Monday, August 15, 2011

keep the pumpkin prince charming, i'll take my broom

it never ends. being any brand of smart, strong, independent woman in this country is like constantly swimming upstream. even if you've bucked the trend and have somehow come away with a strong sense of self with only whispers of inadequacy, you still end up living in this culture of "you look aaaadorable daaaarling". it's frustrating enough even after you've figured out how to maneuver it; and then you have a daughter. you hope she likes a different color then pink. well i did and mine does, she's a green baby she likes to say (phew). the problem is this whole world is out there trying to dumb her down, teaching her looks are more important then thoughts, boys are more able then girls.

what got me worked up about this now, today? well a simple dress up toy. melissa and doug's magnetic dress up to be precise. both my son and daughter got one a few years back, and then her another. but as she is now 3 it's just started to be played with seriously. the boy one has fireman, superhero, knight, policeman options. the girl one has clothing, all colors, shoes, bows, flowers hearts... you get the idea. one is career oriented, the other; just a wardrobe. there's a few out there and i see that you can get a girl sports one with tennis gear, basketball, swimming... which i just ordered due to my dilemma and her intense interest.... but there's about 7 girl ones with just clothing, princess garb, a bride and groom one of course (cause better start now for the one day you'll be a real princess). there's 3 boy ones all the boy ones are uniforms for work or sports or something to wear specifically for a thing to DO. there is no boy one with say: khakis and a work shirt, jeans and a flannel, suit and tie, t-shirt, shorts, hawaiian shirt, sneakers, loafers, flip flops, not even a grill spatula and a baseball hat accessory. really? yes really. i guess boys are not expected to be out of uniform ever. this all poses a problem in our play. z's girls get dressed and go to "work". r's boy gets dressed to go to a specific work that now he's locked into, there's no computer programer uniform, or architect apparel, and then when they get home and it's time for "party clothes" to go to say, the dinosaur puzzle making party and then swimming with the dinos, well r sends his boy in his underwear. he is ill equipped for parties, just like real life? maybe? my mom always laid clothes out for my dad if we were going somewhere. apparently men are expected to know how to dress for work but not for social life. so what are our kids learning? we've come so far and yet it's all still there, the underlying culture of girls being expected to be pretty first and boys to grow up and only think about work.

it gets me mad! and sad. but the world is changing, if only one kid and and a conscious remark at a time. i hope it is, it seems to be? i recently read two articles that i thought were pretty awesome. both about supporting girls being smart. lisa bloom's "how to talk to girls" in which she discusses making eye contact with young girls and asking her about a favorite book instead of complimenting her outfit. well done and yippie!! it does not escape me however that the cover of her new book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World is a picture of her looking gorgeous and not say, young girls at desks or a conference table filled with  professional women or a round table at what is obviously a book club of a mixed array of women from all walks of life or women and girls gathered around a piece of art in deep discussion. hmmm, i hope her intensions are good and it's not a money maker to prey on what we women desire. i haven't read it, if you have please comment. i hope it stays true to it's title and i hope our girls won't need to read it when they are women. i also think asking a boy what his favorite book is can be substituted for asking him his favorite sport or car.... let's break all the roles we've been cast...

laura hibbard's "hermione granger: the heroine women have been waiting for" in which she discusses girls finally getting someone to look up to that won't get us poisoned by an apple and waiting to be rescued. hermione is really the bomb, as is jk rowling for writing her. it struck me when laura was listing the role models of when we were girls, (you know, the princesses) and wrote of snow white who was saved by "a prince, who for some reason thinks kissing a sleeping girl is totally acceptable" exactly, things need to change. and i agree, witch's hats also trump tiaras in my house. rowling's books i have read, multiple times and i do intend to read them to my son and daughter when they are old enough. i know her intentions are good and i like knowing that her main characters are real. they have flaws and emotions and they make mistakes all while destroying evil. an evil they can only destroy while relying on each other, boys and girl. i'm down with that.

so in the meantime, in my princess free house (for as long as i can swing it) i've written a list (with input from my young charges) to keep in the box with the dolls and the clothes. it goes like this:

these girls are getting dressed to go to start their day. they are:
swim instructors, teachers, computer programers, graphic artists, musicians, mothers, marine biologists, driving instructors, lawyers, midwives, chefs, librarians, authors, zookeepers, veterinarians, landscape architects, dentists, tugboat captains, toothpaste cap screwer on-ers (think mr. bucket), farmers, bakers, artists, nutritionists, photographers, coaches..... and it's working. after i started to model this play i hear her saying "ok let's go to work now" of course they swim there, always, and have to change when they get there because they swim in their underwear. cool right? i feel like as long as i link the getting dressed with going to DO something that requires thinking i am aiding in her self worth as a smart woman. i also feel that modeling this for my son teaches him that girls and women are an integral part of society with much to offer, who should be respected and thought of as intellectual equals. i want them to know that women and men are different, that we all have different strengths. i don't pretend to think that either sex is superior or doesn't need the other. wasn't it virginia wolf who said "once women had the right to earn their own living and then feminism became obsolete, what would we see? men and women working together for the same cause*"? i think i'm on the right track.

the "goggles" (good use for hair bows, right? she's awesome and has always loved goggles) for swimming to and from work, to parties and for use when swimming into the water in the dinosaur puzzle.

*virginia wolf quote taken from danielle crittenden's book, "what our mother's didn't tell us: why happiness eludes the modern woman"

8/22/11 note added: so hey you know how the universe collides you with people you need to "know" or whatever? yea well, check out what naptime wrote like 3 years ago! crazy right? i wish i'd seen it sooner i would have cheated and sent y'all over there right away, first of all her grammar is way better then mine and second; maybe people would have been fed in this house instead of me ranting about equality in dress up dolls....