Cannonball! A new line for boys and girls.

Our new logo!

A few weeks ago I announced a big change for my little company as we expanded to include boys in our work. So much of childhood has boys and girls separated for reasons I cannot understand. I want my company to reflect childhood as it ought to be, not how it is currently marketed and depicted in the media.

In my mind, childhood is full of awesome, colors are for everyone, children are whimsical and curious, and children redefine the stereotypes that exist around them.

My company is Childhood Inspired. I wanted and needed to create a new line of designs that showed boys and girls playing together. I cannot recall seeing a shirt like that anywhere, as the sexes are so segregated in the current marketplace. I wanted to give families, but most importantly children, happy and joyful designs that show kids being kids.

I want my son and daugther growing up playing and making memories with a great variety of friends. I’m really excited to introduce Cannonball!, our new line for boys AND girls. This line is “childhood inspired”, and was created from suggestions from our Facebook and Twitter communities.

I decided to call the line “Cannonball!” because when I think back to my own childhood and that delicious, excited feeling kids get in their tummies while completely lost in play, I think back to doing cannonball after cannonball off the side of the pool. And sailboat. And quarry wall. I remember working as a nanny in college, and teaching my little three year old fella how to do cannonballs. He would scream “CANNA-LOPE!” and hurl his little self into the water. I wanted that moment, on a t-shirt.

Each season we’ll be releasing some new designs for this line, and all will feature boys and girls playing together (usually outside). Childhood is supposed to be big, bright, and bold. Let’s keep it that way, and support the businesses that allow your children the chidhood they deserve.

You can buy tees HERE!

Cannonball! line logo.

 

Some ballcap buddies build a sand castle while other friends enjoy the sun and waves.

 

This group of friends enjoys everything the perfect swimming hole has to offer.

 

Five pals enjoy the summer twilight at their fun campsite.

You can buy tees HERE!

Pigtail Pals: Where We’re Going

Now that you’ve gotten the full story of where I’ve been, I’m really excited to tell you about where we’re going. I say “we”, because this isn’t just me. It is my giant community of parents and caring adults who elevate the conversation every day among their groups of friends and family. You all help me to get people thinking. As you know, once you see this, you can’t unsee it.

And so it goes with me. I see it now, all of it. Pigtail Pals is no longer going to be “Pigtail Pals”. It can’t be. It has to be more.  

I had my daughter first, then my son. I have spent all my life as a girl, so it was easy for me to see and become passionate about girls’ issues. I had read several books about issues with boys, but it didn’t click with me like things did with girls. Until last summer. My son Benny was three years old, and we were at the park having a big playdate celebrating his successful potty training. Not long after we had arrived, a boy who was not with our group came up to my small son, put a plastic toy gun to his head, directly to his temple, and said “Boom! I just blew your f*cking brains out.” The other boy was six.

Benny didn’t understand what had happened, but his big sister did. I stood there in shock while Amelia marched up and read this kid the riot act. I went up to the boy and demanded his gun from him. He had four more stuffed in his shorts and socks. I told him to get the hell away from my kids. I was really disturbed by that incident. A friend I was with asked the boy’s mom to leave with her son, and then my friends and I sat and talked about raising boys. I was pretty quiet during that conversation. I just remember thinking, “Is this how it is? With boys?” Later that week I was out buying Benny some more big boy underwear (we call them “spanky pants”) and I couldn’t find anything that didn’t have a steroid-ridden super hero on it, skulls, guitars, or footballs. My kid was three. Where were the kites and ice cream cones? Or zoo animals. Hippo spanky pants would be pretty cool.

You all know Benny pretty well from the stories I share on the blog and facebook. He is a sweet boy. He loves his mama, reading, art, cooking, Angry Birds, and wrestling with our dog. Mud seems to have a magnetic pull on him, and he loves working on building projects and using tools. He loves the color pink and having his toes painted. He doesn’t really understand sports yet, but he plays a mean game of tag. 

I started paying more attention to what was being marketed to him and what I was buying for him. I realized unless it came from Pigtail Pals, all of his clothes were shades of blue, gray, or green. When he turned four years old, his party guests brought him paints, an Angry Birds tee, a dinosaur water sprayer, and a sprinkler. I was relieved there were no toy weapons. The other boys his age that he is friends with are all equally sweet. Then I think about the boys in Amelia’s kinder class. A lot of them have lost the sweetness. Several of them have been in trouble for violence at school. One has stuck his hand up a little girl’s skirt. Several of them have sworn in class, including dropping the F-bomb. These boys are all six years old. Six years old, and acting like miniature ill-behaved men. Where was boyhood?

Benny is sleeping next to me on the couch right as this moment. His tiny chest moving up and down under his mint green shirt. The other day we were shopping for his grandma’s Mother’s Day gift, and he was very intent on finding her “dee mose breautifrul ting” in the shop. I always want him searching for and finding beauty. And love.

I get asked about boys a lot, and tried to make a shift by developing the Curious Crickets line. I made sure the Full of Awesome designs had a design that would also work for boys. But let’s be honest – that really isn’t enough. I really don’t have a lot of references for parents of boys asking for a group like what Pigtail Pals is for boys. My go-to answer is always Achilles Effect. I started to feel like I was so focused on Amelia and girlhood, I had ignored, maybe willfully ignored, Benny and his boyhood. I just kept thinking, I have time, he’s just a baby. The kid is now four, time is up. I realized I had to get over some of my own stereotypes about men and being a male. Not having ever been one, it took me being the mother to a boy for a couple of years to get it.

I got it.

Pigtail Pals is now going to be known as “Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies: Childhood Inspired”. I can’t only fight for one side of childhood. Aren’t I the one who always says, “there is no girl side or boy side to childhood, there is just childhood?”  Yes, I am. And I was starting to feel like a hypocrite. Because everything I’ve been talking about with girls ALSO impacts boys. Sexualization. Body Image. Gender Stereotypes. Color Washing. Violence.

So everything is changing.

Actually, that’s being a bit overly dramatic, but it feels like a big change to me. Absolutely nothing is going to change with the work we do for girls. All of that is still going to happen. We’re just going to expand our focus to boys. Everything we’ve done for girls, we’ll now do for boys. The look of the store is going to change, the header on the blog will change. ALL of the designs in the shop will remain. We’ll add boys to the conversation on facebook. Mr. Pigtail Pals is going to start blogging for us, and I want to add the voices of more dads/men.

Pigtail Pals will always have our roots in the girl empowerment community. Truly, that is who I am, a champion of girls. But I am also the mother to a son. I need to act like it. Now I will fight for both of my children.

It is the right time to change. Here’s the new look, and I hope you stay with me as we continue on this journey towards a healthier childhood for our children. Our children have a right to chidhood. They’ll be teens soon enough, there’s no need to rush them there. Today they are our little boys and girls. 

Tomorrow I’m going to release a new line of designs that show boys and girls playing together. When’s the last time you saw that on a t-shirt?

But for today, I’d like to introduce Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies.

 

Happy Birthday Pigtail Pals! 2!

Creator of PtP Melissa, The Original Pigtial Pal Amelia, and Benny Boy

Two years ago today I took a giant leap of faith and pushed “publish” on my website. I had spent the two and a half years leading up to that moment raising my two very small children and becoming dismayed at how childhood, but specifically girlhood, had changed. I knew I had a really good idea for a simple line of t-shirts for girls, and there was really nothing else like on the market. The response to the shirts was immediate, and I spent the first year in business doing so many trunk shows that I can’t remember them all. People would shake my hand, hug me, thank me, tell me they got goosebumps from the message…

And you’re thinking, “From a t-shirt?”

Not just any t-shirt. A t-shirt carrying a message based on the principle that our daughters were being short changed, and this mama wasn’t willing to sell out her daughter’s girlhood. I knew our daughters deserved more. And I felt I could change the way we think about our girls.

Too much was missing from girlhood. Color, for one. But imagery being most important — astronauts, pilots, sailors, doctors, movie directors, pirates, dinosaurs, bugs…image that boys got, but not girls. If you looked at any clothing rack in a store today, our girls are being told they can grow up to be tiaras, cupcakes, lipsticks, butterflies, hearts, or ballerina slippers. Now take a look at what the boys are being told. 

A child’s first language is pictures, and the story my daughter was seeing only seemed to have one chapter.

That simply is unacceptable to me. I will not have it. Not for my daughter, not for yours. I created Pigtail Pals to be the change I wanted to see. And week after week after week, this little company continues to grow.

Since my launch I’ve had over 40,000 people visit the online boutique, and even more come join us on twitter, facebook, and the blog. I love having each and every one of you here. Even when we disagree with each other, we constantly learn from each other, and thus become better parents. At the end of the day, that is all that matters.

I hope you continue to enjoy our products, our blogs posts, and our discussions. Please let your friends and family know what we’re up to and how we’re shaking things up. Word of mouth is the single best way for a small business to grow.

Pigtail Pals believes it is the right of the child to have the years of childhood filled with a parade

of color, exploration, discovery, adventure, and play.

Paint puddle compliments of Benny Boy.

 PP has awakened me from the denial I had regarding the marketing targeted at my daughter. I now shop for her and entertain her with my EYES OPEN.   – Monica

Following PP has deepened my commitment to giving my children a true childhood full of joy and choices. It’s given me tools to teach media literacy. And it has allowed me to spread the word to friends and family who might otherwise never have thought about these issues.   – Robyn

I learned that there are parents out there with similar concerns. I no longer feel weird or overly sensitive. Pigtail Pals gives me the opportunity to share and learn about parenting strategies that appreciate and celebrate girlhood. Its been wonderfully uplifting and encouraging! Thank YOU!!   – Robin

I learned this week that I need to go find a big mud puddle for my girl to jump into with both feet. I might even jump in with her 🙂   -Sherri

PP is another tool in my goal to treat each child as an individual. I have boys, but I have a stepdaughter, and the things I see from/about girls scare me. I teach middle school, and see the attitudes of girls every day, and I strive to be the role model that they deserve.   -Kim

I had never really considered the effect of media and advertising on very young girls before meeting you.   -Jenn

I have learned to embrace and treasure my girl, Chloe, as she redefines girly each and every day!   -Jennie

PP has taught me to expose my children to all the beautiful colors of the rainbow…not just pink and blue.   -Stesha

I’ve learned to smile when my daughter plays in the mud or dirt. It doesn’t matter if other parents cringe or if she gets dirty; what matters is that she’s happy and it’s ok!   -Kimberly

To enjoy life with my 3 girls. From mud puddle jumping to playing with dolls and cars at the same time and to enjoy the royal wedding while teaching my children they don’t have to be dependent on a man.    –Kutrina

I’ve learned to think even more critically at “surface” comments and judgments. I’ve also learned to speak up when I see injustice — there’s power in doing so!   -Kelly

I’ve learned Amelia likes the ocean, thinks doctors should give doctor stickers, and that 5 different patterns do indeed look great together when worn by the right person.   -Debbie

I have learned that there are a lot of like minded mommas and little girls out there. I’ve been reminded that it’s important to think about issues and not push them under the rug of my own mind. I’ve been reminded that it’s so important to be honest with my daughter, have fun with my daughter, and enjoy her childhood. I need to answer her questions, protect her girlhood, and help give her great choices to pick from.   -Penny

I’ve learned that I am not the only one who things toy stores should have toys arranged by category, not by “pink” or “blue.”   -Julie

I have learned to let my husband buy my girls tools and racecars. He is very proud that Cora wants to go outside and run around with him while he works out in the yard and on the cars. Not every girl has to be perfectly skinny like the media tell us now days!   -Erika

I’ve learned that not only am I not alone in being driven to distraction by the obsessive hyper-gendering of our kids, but that there are tons of great resources out there with like-minded parents dedicated to fighting it.   -Emily

Add me to the list of those who has learned she’s not alone. I know quite a few people who think I’m over-reacting when I voice my concerns about marketing and options for clothing for little girls. So I love the articles and information posted here. I also love that there are so many people here who comment on those articles/information, so that I know there are others who share the same opinion.   -Dorothy

I’ve learned how to voice my concerns without sounding like a know it all or a crazy person.   -Sue

I have learned the importance of living the truth and being who you are…and having no fear doing it. I have learned that you have to be who you are no matter what people think you “should” be. I have learned that being a girl is about being a doctor, an astronaut, a scientist….or whatever else you want. I have been inspired by her free spirit and curious nature.   -Melissa

 I have learned to be more careful with my daughters regarding sexualizing girls. I pay attentions to the media they view and listen to and the products I buy for them because I want my girls to realize their female value is not determined by how short their skirt is.   -Tabi

My eyes have been opened by Pigtail Pals to sexualization of girls and gender biases. Before, I may have ignored or not even “heard” her say things like “soccer is for boys” (that was this morning), but instead we now have a conversation about it! Thank you for helping me and my girls!   -Laura

I’ve learned not to limit what my daughter can do. Honestly, I used to be a “princess” person. I wanted her to dress is pink, like princesses, and have tea parties. I have come to realize that would be limiting her and she deserves better. I love that she’s unique, has (and uses) her brain, and makes her own decisions.   -Trish

An Open Letter to TLC: Cancel Toddlers & Tiaras

Recent beauty pageant contestant. She is two years old.

Dear Producers of Toddlers & Tiaras, TLC, and Discovery Communications LLC:  

It is an extremely thin veil that hides the atrocious “Toddlers & Tiaras” as a documentary-style show for your network. For the past four seasons the show has done a good job, not so much with teaching, but of giving viewers a voyeuristic peek into the children’s beauty pageant world. We don’t need to see anymore. As Season 5 reaches its midpoint, the show now continues to do little more than become complicit in the exploitation of the little girls at its center. At best, it is now a mockumentary of the visibly unbalanced mothers (and a few fathers) who force their children to spend long and uncomfortable hours participating in these expensive pageants. Many of these children are too young to say whether or not they want to participate. When these children act out and demonstrate they do not enjoy what is happening, or do not want it to happen any longer, they are still made to participate by their pageant moms. Let us be clear from the outset that after this season it is time to cancel the show.  

I’m sure inside your producer heads you think this is crazy, especially as the show has received some buzz-worthy, controversial attention recently and continues to pull in advertisers and an average of 1.3 million viewers each week….but as your mission statements goes, it is the job of the Discovery channel family to satisfy curiosity. TLC has done its job with this show, as almost everyone who has been exposed to the program finds it distasteful and widely condemns the child beauty pageant circuit. Our curiosity has been satisfied – as demonstrated with the several thousands of negative and disapproving comments left in the last couple of weeks alone. We’ve seen it. We don’t like it. We’re over it.  

The idea of two year old girls strutting around with cones protruding out of her bustier and five year olds who sit trembling and screaming in a chair at a salon as she is enticed into a painful beauty treatment will tend to leave a bad taste in our mouth. It leaves us less interested in the pageants themselves, but more interested in gawking at and judging the deranged mothers who subject their poor daugthers to this twisted world of judged fake beauty. That might make for good ratings, but it doesn’t make for a happy and healthy childhood of the young girls who hold the title of this show. Just like their overbearing mothers, you exploit these children. A shameful act on both parts.  

The duration of this show has coincided with a large effort by a small group of dedicated experts to raise awareness to the general public about the sexualization of girls. The parents we have reached now understand the emotional, psychological, and physical harm a young girl is exposed to when she is sexualized.  As the 2007 American Psychological Association’s task force report showed us, early sexualization can lead to self-esteem issues, depression, eating disorders, and early promiscuity.  

Contestant on the children's beauty pageant circuit.

“Toddlers & Tiaras” is a petri dish of sexualization. Little girls are taught, often times forced by their domineering mothers, to act coquettishly, learn suggestive dance routines, wear sexualized costumes and bathing suits, endure hours of hair and make-up, and are even put on restrictive diets in order to lose weight for competition. This is perverse. While TLC continues to air “Toddlers & Tiaras”, the network becomes an agent of this sexualization.  

The toxic culture of the pageant world, the judging of beauty, is confusing to young children who have not yet reached the emotional-intellectual milestones of understanding reality and competition. These little girls become infantilized women as their parents and coaches do whatever it takes to win that crown and of course, the money. The time alone spent prepping for pageants robs girls of their childhood, time that should be spent learning and playing and socializing with friends. Teaching young girls a very narrow version of beauty, transforming their bodies so that their beauty can be measured and judged, or to use their sexualized bodies to earn money for the family is disgusting. I take great offense to this. When you add to this the chemically dangerous spray tans, butt glue, nail glue, eyelash glue, hairspray, and cosmetics applied to these tiny, developing bodies, it is not a stretch to say these pageant programs are both emotionally and physically abusive.  

The content of the show is reprehensible and the time has come to stop being a complicit entity to the unfair and unhealthy treatment of these little girls. Surely the world holds more intersting storylines than overdone, unhappy toddlers wearing hair pieces and sequined Vegas showgirl costumes while their obnoxious mothers puppet unimaginative talent routines as they pathetically live vicariously through their very young daughters.  

TLC and Discovery’s decision to not renew the show certainly won’t stop these families from exploiting their daugthers, but we don’t have to give audience to it. Please cancel “Toddlers & Tiaras”. 

Sincerely,  

Melissa Wardy  

owner, Pigtail Pals LLC  

 Its time we change the way we think about our girls.  

~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-  

Want to contact the show? Have at it:  

Producers: ToddlersTiarasCasting@authentictv.com  

Owners: Discovery Communications, LLC     Viewer Relations   1 Discovery Place, 5th Floor    Silver Spring, MD 20910  

Discovery Ethics Hotline: 1-800-398-6395

Get Out Of Their Way

Benny and Amelia at our beloved Milwaukee Public Museum.

I am snuggled between my kiddos, enjoying a gray and cold day nestled on the couch watching one of our “Land Before Time” movies. We’re resting after a busy, busy morning at the Rockford Children’s Museum. We met some good friends and enjoyed a couple of hours packed with science experiments, pretend play, water play, art projects, books, jumping and crawling, exploration, creativity, and make belive. 

And what I loved most? Not a single gender stereotype in any of the exhibits. Not in the vet clinic, not on the train locomotive. Not in the life size dollhouse, car repair garage, or farm exhibit. Not in any of the science component demos. That led to boys and girls of all ages running and toddling around, experiencing everything and experiencing it together. My son cared for a stuffed basset hound in the dog house while my daughter performed surgeries in the vet clinic. My daughter and her little friend changed the tire on the car up on the lift in the garage. My son fed the babies in the life size doll house and  watered the flowers in the window boxes. They all ran the locomotive, filled and refilled the coal bins, and sold tickets at the ticket booth. The girls drove the tractor in the corn harvestor simulator while the boys collected eggs in the chicken coop. They all enjoyed the art projects. They all enjoyed the science experiments. They all loved the snowboarding simulator, though on the green screen it looked less like snowboarding and more like they were being attacked by killer bees. 

Today marked the 13th or 14th trip to a museum of some kind for my family this year, and every single trip I notice that when boys and girls are in a space free of gender stereotypes or messages about gender roles, there are none reflected in their play. Both genders are super heroes. Both are servers in a restaurant, both care for babies and pets, both work on cars, both like to drive various vehicles. Both are interested in dinosaurs, bugs, and animals. Both make good doctors and are bossy when they run a grocery store. When we are in these places, free and open to exploration, that is exactly what I see take place. Let’s face it, kids can’t help themselves. If there is fun and discovery to be had, they are experts. It comes naturally to them, as it is how they learn about our world. 

But then my family returns to reality and we have to run an errand or choose to watch some tv, and there is a commercial or a toy aisle or clothing shelf that takes us right back to the sad reality that marketers have divided childhood into the boy side and girl side. It isn’t what I see through the eyes my children as I watch them devour the days of their childhood, but it is certainly what I see marketed to them. 

And I do not accept it. Not for my children, not for yours. 

I think we should just get out of their way and let them be children. 

This New Year, 2011, will bring some exciting changes to Pigtail Pals. We launch a second line in February that is a tribute to the make believe and imagination of our girls. We’ll be expanding our baby line and toys. Toys! We’ll really be focusing on media literacy and girl empowerment in our parenting. And we are furiously writing and writing as we (I) work to finish a book that will answer your questions, “How do I parent my girl despite all of this?”. 

2011 is our year, as parents, to tell the marketers and the corporations that we intend to raise media literate children, and that we want their childhood back. No more sexualization. No more gender stereotypes. 

2011 is our year to tell them, get out of the way and just let our kids be kids. They happen to be experts at it, when given the chance. 

What do you want to see or learn or have answered by Pigtail Pals in 2011? Do you have an issue or story you’d like to contribute as a guest post? What about an awesome product or book your family loves and you want us to share with our readers? What issues do you want us to focus on? If you ask for it, we’ll give it to you! 

~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~- 

**Note – You’ll often see me refer to “we” when talking about Pigtail Pals. The company and blog are run by one person, me, Melissa Wardy. But Pigtail Pals’ mission to Redefine Girly? That has been taken up by thousands of families in the almost two years we’ve been in business, and “I” becomes “we” as WE all work to make our daughters stronger. Thank you for joining us, WE are happy to have YOU here!**