As a mother of girls, I have always tried to be mindful of raising strong, confident women. I pray that my girls will not engage in self loathing and make some of the poor choices I made out of insecurity. To that end, I read lots of articles, books, etc. that focus on how to raise strong, healthy women in a world that sexualizes toddlers and would have them believe that their best asset is sex appeal. However, I see this growing trend that is very hard for me to swallow. It seems that much of the advice I am reading and many of the accounts of mothers who think that they are winning this battle seem to be pushing a gender free agenda. I want my girls to believe that they can do anything but I still want them to be girls--is this so odd?
I have two dramatically different daughters. Laura-Elizabeth is very much like me. She's girly but definitely more rock and roll than rainbows and lollipops. She likes pink but she likes it best in cheetah print. She loves animals more than dolls. She adores art but is also head over heels for science. She's a drama queen with a big heart; a diva with an independent streak but also a generosity of spirit. She is awesome.
Mylie, on the other hand, is the pink and purplest princess on the planet. She loves a dress and her princess dolls, (I still don't really do barbie around here unless its a fairy or mermaid or something-much to her chagrin.) Is it what I would have picked myself, no, but she's not weak or oppressed. The child will put on a show at the drop of a dime. She slays dragons wearing wings and high heels all the time. This is the child who responded to her brother's refusal to play with her with the phrase, "Fine, I am fun all by myself. You'll be sorry because I am a princess and I am delightful!" See? She's a princess that packs a punch and she's every bit as awesome in her own way as her edgier sister.
You see, I want to celebrate my girls, and my boys for that matter, for all that they are-including their genders. I want Isaac to grow up as a strong, confident man of color; I would never do that by down playing his racial heritage. I want him to know about both African and Hispanic cultures. I want him to know the strength of the people from which he came. I also want him to know the strength of the people who love him and are raising him. I adore all of these parts of him. Why on earth would I want less for my girls? I want them to know their strength within their femininity not to deny it.
Femininity is beautiful-yep, I said it, beautiful. Many child advocacy groups would love to make us believe that speaking of beauty is near profanity but I don't buy it. First of all, let's face it, women want to feel beautiful. I don't think it's all cultural, it's in us, because this desire has spanned history, culture, and location forever. God made us this way and if you don't believe me compare the skeletons of men and women. Female skeletons are dainty and smooth, rounded, lovely. Male skeletons are bigger, squarer, with sharp edges and bony protrusions, burly if you will. I will be kind and refrain from a discussion of the smells and body hair that also support this theory. I tell my kids, all of them, that they are strong and smart and kind every day. I also tell them that they are attractive and I don't apologize for it.
Being a woman can be hard. I tell the girls that too. You have to be strong. You have to stand up for yourself. You have to be ready to do things for yourself. You have to remind yourself of the things that make you special. But, being a woman is also really, really great. We can focus on multiple things at one time. We have girlfriends who talk about feelings and cry with us rather than chest bumping us and grunting condolences without making eye contact. We can weave relationships and anticipate the needs of our children (yes, men do this too but there's nothing quite like a mama.) We get to buy really cute shoes and know what to do when the toilet paper roll gets empty!!!
Please don't mistake this as an anti-male blog. I love men! Men are great and wonderfully made in their own right. Don't forget, I'm raising two of them as well. It's just that I want my girls to feel empowered without feeling like it's not okay to paint their finger and toenails. For heavens sake, I have felt a tiny human life growing inside me. That's one of the special gifts that only we girls will ever know. So, do I seethe with murderous rage when I see advertisements for "Toddlers in Tiaras" and watch cute round girls from Disney Channel waste away into gaunt monstrosities as they try to break into adult media--ABSOLUTELY!!! But am I going to banish pink, hair bows, dance classes and dresses? Heck no!!! My girls are gorgeous, funny, confident ladies and I'm going to help them rock it:)