Send Me A Pic of You In Your Bra

I hope that when my daughter is old enough to be wearing bras and texting boys she is also mature enough to remember the personal brand her dad and I will help her build: Always remember your worth and remind others of it when reminding is needed.

My hope is that when she encounters a situation like this the voice in her head doesn’t say, “Oh! If I do this he’ll LIKE ME!”

Instead I hope her voice says, “My mama didn’t raise no fool. If he liked me he wouldn’t ask me to do this. More importantly, I like me and I’m not going to this.”

And then I really hope she pulls a stunt like this.

 

A great response to a sexting request.

A great response to a sexting request.

Your Place Or Mine? Big Words For A Little Girl

Last night Mr. Pigtail Pals and I took the kids to our county fair. One of their favorite spots is the corn pit (think sandbox but with corn kernels) so we chatted while sitting on a nearby hay bale while the kids swam and rolled around in eight inches of corn. He brought up a group of girls he had seen earlier in the night, and was disturbed by the clothes they were wearing. He said they were approximately 12 or 13 years old. He described their outfits: micro shorts and revealing t-shirts and tank tops. He said he noticed them when Amelia read one of the shirt logos out loud while they were standing by group, the shirt said “Your place or mine?”

“Those are big words for a little girl. Hope she understands the message that saying conveys.” -I said of the girl wearing the shirt.

“She didn’t even look old enough to babysit the kids, but was wearing that shirt. Her friend had on another one with an equally sexual message. It made me feel really sad for her. The thing that t-shirt said most loudly to me was that on first impression wearing something like that at that age, she didn’t have a lot of respect for herself. Why would you present yourself that way at a public event? If she were grown it would be a little different, but she looked like a child trying to be a woman. It was really disturbing, really out of place.What kind of guy is going to approach a twelve year old and hit on her so that she can ask ‘Your place or mine?’ Either one who is a predator or one who won’t respect her. Shouldn’t she be running around having fun with her friends and giggling about a cute boy or first kiss or something? Instead of offering one night stands with a t-shirt? It made me think of Amelia, five or six years from now, hanging out with her friends at the fair. That is just a few years away, but this group of girls made it feel like another world away,you know? It was shocking to see such young girls dressed like that. I think most of all, I just wanted to hug her and tell her she was worth more….I hope all this time you spend on the business, your book, I really hope parents wake up and take better care of their girls. That shirt seemed dangerous in a way…” -Mr. PP trailed off, and watched his little girl wearing a “Full of Awesome” tee dumping buckets of corn kernels on her little brother.

7yo Amelia playing in the corn pit, just five years younger than the girl wearing the "Your place or mine" t-shirt.

Are girls ready to leverage a “Your place or mine” comment at someone when they are in junior high? Do they have the social skills needed to navigate the world of sexual come ons and sexual experiences? Or are they biting off more than they can chew? At that age, isn’t “my place” their parent’s house? Would they have the means to obtain birth control, or even the knowledge to require their partner to use it? Are they wearing that kind of tee to be rebellious and a bad ass, or because they are desperate for external validation? Both? Is it an expression of sexual empowerment or self objectification? Is that shirt an expression of authentic, youthful sexuality or corporate sexualization?

When I was her age, I was hoping a boy would kiss my cheek at the top of the Ferris wheel and hold my hand. But that was during a time when young girls were allowed to stay young girls and not rushed into a faux version of adulthood in order to pad some corporation’s bottom line.

Girls Gone Hiking

Amelia and I went hiking in the woods the other day. We were familiar with part of the trail but we started our walk from a different trail head so when we approached the wooden bridge she likes to play on, she didn’t recognize it.
“That’s because you are approaching it from a different angle. It is like having new eyes,” I said to her.

When we were done throwing rocks into the creek we crossed the bridge and looked at a fork in the trail.
“Which way, Smalls?” I asked her, letting her be in charge of our expedition.
“Well, that way goes back to the other bridge, right? So where does that way go?” -Amelia
“I have a general idea but I have never been that way before. You don’t always have to know where you are going, you just have to remember where you started from.” -Me
“So then obviously that is our choice,” says Amelia, as she picks up her walking stick and heads down the new trail.
“Hey Smalls, where are you going?” I ask a few moments later as she veers off the trail onto a toe path that leads into the woods.
“Mom, there’s adventure, and then there’s ADVENTURE! Don’t worry, I have my adventure pack.” -Amelia

I can’t shelter her from all of the negative messages from the media and from marketers, but I can give her experiences that reaffirm she is smart, daring, and adventurous. I can show her how her body is strong, and how to take up space in this world. I can teach her that there are more important things in life than looking pretty. I can model for her how to redefine girly. I can help her shape her personal brand.  That way, when the marketers come with their toxic ads, insecurities, and sexist products, my little girl can look them dead in the eye and say, “Yeah, that really doesn’t work for me” and continue on down her own path.

Amelia exploring in the woods. She is standing on a little island in the creek we reached by crossing over an old door acting as a foot bridge.

On Being Six In A Sea of Sexy Dolls

Many times when I’m sharing discussions I have with 6yo Amelia as she and I work through our hyper-sexual culture, I tend to get a comment or two about she or I being judgmental towards other females. While I do very much think that is a valid concern, that is not what I am teaching my daughter.

I want to make very clear this is not about judging others, but rather this is about  interpreting and thinking critically about cultural messages to determine if they align with our family’s values. The focus is on us and our family, not the outside source. I ask her questions about how she would feel, how would she react if ______, what reaction would Dad and I have,  and what consequences might occur (being cold, being sent home from school for dressing inappropriately, not being dressed appropriately for the kind of event, etc).

I ask her to constantly challenge the body image, sexualization, and sexism she sees in the media. I do the same when we encounter racism, as those things simply do not align with how our family practices respect towards other people and ourselves.

I am walking a fine line of being sex positive while teaching Amelia to be empowered and respectful of herself and others. At the same time I am not teaching patriarchal ideas like modesty or slut shaming. We’re working on building a “personal brand” for her, so that she has a rock solid understanding of who she is and what decisions help reinforce or weaken that faith in herself. I’m teaching her that private parts stay private, and that putting them on display for public viewing is not empowerment. Later on down the road we’ll talk about attracting boys (or girls) with personality, friendship, and humor…..not shoving her boobs up to her chin and objectifying herself through actions and clothing. I think she is starting to view Barbie (some of them) and other dolls as sexually objectified (without having that vocabulary). Just like Santa Claus, that is a revelation I want her to come to on her own.

In the past two weeks in particular I can see her really sorting it out (thank you, NFL cheerleaders, for sparking that discussion). At the same time, I don’t want to introduce my six year old to the concept of “sexiness”, nor do I want to issue a blanket statement like “Those dolls are too sexy for you.” Whose idea of sexy? Not hers, I hope. I want Amelia to have the space to develop her OWN ideas and feelings about what that means, in her OWN time. That is was PPBB is all about.

Being sexy – feeling sexy – is great, and even super great when you are the right age for it and when it is defined on your own terms. Having “sexy” be a personality description as a young girl = not great. My daughter, whether she be six or sixteen or twenty six, is more than a collection of sexual body parts. Using sex appeal (or actual sex) as your calling card leaves a lot to be desired, and frankly, sells a girl or woman short of the whole person she could be, and be seen as.

Does Your Daughter Have A Personal Brand?

Does your daughter have a personal brand? I don’t mean her favorite store to shop at, I mean a trademark identity and personality that she leaves like a business card for the world to see. You know, global brand visibility…for your ten year old. Let me back up a step….

Jess Weiner's Actionist® Network brainstorms a new future.

This past weekend I hopped on a plane to Los Angeles to attend a brainstorming session hosted by the luminous Jess Weiner. I was incredibly excited to be part of what Jess called an “organic experiment” to determine if those leading the industry in empowerment and health for women and girls could form a collaborative community. Take a few dozen like minded men and women, inspired stories, amazing accomplishments, and a soaring energy level….you get a very emotional and creative day. Oh yeah, and Amy Poehler. Really.

While we want to keep the details of the discussion within the space it was held, I did want to share something I took away from the event. It brought me back to my days as a high schooler in Student Council. During junior high and high school I had opportunities to partake in leadership training camps and conferences that have served me well many years later. While I sat at my table listening to Jess, I remembered an experience I had as an 8th grader listening to a motivational speaker. (I think the presence of Super Teen Schmiddlebopper helped me recall those days with ease.) This speaker told a story about his high school reunion and the table he sat at among his old friends. Actually, he described two types of tables. Table A talked about all the amazing and crazy things they had done together. Table B’s conversation was a recollection of watching Table A do it all. The speaker then asked which table we would want to be sitting at 20 years from now.

In that moment, my brand was born.

I had been told by my parents all my life that I could do anything. My dad had me playing sports early and learning the stock market before I could write cursive. Hell, my mom was a Gifted and Talented Coordinator, which is like having Successories motivational poster as a parent. I grew up in affluent communities, one of which was home to the uber-brand conscious Kohler Company, an experience that could only be compared to living in a corporate Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average”. (Garrison Keillor)

I made the most of my high school years, my college years, and my 20’s. I didn’t have a lot of the insecurities a lot of girls have growing up because frankly, it didn’t occur to me to be obsessed about my thighs or my nose or the boy three lockers down. I was too busy doing my own thing, building my brand.

Of course, since the time I was fourteen and originally heard the high school reunion table metaphor, there have been a few re-branding initiatives. I am now in my early 30’s, a mother, business owner, and activist with a supportive husband and a passion to turn things around for a our girls and encourage them to take the world as their own. That is my trademark identity, and those who talk with me in real life or over social media know that my personality comes out in about 3 seconds flat.

During the weekend with Jess, one of the things we talked about was “personal brand”. This isn’t a stereotype or category to fit into. It means that success and achievement come from self-definition and self-packaging.

It means authenticity. Transparency. Knowing your target market. Adding value to your community. Creating a footprint. And, most important, Corporate Ethics.

How does this apply to your daughter? Or you, for that matter? Well, it means the same thing that Pigtail Pals’ mission of Redefine Girly means: Define for yourself who you will be in this world. One definition of ‘brand’ reads:

The recognition and perception of a brand is highly influenced by its visual presentation. A brand’s visual identity is the overall look of its communications.

What kind of visual presentation does your daughter give? I don’t mean her style of dress or if she has braces. I mean does she hold her head up and look people in the eye? Does she speak clearly and articulately? Does she know how to give a proper handshake and stand on her own to feet with confidence? These are the kind of things that will influence teachers, scholarship boards, college admissions, mentors, and job interviews.

What about the overall look of her communications? Does she have a supportive and dedicated group of friends? Is she a leader or does she let someone else carve a path for her to follow after? Does she repeat the Fat Talk she hears? Does she respect her body and treat herself in a healthy and caring way? Does she add value to her community? Is she creating her own footprint? How you communicate to your daughter, how she communicates with herself, and how she interacts with her world at young ages will determine how confidently she enters adolescence and adulthood.

What about her credo and corporate ethics? What kind of mission statement would she craft for herself? What is her passion and how does she honor that? Does she conduct herself in a way that shows respect both for herself and your family values and rules? Does she admit when she is wrong and take ownership of her mistakes? Often times life isn’t about being the smartest person in the room, it is about being the most authentic. Authenticity is like a muscle that needs constant strengthening and conditioning — your daughter needs to be taught to be faithful to herself. Always.

Kids are capable of a lot. A lot. Probably more than we give them credit for. If your daughter is very young, engage her with the tools and experiences necessary to create a strong sense of self and a powerful personal brand. If your daughter is a bit older, talk to her about some of the things listed above. A solid handshake, grounded self-esteem, and a core sense of ethics might just be the greatest gifts you can bestow upon your girl.

Jess Weiner and Dr. Robyn Silverman

And Mamas, gut check. Do you need a revamp your personal brand? If so, consider the questions above. Join Jess Weiner’s Actionist® Network for more great inspiration. Click here for info.

{Great post here by Dr. Robyn Silverman and weekend attendee about creating a Confidence Community™ for you and your kids}

Actionists® gather with Jess Weiner

Beautiful Actionists® come together to share and inspire.