I love being a grandmother. Have I mentioned this? i do. I get all the hugs. I get all the love. I get all the smiles, and I hardly ever have to change a diaper or be the disciplinarian. This is a great job.
So one of my granddaughters has just turned three, and we’re having the family birthday celebration this weekend. I can’t wait to give her my birthday present. When I was out in Colorado Springs, I got her an Air Force Academy cheerleader outfit. This is because she’s athletic (no surprise there if you knew her parents), and she loves girly-girl clothes. Oh, and because her grandfather, my late husband, was a graduate of the Air Force Academy. So I want her cheering for the right team.
I have the present already, so I just needed a card for her. I stopped into a store to pick up a card, and there were plenty of choices. In fact, there were plenty of choices for three-year-old girls, and three-year-old boys. That’s when I started to get angry.
The cards for three-year-old girls were all pink and glittery, and all focused and telling the little girls how pretty they were. The boy cards didn’t say “boy” anywhere on the cards – but said things like “you’re growing up so big, and strong, and smart.”
Um….why aren’t we telling this to the girls? Seriously? Why are we telling the boys that they’re big and strong, and all the girls get to be is pretty? Why don’t the boy cards say that they’re pretty? Or handsome? Why do we start feeding these stereotypes to kids when they’re THREE?!?
I’ve got nothing against girly-girls. Really. When I was little, I LOVED wearing pirouette dresses (if you’ve never had the pleasure of wearing a pirouette dress, this is a dress that, when you twirl around in it, the skirt lifts and floats around in a big circle), and white gloves. And I love dressing up now. I enjoy looking good. And womanly.
But when I was little, I also had the best collection of Matchbox Cars in my whole building. And a great electric train set. A loved playing with my dolls, and I loved playing one-on-one stick football with my Dad in the park.
I wasn’t a tomboy. I was a girl, through-and-through, who enjoyed doing a lot of different things.
There are studies that show that, because we keep telling little boys to try harder (try harder to behave, try harder to pay attention in school, etc.), and because we tell little girls to be good, or that they’re so good, later on as adults, men will keep working a problem (they try harder), and women will give up earlier if they don’t know the answer right away (we’re good, if we don’t know right away it must be because we can’t possibly know it, right?). What are we doing to kids?
I was lucky. I don’t think my Dad was intentionally trying to buck trends, I just think he didn’t know another way to play. I had the traditional girl toys, but I had the boy toys, too. I got to build things. I got to make the smoke come out of my train engine.
I already knew how to cook and sew (really, I did – I made my own pant suit in the fifth grade, and I was making home made bread by then, too), so in junior high, I was the only girl in my shop classes. I wore dresses every day. Because I didn’t want to be a boy, I just wanted to learn how to do the woodworking and make things out of metal. The boys tried to make fun of me. For a while. Until they saw my grades were better (well, 12-year-old girls often have an advantage in the patience department).
If my granddaughters want to play princess, then more power to them. I hope they feel like the most beautiful princesses in the world. But I want them to know that they can be powerful princesses. Strong princesses. Princesses who save the prince if they want to. Superhero princesses.
I don’t hate pink. But it shouldn’t be the only option. Engineers can wear pink. In fact, my 20-year-old, the engineering major, loves pink best. Firefighters can wear lipstick.
And if my granddaughters don’t want to be princesses – if they want to be Jedi knights, or the Incredible Hulk, or Spider Man in stylish shoes, then wonderful! That would be great.
The Pharaoh Hatshepsut was a woman. She depicted herself as Pharaoh – king – with a beard. She was all woman, but she embraced the role. She had power. We shouldn’t be afraid to claim our power. And we shouldn’t settle for what the stores push on us.
I got my granddaughter the boy card. The one that says how big, and strong, and smart she is now. It’s not just a message for boys. Oh – Hallmark? You might want to pay attention to this.
That’s my mite. It’s all I’ve got.