It Is Not About the T-shirt

Walk with me, now, and see the forest through the trees.

The JC Penney T-shirt Gate is actually not about a t-shirt. Kind of like the Holy Roman Empire being neither holy nor Roman. Confusing, I know.

This entire viral uproar is over parents and other concerned individuals being sick and tired of  the pervasive message marketed everywhere to our daughters that being pretty and obsessed with boys and shopping (maybe cupcakes and puppies as Anderson Cooper points out) is what being a girl is all about. It has come to define girlhood, and nearly every product made for them. Walk through any clothing department or toy aisle — what messages do you see for girls? What messages do you see for boys? It is gender apartheid, and our daugthers ended up with the short end of the stick.

I call bullshit. While JC Penney took one shirt down, as I said on Tuesday night, they’ve got another dozen that continue to sell girls short. A JC Penney juniors buyer purchased these shirts, in dozens of styles, from a manufacturer; another employee wrote the offensive and sexist online product descriptions. This doesn’t seem to be a one-time mistake. This seems to be a pattern of selling girls short. I don’t see the funny.

Pigtail Pals has been here since 2009 fighting to put better products and messages in the marketplace for girls. We’ve been blogging and directing an amazing Parent Community to fight for our kids. And we’re not about to change our message. 

We created a tee in direct response to the garbage at JC Penney. It is selling like wildfire. And it ought to, because pretty’s got nothing to do with it.

I’d like to see the media focus on THIS tee, instead of the one at JC Penney. We need to change the way we think about our girls.

Pigtail Pals new tee, available on eight colors 3T - Ladies.


I also want to set the the record straight for clothing label Self Esteem, owned by All Access Apparel, who unfortunately was brought into this by media and bloggers who did not check their facts. The LA clothing company Self Esteem is NOT the manufacturer of the tees in question.

Unfortunately, no one at Self Esteem was ever contacted to confirm that they indeed were the manufacturer of the T-shirt. The company was associated with the shirt because they were grouped on the JCPenney website where the ‘Too Pretty’ shirt was displayed.

“This huge oversight on the part of the media and concerned mothers has caused our company’s name to be defamed not only with one of our largest customers, JCPenney, but with our entire customer base,” said President of Self Esteem Richard Clareman. “We have always and will continue to promote positive messages to young girls.”

Pretty’s Got Nothing To Do With It

Tomorrow I send my child to her first day of school. Her first day of kindergarten. Her first day of formal education in a public school with years and years and years of learning to follow.

So I’ll ask you kindly to get out of her way, JC Penney. You too, Orbeez and Skechers. Mattel and your Monster High, we’ve already had words.

My daughter will not be sent to school with the message from her parents that she is inadequate. She will not be taught that she is incapable of learning, and mastering, what is taught to her at school. She will not be treated as though she were delicate. Tea cups are delicate, girls are not. She will not be encouraged, at the tender age of five, to be “flirty” or “sugarlicious”. Over my dead body will I give her the message that her beauty is her worth, or that at the age of five, she should be sexually objectifying herself. I take great issue with that notion, and it burns me to the core.

So this crap? Will NOT be coming into my home. Will NOT be poisoning my daughter’s self-image. Will NOT be teaching my son to sell girls short.  Stop selling shitty messages to my kids.


Exhibit A: JC Penney ‘self-esteem’ tee Too Pretty to do Homework

JC Penny thinks girls are too pretty to do homework.

Despite the direct contradiction to their charity Pennies From Heaven, this shirt teaches girls to expect very little from themselves, that their looks supercede their intellect, and that ‘being pretty’ will get you by. Pretty’s got nothing to do with school. Oh, and that little notion that the academic work should be left to the boys. In 2011, we are teaching the grand daughters of the Women’s Lib movement to forsake their education and have their looks be their main focus.

You can petition JC Penney and their shitty shirt right HERE. Even if they pull this shirt, they’ve got another dozen just like it.

So don’t buy it, right? It is just one shirt. Right?

Wrong. WRONG.

It is the culture of consumer beauty and self-objectified sex surrounding our girls that drips right off a script page from a Kardashian-esque reality tv show. The message that beauty and sexiness measure a woman’s worth, and that one can never be too young to focus on these things.

Exhibit B: Orbeez Soothing Spa with magic rainbow de-stressing beads, for that stressed-out 11yo in your life. Because, OMG, school is just like soooooo freaking hard! You can watch the commercial HERE.

Orbeez wants you to know that school is hard!


Orbeez wants you to know that foot spas help your hurting brain from all that learning!

Who needs hard things, like learning, when you can relax at the spa and work on your pretty. How I went through my entire girlhood in the absense of spa products and services usually reserved for adult women of a certain income and lifestyle, I’ll never know.

Learning hurts! Pretty is fun!


Exhibit C: Mattel Monster High Monster Mash backpackbecause prostitute-chic NEVER goes out of style for the under-10 set, and when sending our daughters to school, who doesn’t want them to aim to be a Hollywood Boulevard hooker?

Now your favorite friendly prostitutes can go with you to school! Whee!

Exhibit D: Skechers Flirty Flutters and Sugarlicious sneakers. I actually love me some Twinkle Toes, I blame my inner Lisa Frank. My daughter is jonesing for a pair, big time. But me thinks that shoes available in ‘pre-school and gradeschool’ sizes don’t need the words “flirty” in there….and ‘Sugarlicious’ sounds like sex lotion or a dancer at Girlz Girlz Girlz. Just sayin.

I like the sparkle. Don't like sexual innuendo on my little daughter's feet.


Pre-schoolers and Gradschoolers do NOT need to be 'flirty'.


Anyhoo….let’s change the way we think about our girls. Let’s do better. They deserve it.


Update: Make sure to check out our NEW TEE created in response to the JC Penney tee. It is selling like wildfire! Let’s all build girls up, not sell them short.

Pigtail Pals created a new tee, availabe in eight colors sizes 3T - Ladies.

A Letter to Bella, and Other Girls With Blue Shoes

Bella and her blue shoes.

Dear Bella,

Your mom told me all about your awesome blue shoes. I like blue. My little girl, Amelia, she loves blue because it is the color of the ocean. But if you asked her, she would tell you her favorite color is rainbow. Rainbows are so nice because they include all of the colors.

I heard from your mom that someone at school said your shoes were for boys. Maybe because they were blue or maybe because Buzz Lightyear was on them. At our house, we say, “Colors are for everyone.” Sometimes people get mixed up about that because they don’t think about it very hard. That makes me feel frustrated. All you have to do is look around the world and know that colors are for everyone.

But Bella, isn’t that silly! How could your blue Buzz Lightyear shoes be for boys if colors are for everyone and Buzz Lightyear is from a movie made for all kids and you are a girl standing in those shoes! I think people get confused about that, because they think something is only for boys because they never took the time to consider girls. I think people should consider girls.

Since you are four years old, you know a lot of stuff, and you know that girls can like or do anything boys can. And boys can like or do anything girls can. Things are kind of silly right now because grown ups keep getting in the way of kids, and some grown ups who are in charge of the companies that make stuff for kids like toys and clothes, they don’t have good imaginations like you and I do. These grown ups try to fit kids into little boxes that are labeled “Boy” or “Girl”, and then they only let certain colors or ideas into each box. They do that because it makes it easier for them to sell their stuff. Since boys and girls don’t grow in boxes, you can see how really goofy this is. But I have to be honest with you, there are a lot of grown ups who don’t question these pink and blue boxes, and then they teach that thinking to their kids, and then their kids lose their imaginations. Those are the kinds of kids who say stuff to you at school about your blue shoes.

Bella, your blue shoes are double scoop awesome, it is just that people have lost their imaginations. Little girls like you, with sparks in their eyes and fires in their hearts, you challenge what they think and expect from girls and they don’t know what to do. You make people think harder and that scares them.

The thing is, Little Girlfriend, that people have become so narrow-minded about what girls can do or what girls can like that real girls like you and like my Amelia don’t fit into their little pink boxes. You pop right out of them. Rip them at the corners. Knock the top right off.

And you should. There is nothing in this world that is off limits to you. There is no space nor dream nor challenge that you can’t conquer. There is no set of rules you must follow, no appropriate way to act. There is no person who holds the right to tell you what to think. You, Bella, are the great-great-granddaughter of a generation of women who fought like heroes to make sure there were no more pink boxes to stuff little girls into. Somewhere along the way, we forgot those lessons and grown ups let things get messed up.

Bella with your blue shoes, we really need girls like  you. We need you to remind people what real little girls are like. We need you to remind people that little girls can do anything. I’ll tell you a secret, and you can tell your mom, but I think if grown ups got out of the way of little girls, little girls would have the space to become so amazing and so powerful the Earth would shake right to it’s core and when the ground moves, all those people who lost their imaginations would fall right over.

So Kiddo, next time someone says something to you about something you like, or a color you are wearing, or what you look like, just politely remind them they have lost their imaginations. Rude comments will come your way and you just need to brush them away like a bothersome fly. The problem is not you, the problem is them and the limitations they do not challenge.

In fact, take a look at all of these girls, just like you, proving them wrong. Take a look at these girls, because you fit right in. You fit right in.

Make the ground shake, Baby Girl.

Love, Melissa.


Darlings, Time Travel With Me

“I’m having trouble logging into the family access to pay registration. Can you help?” -Me

“Are you the head of the household?” -School Secretary

“I believe so.” -Me

“Are you married?” -School Secretary

“Yes.” -Me

“Then your husband is the head of the household. He will have to call in for the password.” -School Secretary

“How’s that?” -Me

“He is the head of your family. He will have to call in for the log in info.” -School Secretary

“Why can you not give me the info? I’m the one who handles this stuff for our family.” -Me

“Most of the moms do, but we can only give the access information to the head of the household.” -School Secretary

“And by default, it is assumed the man is the head of the household?” -Me

“Yes.” -School Secretary

“Why?” -Me

“Well, that’s just the way it is. Your husband will have to call in.” -School Secretary

“No, Ma’am. I gave birth to and nursed this family. I care for this family 24 hours a day for five years and counting. I cook, clean, launder, shop, organize, chauffeur, correspond, and bank for this family. I schedule doctor, dentist, vet, and home repair appointments for this family. I educate, enrich, plan travel and holidays, and provide for this family. My husband sits in an office for 10 hours a day. My husband will not be calling in because he does not head this household. Let me assure you, I run this joint. Now what’s the password, please.” -Me

The Feminist Mom and the Princess Party

A guest post, by Dana Hernandez.

Dana's daughter desires a princess party.

“Mommy, I want to have a princess party this year for my birthday.”

Suddenly the air was sucked out of the room and I waited for the oxygen masks to deploy from the ceiling as the living room nose-dived.

“What?” I coughed out, wide-eyed to my 4-year-old daughter.

“A princess party!” she smiled, cheekily. “And I can dress up as a princess for Halloween!” She took off in a happy spin as I plummet to the soon-to-be-memorial ground below us. 

Welcome to my surprising life as a stay-at-home mother of two daughters, who is grasping at the label “feminist” with all her might. I thought my role as the Coordinator for the SPARKteam, which stands for Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, and Knowledge, provided me with a shield that protects against anything that is sexualized, pink, princessy, and stereotypical for girls. I was wrong. Really, really wrong.

Let me introduce you to my 4-year-old. She’s the oldest and most graceful of my daughters, with beautiful long, curly locks that bounce down her back. She loves wearing her black tennis shoes, running through mud puddles, playing with cars (especially Lightening McQueen), soccer, swimming, watching baseball,  and drawing. Oh, and she wants to be a princess when she grows up. (Yes, I am clawing at the oxygen masks and the under-the-seat life preservers as I gasp for air.)

Now, I know she is too young to read our blogs at Spark Summit that battle against the sexualization of girls and counter the whole princess-movement for children. I also haven’t read her the Holy Grail of parenting books, “Packaging Girlhood” at bedtime either. And she’s too young for programs at the city non-profit Hardy Girls Healthy Women that I work for.  (Not much longer, I’m sure, once they see me hosting a fucking princess party.)

“She is so pretty,” is the most-often heard compliment I hear about my first-born. And yes, she is. Very. Much prettier than I was or ever will be. She reminds me of “Missy,” the most popular girl in my high school class that had the perfect curly hair and the just-right clothes. You know, the one I was taught to dislike because she was so perfect.

Let me make this clear as I brace for impact: I do not own one princess movie. My daughters’ favorite movie is Cars and there are more matchbox cars, books, and musical instruments than any other toys in our home. I admit, we do own various Tinkerbell fairies and her fairy friends. (Yes, Tinkerbell has lots of skinny, perfect looking friends, too, with perfect hair. Don’t hate.) But, each fairy has a talent and show bravery and courage at various times throughout the films. I also believe it teaches girls about friendship and forgiveness. So where in the hell is this princess shit coming from?

Get this: A book. One stinking old princess book in a huge box full of books on Craigslist that we bought for $10. It’s like giving Kool-Aid to a baby and expecting her not to like it. Seriously, one look at that dress, that damn carriage, and the dancing with the prince at the end and suddenly everything changed. It’s as if Disney created the brainwashing technique for the United States military. Who can battle a singing mermaid, a fairy godmother, a prince, and a beautiful blue dress with glass slippers?

I never called myself a real feminist before my work with SPARK. I mean, I chose to be a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. I believed that real F-cards were handed out to career-or-nothing-types, until I discovered feminists who taught me about real feminism.

SPARKteam Blogger Stephanie Cole said it best in “The Loaded F-Word” when she redefines a feminist as someone who “keeps an open mind, and tries to always be aware of patriarchy and sexism wherever it occurs. She or he also tries to educate others who are unaware, as well as speak up and take action against inequality.

And my friend Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown, co-founder of Hardy Girls Healthy Women, put me in my place when I questioned if I could be kicked out of the feminist club for allowing my house to become a pink castle. “Feminism gets a bad rap as being one very strict thing, when there are so many ways people are feminists,” Brown said. “My feminism is one that doesn’t turn people away from the honest struggle you are having.”

But, how can I be a feminist and a stay-at-home mother at the same time? Especially when I have failed in the princess debacle?! The answer is simple for me. I follow my gut. I was once on a path to save the world as a high school teacher. Yet, everything changed once I met my daughter. Everything. I left my career as a teacher and moved across the country with my husband to become a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. (Full disclosure, I suck at the homemaking part, but I’m a damn good mom.) Two years later, I had daughter #2–an identical piece of sass with curls.

It was a gutsy move and the best decision my husband and I ever made. I honor the fact that we’ve bloodily scraped by on a one-salary income so I can host play dates, kiss boos-boos, find blankeys, and read stories at naptimes. The monotony of my days is often monstrous and hard.  Though it’s not for everyone, I know it’s something I will always treasure..(Seriously, I don’t really know how “working moms” do their jobs either.)

I have activism in my blood. When I look deep enough, my feminism and my loathing of inequality has always been there. Am I political? Yes. Opinionated? Yes. Strong-willed? Yes. (My husband would say “Hell YES.”) I feel feminism is inherently found in the voice of a mother raising her children, too. I am fighting so hard for my girls to be strong, focused, secure, loving, and determined young women. I abhor a media that labels my girls “tom boys” because they love a good play in the mud or cars.

Real feminism is about choice, right? The choice for me to instill in my girls and others how powerful their lives can be, even if they choose to be stay-at-home moms who let their daughters dress as princesses.

“Why do you want a princess party?” I later asked, when I felt the crash landing had aborted.

“Because I want to be a princess,” she answered.

I shrugged, “But what do they doooo that you like?” I asked, drawing out the verb and trying to crack the code.  My daughter shrugged, “They’re princesses, Mommy! They wear those dresses and are pretty. Do you like princesses, Mommy?”

I think she already knew the answer… “I think they’re kind of boring. They don’t run and play sports, have fun or draw like you do.”

“Then I can be your princess, Mommy,” she said with the biggest smile in the whole wide world. “I can be all of it.”

Yes, she can.

I learned four lessons today: First, I have no idea what I am doing. Second, I am doing a pretty damn good job at it. Third, I just may be hosting a “You-Can-Be-It-All” Princess/Cars party in my future .

And last, my daughter is one awesome princess.

And yes, I am a feminist.

 -Dana Hernandez is a feminist, a stay-at-home mama to two, writer, activist, and SPARKteam Coordinator for SPARK Summit.

Power Reading! Perfect for a Princess!

That’s right, kiddies! Step on up, come see the vast book selection at Scholastic! Do you want adventure, action, powerful careers, and brain play? Well then, have we got the book for you…..

Oh, no, not you Sweetie. So sorry, you misunderstood. That’s okay, Sugar. Look here, see the pretty princess books in pink? See how everything is so pretty? And pink? See the glitter and sparkles? Sparkles, Sweetie, sparkles!


Anyway, that’s the conversation I have with myself when I look through the Scholastic book orders that come home with my preschooler. I still buy a few every month, but I gotta be honest with you, my patience is running very thin.

More on this to come….but you tell me, what is Scholastic really selling to our kids?


Have Yourself A Very Sexist Holiday

As we enter the holiday season, the inevitable toy catalogs begin arriving on our doormats. Most of the celebrations this time of year involve some form of gift giving, and if you have kiddos, that means t-o-y-s. Toys, toys, and more toys! I have a 2.5 year old boy and 4.5 year old girl and I needed Christmas present ideas, so against my better judgement I picked up three of the catalogs from major retailers in my town to look through the offerings. We don’t watch tv channels that have commercials with the kids, so I wasn’t up-to-date on the latest and greatest from the toy manufacturers. I flipped page after page, bracing myself for what I knew would be pink and blue and pink and blue. Taken one toy at a time, things wouldn’t seem so bad….but when I had four catalogs side by side, and when I had all the pieces of the proverbial puzzle together….   

…my head exploded. Literally, right off the top of my neck. I know I talk about media literacy and sexualization for a living, but what I was seeing was unreal, unthinkable in 2010, and limiting beyond measure.   

I have pretty strong feelings about childhood being a time of rich play, imagination, and exploration. For both genders. Childhood should be feast of color and creativity and movement. I find it wildly offensive that as I looked through these catalogs, color, movement, type of play, and learning were all predetermined according to gender. A child does not need to be reminded of gender every time he or she picks up or looks at a toy. What I had spread out before me was approximately 160 pages of gender stereotype after gender stereotype, and all of it being sold by mainstream retailers because it is our status quo.   

As I looked through these catalogs, I saw zero boys nuturing dolls or pets, or playing with toys that encouraged fashion sense or manscaping. I saw zero girls constructing or destructing anything, moving vehicles, or holding weapons or sports equipment. Our kids, as young as preschool ages, were being sold extremely narrow definitions of gender roles.   

I refuse to accept the status quo. As you read through the numbers below and view the photos from the catalogs, replace “gender stereotype” with “racial” or “religious” stereotype and see if you think an ENTIRE industry marketed to children should stand on limiting and binary ideals.   

I want you to see what I saw. So here’s what I did – I tallied the number of kids in each catalog (Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us), then the number of boys and number of girls, I counted how many were doing gender-specific things, and how many were doing unisex or non-traditional gender things. I looked at main color themes and main activity themes. Main themes and gender-normal toys be marketed to boys were: vehicles, fighting/sports/weapons, and construction. Main themes and gender-normal toys being sold to girls were: fashion/beauty, pet/baby care, and cooking. The proof of the pudding is in the eating….   

(Note: When I refer to “gender-biased” and “non-tradional” toys – I am referring to norms given by the toy industry.)   

First up: TOYS R US

Total Number of Pages 80
Total Number of Kids Photographed 185
Total Number of Boys 97
Total Number of Girls 88
Images of Boys & Girls playing together 11
(Of 97) Boys Playing w/ Gender-Biased Toys 87 (vehicles, superheroes, sports/weapons, construction)
(Of 97) Boys Playing w/ Non-traditional Gender Toys 0
(Of 97) Boys Playing w/ Unisex Toys 10 (piano, map, art easel, play kitchen, outdoor toys)
(Of 88) Girls Playing w/ Gender-Biased Toys 84
(Of 88) Girls Playing w/ Non-traditional Gender Toys 3 (telescope, skateboard, guitar)
(Of 88) Girls Playing w/ Unisex Toys 10
3 Main color Themes for Girls Pink, purple, aqua
3 Main color Themes for Boys Blue, gray, green
3 Main Activity Themes for Girls Beauty/fashion, cooking, baby care
3 Main Activity Themes for Boys Vehicles, construction, fighting


Images from Toys R Us holiday catalog. Click to enlarge photo.

 Things to note in this photo:
Girls are focused on caring for other things, like pets and babies.  Boys had zero toys that demonstrated caring for something.
Girls are focused on activities centered around physical appearance, like the fashion wardrobe or mermaid beauty vanity, yet there were zero equivalent toys for boys.
Girls toys come in very few color options and contain zero primary colors.
Girls are all virtually sitting in one place and playing quietly.
Boys have large, loud movements while playing. They move things! Make thing! Experiment!
Boys toys have zero focus on attracting members of opposite sex.

More images from Toys R Us. Click to enlarge.

 Things to note in this photo: 

Of 88 girls featured, here are the 4 doing non-traditional gender things: guitar, ball, telescope, skateboarding. 4 of 88. (Do love that the guitar girl is getting her hair messed up, and the skateboarding girl is probably getting sweaty.)   

Notice the kitchen set in the middle of the page? The boy’s kitchen has blue trim, and the little fella is managing to make himself a piece of toast. Enlarge the photo and look at the girl’s kitchen – pink trim, pots on the stove, and she’s feeding a baby. The boy’s kitchen doesn’t even have a space for the baby.   

On the right side of the pic – notice how different the boy’s dress up and girl’s dress up is. Tough and ready for action! vs. tulle and petticoats to sit at tea. Every girl featured in dress up clothes was wearing some sort of giant princess dress, with zero other options.   

Also on the right – pay BIG attention to the types of body frames – huge muscles for boys, and ultra-skinny with giant heads for girls.   



Next up: Walmart

Total Number of Pages 53
Total Number of Kids Photographed 58
Total Number of Boys 32
Total Number of Girls 26
Images of Boys & Girls playing together 2
(Of 32) Boys Playing w/ Gender-Biased Toys 31
(Of 32) Boys Playing w/ Non-traditional Gender Toys 0
(Of 32) Boys Playing w/ Unisex Toys 1 (cooking in a blue kitchen)
(Of 26) Girls Playing w/ Gender-Biased Toys 20
(Of 26) Girls Playing w/ Non-traditional Gender Toys 1 (robot)
(Of 26) Girls Playing w/ Unisex Toys 5 (farm, computer reader, scooter, ride on car)
3 Main color Themes for Girls Pink, purple, aqua
3 Main color Themes for Boys Red, black, blue
3 Main Activity Themes for Girls Fashion, pet cars, babies
3 Main Activity Themes for Boys Fighting/heroes, vehicles, games


Images from Walmart catalog. Click to enlarge.

 Things to note in this photo:   

Boys are taking over, building and moving things, and loudly playing with their worlds.   

Girls are playing sweetly and quietly prepare meals and stir some kind of batter.   

Girls focus on fashion dolls with impossible body proportions.   

Girls are never shown with weapons or sporting equipment.   

Images from Walmart catalog. Click to enlarge.

 Things to note in this photos:   

Barbie-looking girls drive pink/purple Barbie car. The only ride-on cars girls were shown driving were pink and/or purple.   

In the black ride-on car at top-middle, at first it looks as though the girl is in the driver’s seat. Now note which side the steering wheel is on.   

Love the pic of the girl playing with the primary colored robot!  

ALL Toy Story products in ALL three mags were marketed ONLY to boys.   

Note the Table of Contents – childhood divided into the boy side and girl side.   

The lower right hand picture drove me insane: Girl sits on her princess couch cheering on what is a cartoon elf shooting the basketball. Heaven forbid we put the ball in HER hands and let her take a shot.     


Finally: Target

Total Number of Pages 44
Total Number of Kids Photographed 61
Total Number of Boys 36
Total Number of Girls 25
Images of Boys & Girls playing together 2
(Of 36) Boys Playing w/ Gender-Biased Toys 33
(Of 36) Boys Playing w/ Non-traditional Gender Toys 0
(Of 36) Boys Playing w/ Unisex Toys 3 (play kitchen, computers, bikes)
(Of 25) Girls Playing w/ Gender-Biased Toys 20
(Of 25) Girls Playing w/ Non-traditional Gender Toys 0
(Of 25) Girls Playing w/ Unisex Toys 5 (Imaginext Big Foot, scooter, Wii Soccer, Leap Frog computer, bikes)
3 Main color Themes for Girls Pink, purple, aqua
3 Main color Themes for Boys Dark blue, orange, red
3 Main Activity Themes for Girls fashion/beauty, cooking, babies
3 Main Activity Themes for Boys Vehicles, sports, fighting/super hero toys

Images from Target catalog. Click to enlarge.

 Things to note in this photo:   

Girls play with kitchens or tiny little houses that keep them quiet and sitting still.   

Girls dolls are focused on fashion and hyperfeminine attributes.   

Girls dolls all have SAME body size – which would be unattainable for a human with organs or a neck less than 20some inches thick to support those giant, giant heads.   

Boys build things!   

Boys move things!   

Boys fight!   

Boy toys have primary colors.   

Girls toys are overwhelmingly pink, purple, and aqua.   


 These are the toys and messages available to you and yours this holiday season. I’ll show you a post next week that has my family mixing things up a little bit. Santa will be bringing my girl a cloth doll, a dolphin trainer doll, a marine biologist doll, a collection of baby sea animals, a stuffed dolphin, and Legos (primary colors). My boy will be getting Toy Story, a cloth doll, a stuffed cat, a tea set, and wooden train cars and tracks. Both kids will be getting puzzles, games, coloring books/art supplies, and story books. I refuse to accept the stereotypes being sold to my kids. I damn sure won’t be teaching them to my kids.   

Toys and playtime in my house look a WHOLE LOT like this, from One Step Ahead:  

At One Step Ahead, boys and girls play together. Boys have dolls and girls conduct trains. Science and sports are for both genders. THIS is what childhood should look like!

An Open Letter to the Medical Community: Be. Smarter.

Dear Pediatricians of America -

I bring my children to you so that I may utilize your medical knowledge and training for the safe keeping and well being of their tiny, precious bodies with which I have been gracefully entrusted. My boy and my girl are unique, creative, whole beings with a hunger for learning and a dynamic approach to life that leaves me simultaneously invigorated and exhausted .

My children are perhaps no more amazing than my neighbor’s children, but I find them remarkable. Which is why I need you to be smarter when you talk to them. I need you to think creatively and spontaneously and like a little person would. You are, after all, in the business of little people. I’m sure somewhere along the years of your extensive education, you would have dedicated a few hours of study to the social and emotional development of children, specifically preschoolers. You would then understand what is age appropriate, and what is not.

You would understand why my head exploded when my four year old daughter was greeted in this manner by a doctor today:

“Hi, I’m Doctor Blahblah. Are you in school? Do you have a boyfriend?”

She looks at him stunned, but does not answer.

“Do you at least have an ugly boyfriend?” the Doctor asks.

“No, I go to school to learn.” Stated articulately and matter of factly by a four year old to a doctor in his sixties.

I bit my tongue. My preschooler said what needed to be said, in that moment. Now I have something to say.

A girl has more to offer this world than her beauty. A girl has greater things to achieve than the status of having a boyfriend. Even if it is just an ugly boy (at least should she be able to manage that, right?).  A GIRL’S WORTH DOES NOT COME FROM MEN. A girl has greater, more fantastical dreams than that of becoming someone’s girlfriend. A girl should be allowed to spend her girlhood unconcerned about boys and romance. Certainly, at the preschool age, developmentally this is not even on my child’s radar, as she is sent to school to learn and make friends and figure out how scissors work. She goes to school not to attract members of the opposite sex, but to build the foundation of what will become her learning career and foster an intellect I can surmise will be greater than your own. When speaking to a girl, as an educated adult, you have the social responsibility to build her UP. Aside from the remark being sexist, sexualized, irreverant, it undermined all of the amazing things my daughter is capable of and interested in. But she wasn’t asked about any of that. She was asked if anyone had found her attractive enough to make her their girlfriend. At the age of four.

As a doctor, you hold a position of trust and respect from both the parent and the child. You are the keeper of their health, a vested partner in their growth and healthy development. This includes my daughter’s sexuality, which I don’t need you messing with. Whether she is four of fourteen, the first question you ask her should not be her current status of boyfriend/no boyfriend, because then you make her an object. Someone else’s possession. You place upon her heteronormative stereotypes, social pressures, and pieces of the beauty myth. You ask her to think about things she is not developmentally ready for, thus sexualizing her. You’ve asked her nothing of herself. Her amazing, vibrant, shining, talented self. I find ALL of this unacceptable.

So next time you speak to my daughter – my wild creature with light in her eyes, who is obsessed with science and loves the color blue and will break down every gender stereotype you throw her way – next time use your damn head. Ask her something about herself – How old are you? Know any good jokes? What is your favorite color? Why is blue your favorite color? Why do you think your baby brother is using his head to push the stool across the room? Did you see the funny poster of the babies in the flower pots? What did you do today? How high can you jump? What is your favorite toy to play with? Did you make an art project in school today? What kind of silly things do you do with your family? What things do you do with your friends? Can I hear you count to 25? Can you touch your nose and rub your tummy? What is the funniest thing you saw today? Have you been growing? How fast can you hop on one foot? What is your favorite animal?

See, that wasn’t hard. You’re a doctor, afterall. Be smarter than my four year old.


Melissa A. Wardy