what’s coming down the pike. And maybe because things seem so precarious, we think we have to be constantly vigilant and have it all together. For whatever reason, we forget to ask them what they think. This creates a barrier to genuine relationships with girls—genuine relationships involve two people. Girl activists say they love working with women who learn from them and treat them as if they have something important to offer. They describe relationships that are more horizontal, where women and girls together discover new ideas and create new possibilities. When we share with her the things we don’t know for certain, we let her into a way of being in the world that’s more generous. If we can make space for vulnerability and mistakes, ours included, she can take risks, knowing she has a safe place to land when things don’t go well. So I guess the rooky mistake is thinking we’re always in charge and that we always know more than she does about her own life. It’s an enormous relief for girls to have someone who’s honest about the complexity of things and who admits what she doesn’t know.

 

  1. I found the chapter about girls knowing women’s history in order to better understand the need for change to be so important. When I work with girls I’ll often ask them to name the female Supreme Court Justices, or three female Senators or scientists. The giant majority can’t do it, and that hurts my heart. Then I ask who the five Kardashian/Jenner sisters are and the room goes off like fireworks. This is when my brain starts to hurt, and I wonder how do parents reboot media messages about “important women” who do very little of importance? How do parents lead their daughters towards women actually doing important work? I think everyone knows who Malala is, but beyond that one amazing girl how do we find out about other current activists are and what work they are doing?

Pop idols are always going to be important. Knowing certain things about popular culture is a kind of currency among girls. That’s always been the case. The good news is that girls and women activists are all over the media too, whether it’s Iesha Evans who faced down Baton Rouge police in full riot gear at a Black Lives Matter protest or the U.S. women who dominated the Olympics while refusing to be contained by on-going sexist and racist commentary. For a while it seemed like there was a news story every week about girls protesting unfair school dress codes. Teen Magazines are pretty consistently pushing stories about girl-fueled activism. Teen Vogue’s latest girl activist list, “Introducing 21 under 21,” includes 11-year-old Marley Dias who started #1000BlackGirlBooks and 18-year-old Avery McCall, who read Half the Sky at 12 and now works with the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign.

The problem is a media that sensationalizes young activists as special super girls for a few days, then drops their story. It’s really up to us to seek out and contextualize these brave girls, to talk about how activism is a collective response to injustice, and that unfairness will continue unless we all do our part. I’m not suggesting we give Teen Vogue to our pre-teen daughters, but that we seek out stories in magazines and online, do some background work on a few young activists, including the people and organizations that support them (no one does lasting social change work alone), and introduce them in your own way to her. For a start, check out these seven inspiring children’s books, and you might also want to support this amazing kickstarter campaign promising 100 Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.

 

  1. The book mentions that girls are more likely than boys to be politically conscious and become involved in activism. What have you found to be a typical age when girls have this awakening? Do you think this motivation for the girls comes from an early recognition of a power and equality gap, or are there other factors that play into their drive to create change?

Every girl has the potential to be an agent for social change, simply because, as bell hooks reminds us, children are naturally curious. I think of girls as naturalists in the social world–always observing, always asking questions. The very first “that’s not fair!” she utters is a clue she’s attuned to power differences and ready to create change. Too often the response from adults is, “Yes, life is unfair.” But that won’t do if we want girls to grow up as full participants in civic and political life. Nancy Gruver of New Moon Magazine describes “That’s not fair” as girls’ natural feminism. If we want that seed to germinate, if we want to plant the notion that she is in the world to change the world, we’ll respond instead with “Let’s do something about it.”

 

  1. The book does a good job of identifying challenges girls of color face when they hear the call to activism, and how adults can react appropriately to those challenges and help girls work around or through them. So the United States isn’t doing so well dealing with our racism at the moment, and a lot of people are still uncomfortable or unsure of how to talk about race and racism. Can you to speak to how adults can respect a girl’s world view and experiences without making her race the most salient quality about her? How do we strike the right balance?

It’s very hard, and very important to try. As white women working with girls of color, we don’t want to be part of the problem but we don’t always know how to be part of the solution. The truth is, for girls of color in this country race typically is their most salient quality—it impacts how others see and treat them; it can make them hyper-visible or invisible, depending on the context. We can’t really pretend this isn’t true. It’s also important that we see and support girls of color fully and not buy into unconscious stereotypes. So this is about building up our awareness, our cultural competency, on our own time. We can’t expect girls of color to educate us and we risk unwittingly perpetuating the problem by ignoring it or fumbling around. I think we should 1) Do our own work. Read, seek out anti-racist trainings and workshops; do what it takes to ensure we can do right by all the girls in our care. 2) Partner with women of color in our work.

 

  1. The heart and soul of this book is the idea of intergenerational activism – pooling together youthful insight, knowledge and energy with more seasoned expertise, organizational skills, larger and more powerful networks in order to create meaningful change. I love this idea, but I’m acutely aware how often Millennials and Generation Z (iGen) are mocked and stereotyped by our society. What are some best practices you’ve seen young activists use to earn respect and be heard? Are there things parents can do to help cultivate these skills?

I write a lot about loyalty—about being on girls’ sides. To me, this means standing with girls when they face such responses. Supporting their right to speak, even when we disagree with them. I struggled a lot with how my feminist idols and friends talked about young women Bernie supporters. When I watched them protesting at the DNC, the word “silenced” scribbled on tape across their mouths, standing firm, I thought to myself, “I Iove these brave young women. I am in awe.” I mean, is this not what we want? Girls and young women who think for themselves, who dare to be an interruption?  

For me, the best practice is ensuring she has company. I’ve co-founded three girl-serving organizations and I joke that I started them for my daughter. And I think there’s some truth in that. She grew up with girls and women of every age talking with her about things that matter, inviting her to debate and argue and act on her convictions. These were people who would be there if the trolls surfaced. If there are not such organizations in your backyard, they are online and they have people you can talk with, resources and curricula you can use. Gather moms and daughters you know together and reach out to Moms As Mentors or New Moon Girls or check out SPARKits from SPARK Movement, fun ideas for media activism from About-Face, and curricula from Hardy Girls. Voice, courage, risk-taking are cultivated in relationship. If we are all there for one another’s girls, ours will be just fine.

 

{ MAINE LOCALS: For those readers located in Maine, Lyn Mikel Brown will be visiting the Waterville Public Library on Tuesday 9/13 from 5p-7p to discuss her book. This program is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided. Co-presented by the Waterville Public Library and Children’s Book Cellar.}

 

Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book in order to read and review.

13246296_10153429033517131_2474661485922461678_oMelissa 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.

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

Girls Who Change the World and the Women Behind Them

Book review “Powered By Girl”, Lyn Mikel Brown.
Author Q&A to come tomorrow!

"Powered by Girl" by Lyn Mikel Brown, available Sept 13 2016.

“Powered by Girl” by Lyn Mikel Brown, available Sept 13 2016.

Every page of my copy of “Powered By Girl: A Field Guide for Supporting Youth Activists” (Beacon Press) by my colleague Lyn Mikel Brown is highlighted like the photo to your left. Literally every page, the book is so insightful and does an amazing job of revealing the heart of what drives and inspires girls and young women to want to and follow through with making positive changes in the world.

Most importantly, the book is full of girls’ voices and experiences. This new guide is tuned into working with – AND LISTENING TO – girls. The best way to learn about how girls think, react, dream, and mobilize is to learn directly from them. Lyn Mikel Brown has worked alongside girl activists for decades and her valuable experience serves as a wise and seasoned mentor to other women who guide girls.

“Powered By Girl” could not have come at a more perfect time for me. When Amelia was a baby I read Lyn’s “Packaging Girlhood” and it set me on the path I travel today. Amelia is now a pre-teen who wants to influence and impact her world and I find another of Lyn’s books speaking exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it.

In addition to parenting an impassioned, feminist tween girl I also co-lead a troop of thirty Girl Scouts ages five to fifteen, all of whom have opinions and aspirations to creating positive change.  “Powered By Girl” was extremely helpful in better understanding how the relationship of being a mentor to a girl is balanced on respect, a passing on of tools, and honoring input and youth experience. As Brown writes, “Opening ourselves to genuine relationship with girls is about seeing who they are and not who we think they should be.”

If you are a parent to a tween or teen girl, teach or coach girls, lead a Girl Scout troop, or engage with powerful young women in any way you need to pick up this book. It truly acts as a compass to girls’ minds and hearts, and gives actionable advice on how to direct their passion for change into meaningful actions.

powered-by-girlAs described by publisher Beacon Press: “Powered By Girl” is part critical commentary on a “lean in”, “TEDified” view of girl power and versions of the “exceptional girl” breaking down barriers on her own when in actuality they have benefited from a support system of adults behind them. PBG is also part playbook for working with girls to be activists of their own social movements. Brown writes, “We have to challenge that assumption that women and girls cannot work together – that women are too old and out of touch; that girls are too young and misinformed.”

The book is out tomorrow, Sept 13.

Preorder from Amazon here or find your local indie bookstore here.

{ MAINE LOCALS: For those readers located in Maine, Lyn Mikel Brown will be visiting the Waterville Public Library on 9/13 from 5p-7p to discuss her book. This program is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided. Co-presented by the Waterville Public Library and Children’s Book Cellar.}

Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book in order to read and review.
13246296_10153429033517131_2474661485922461678_oMelissa 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.

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

 

 

 

Finding Dory Is Perfect, Except When It Isn’t: Gerald and Becky

Finding DoryThis weekend “Finding Dory” opened to enormous box office success, which is important for a sequel driven by a female character. My family and I join in on the positive reviews, we all really loved the film.

Except for one really important part.

The movie offers marginal gender balance (two of the six main characters are female) but the film redeems itself by depicting the female characters as the heroes (Dory, Destiny, Becky). It is a beautifully animated, so much so my kids kept turning to me asking “is this real life?”

The story has a central theme – the importance of family bonds, those we are born to and those we make along our journey in life. My husband and I were very touched by tender moments between Dory and her parents (the lines of sea shells, anyone?). No matter what path you take in life, love will bring you home.

Friendship, courage, empathy, self confidence, and teamwork all are strong story components. As the character arcs play out we see different vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies of many characters, especially our main characters. Destiny the whale shark has poor eyesight that impacts her swimming, Bailey the beluga is super dramatic and convinces himself his sonar does not work, Marlin is his usual pessimistic self, Nemo has his little fin, and Hank the octopus (actually, a septopus due to a lost tentacle) is terrified of the kiddie touch pool and the open ocean. Most obvious of all is Dory’s short term memory loss, and we see her struggle to overcome this while being open about her condition and unafraid to ask for help.

Dory and her amazing parents.

Dory and her amazing parents.

As the film played out I was touched by the way Pixar showed Dory’s parents teaching her in ways that gave her the skills she needed to be independent and “normal”. I have a daughter with anxiety and I completely identified with having to do things differently in order for my girl to feel like she could do what all the other kids were doing with ease.

Having a kid who is different is not easy.

It was heartwarming how the six main characters accepted one another’s quirks and encouraged one another to triumph despite them. In many ways, the film can serve as an important vehicle to opening meaningful conversations about disabilities and differently abled people.

Unfortunately two characters were not afforded the same inclusion and acceptance, which left me feeling very uncomfortable with certain scenes in the film.

Finding Dory's sea lions Gerald, Fluke, and Rudder.

Finding Dory’s sea lions Gerald, Fluke, and Rudder.

Gerald is a sea lion who is goofy looking, does not speak, and moves and behaves in a way that differs from the other two sea lions we meet, Rudder and Fluke. In fact, we see Rudder and Fluke bully Gerald. All for laughs from the audience. Their behavior isn’t used as a teachable moment, instead the neuroatypical Gerald is used as a punchline.

 

Gerald

Gerald is tricked out of his beloved green bucket.

Schools and parents do a lot of work these days to teach kids to stand up to bullying, to be an active witness instead of a silent bystander, and to recognize the power of kindness. Gerald’s character could have been treated much differently and still been silly.

I know kids who are a Gerald. They aren’t punchlines. They are human beings who do not deserve to be bullied nor ostracized.

Becky is a loon with a bizarre appearance and she behaves differently from the rest of her flock. While her character serves a purpose, her “differentness” is again exploited by Rudder and Fluke. Marlin is openly hostile to her. Her appearance is meant to be jarring, and we see characters react strongly to her with little tact or respect. Becky doesn’t talk but she does make strange noises, another punchline. In a movie with only two of the six main characters cast as female, and two of the five side characters as female, it would have been nice to have Becky portrayed differently.

Becky looks and behaves strangely, and is mocked for it.

Becky looks and behaves strangely, and is mocked for it.

The movie makes the distinction if you are different but look and behave mostly “normal” (Dory, Nemo) you are accepted, but if you look or act oddly you are the butt of the joke and used by the other characters. Gerald and Becky are most definitely outsiders. This post and this post do a nice job of explaining why this made many viewers uncomfortable or downright upset.

David Chen for slashfilm.com summarized the scenes very succinctly: “Both of these characters feel like cheap jokes. For the kids that are in the audience, they send a pretty clear message: It’s okay to laugh at people who are different, or who aren’t as smart as you are. Sure, Dory is differently abled. But she doesn’t fundamentally look/function different than most of the other characters in the film. Becky and Gerald, though, are fair game. For a movie that’s all about how anyone can achieve anything, that’s disheartening and inconsistent.”

There are a lot of kids who are Gerald’s and Becky’s. I don’t think they are jokes. I think more often than not, they are the best of us. 

My friend Jennifer and I were discussing this aspect, and her words perfectly sum up my feelings on Gerald and Becky’s roles: “I really, really struggled with the Gerald character. It made me absolutely cringe. I wasn’t happy with it and it seemed completely unnecessary. At least Becky, they show how the world looks through her eyes (literally) and they portray her as someone who is a useful member of that society. But the mocking and bullying of Gerald? Totally not OK.”

I know Gerald’s and Becky’s so I talked to my kids about this aspect of the film. I’ve been bullied, it is a miserable experience. This is a wonderful family film and your family should go see it. The good messages definitely outweigh the bad, but the bad messages still need to be addressed. When our children know better they can do better.

I feel like a fish out of water for saying something negative about a film that is so widely loved. And I did love the love the film. But I don’t love cruelty, and frankly our nation has enough of that going on right now. I know there are kids off the screen who could be negatively impacted by the acceptance of treating Gerald’s and Becky’s cruelly. With a platform the size of Pixar’s I would have appreciated if respect and inclusion had been a tenant throughout the film.

Like Charlie taught Dory, “There is always another way.” Let’s choose instead to take good care of each other.

13246296_10153429033517131_2474661485922461678_oMelissa 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).

You Are Needed To Shine

We have been called on to shine.

We have been called on to shine.

A late night request to my community —
Whether you are awake late into the night with me now or you read this in the morning or days later, I need something from you.

 

For two days I have had women messaging me, telling me they too were raped. They say thank you for talking about the Stanford case, thank you for sharing his mug shot, thank you for calling him a rapist and not a swimmer.

 

These women tell me they too were raped as a teen or young woman. In the wake of the firestorm around convicted sex offender Brock Turner, they have come to realize they were raped, that what happened to them is rape. They have come to be able to admit it was rape and not some other category of unwanted, coerced, forced sex. All of the discussions on social media have given them the courage to speak for the first time. Some of them have been speaking out all the years I’ve known them.

 

It is just past midnight on my side of the world. I am sitting at my dining room table working in the quiet while my family sleeps. The only way I’ve been able to write about the Stanford rapist Brock Turner is when my children are sleeping because when I look at my daughter while this story is swirling in my head I feel a scream build and rage inside me that would crumble the mountains that surround my home if I were to let it out. So I wait for night.

Night is hard for those of us who survive being raped. Maybe it is because so many of our attacks took place at night. Maybe it is because at night your thoughts always seem so much louder. Maybe it is because the dark makes it more difficult to see and you no longer like surprises. Maybe night is worse because of something primal, something deeply embedded in our brains from the days we lived in caves and were hunters as well as the hunted.
Women and girls should not be hunted. We carry a natural born right to dignity and security. We deserve to not fear the darkness of the night. We deserve to not fear walking home from class. Or fear riding the subway to work. Or fear dancing and flirting with someone, and to have that confused as an invitation to commit sexual felonies on our bodies. Or fear showing up female while in public. Or fear the ability to name ten other friends who have also been raped.

 

We deserve to have parents teach their sons not to rape.

 

We deserve to have society support us with that one, simple request: Teach your sons not to rape.

 

Teach your sons instead to leap off their bicycles to aid a woman in distress, to testify on her behalf in her quest for justice, to share her voice so the world better understands the impact of rape.

 

In her letter to the court, the courageous Stanford victim spoke of offering hope to other rape victims by sharing her story and quoted author Anne Lamott, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save? they just stand there shining.”

 

“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save? they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.” -Stanford survivor

 

We need a community of light houses around our girls and women.

We need a community of light houses around our girls and women.

So that is what I ask of you. Stand there and shine. Let us know you are a lighthouse. Tell the Stanford survivor you are shining for her. Tell us you are #StandingShining for all. 

 

If you support the women who have shared their experiences with rape, stand there and shine.
If you support girls and women struggling to overcome sexual assault and rape, stand there and shine.
If you support the idea that rape stops when we stop raising rapists, stand there and shine.
If you support the idea a convicted rapist is not brought to justice with light sentencing, stand there and shine.
If you support the movement led by parents to teach consent, respect, and dignity towards all bodies, stand there and shine.
If you support the idea a woman can get blazing drunk and hold the expectation she will not be raped, stand there and shine.
If you want to expose the Rape Culture that allowed the Stanford attack and trial to exist, stand there and shine.

 

Let survivors know you are shining for them.

 

Let parents know you hold their sons to higher standards, and they will be in your spotlight.
Let women know their nights are no longer dark, that we will become a community of lighthouses.

 

Let’s take good care of each other. Let’s stand together and shine.

 

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).

Little Girls and Dangling Earrings

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Nine-year-old Amelia wears dangling earrings for the first time, and relishes the feeling of sophistication it brings.

Originally written May 8, 2015 (Thank you, Facebook, for the tour through Memories!). Updated May 10, 2016. 

Here’s the thing about rushing our girls prematurely through girlhood – if they act like miniature teenagers during their childhood they miss out on that special feeling that comes from being just a smidge more grown up. When you can feel yourself getting just a little more sophisticated by the new thing you are doing and you can see what is ahead of you as you continue to grow. If you’re 5 going on 21, those special little moments don’t mean anything because you’ve already done it all.

Like tonight at my husband’s birthday dinner, my nine-year-old daughter was allowed to wear dangling earrings for the first time in honor of the special occasion. She chose to have her ears pierced a year ago, a decision we felt was important for her to make for her own body, and we’ve limited her earrings to small styles that just cover the bottom of her earlobes. Maybe for some families it isn’t even a consideration, but my husband and I told her dangling earrings are more for older girls and grown ups, and little earrings are for little girls who run and play hard and wrestle. Not that older girls can’t do those things, I just don’t usually wrestle with my friends when I get overly excited. Usually.

Because we had her wait to take the next step to being an older, more sophisticated girl these dangling earrings were a big deal to her. She felt special. She felt fancy and excited to be exploring something new. She felt the power that comes with becoming a woman.

Our mothers give birth to us, but it is through the process of girlhood that we give birth to ourselves.

I believe that is one of the reasons society rushes girls through their girlhood. Aside from the billions of dollars there is to be made in the beauty and apparel industry when girls act like appearance-conscious women, culturally we rush girlhood in order for our daughters to practice the script of being a woman. Think about the bulk of what is marketed to girls: princesses, glitter art, fashion, makeup, fancy pets, boyfriends. Culturally we sell our girls out to the lowest common denominators of expected femininity.

When we take away girlhood we rob our daughters of so many opportunities for self discovery, achievement and failure, curiosity, and confidence building. We rush girlhood because the patriarchy understands the power there and does everything possible to dismantle it.

My husband and I winked at each other during dinner when we would catch our girl tossing her head just to feel the dangling earrings swing and dance from her ears. For the evening she was trying on being a grown up. She was temporarily borrowing a part of being a lady with fancy grown up jewelry; visiting adulthood soon to return to being a happy nine-year-old girl.

There’s no need to rush. These children grow so, so quickly. In a breath, your daughter is taking a photo before dinner and she looks more like a preteen than your baby girl and you fight back tears as you think “Where did all this time go?”

She’ll be grown soon enough. Hopefully she’ll be her own strong version of being her own woman, who may or may not wear danging earrings. But tonight, I’m so glad for my little girl that fancy earrings were a big deal and she looks forward to growing and maturing and figuring out what all this grown up stuff is about.

All in due time, as tonight there are earrings to put back in the jewelry box and little brothers to wrestle with.

What is the cost to our girls when we allow or encourage them to rush through their girlhood? What do little girls gain when they are given the time to try on womanhood one bit at a time?

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).