Tuesday, January 09, 2007

In Defense of the Girly Girl

My name is Mrs. Chicky and I am raising a girly girl.

(Hiii Mrs. Chiickyy)

I'm not intentionally making her this way, it's just how she's turning out so far. I don't know where she gets it from because I could never be mistaken for one. I prefer blue jeans to ballgowns, sneakers to stilletos, and you'll find me more often than not wearing a ball cap - even though I spent my mortgage on my highlights - which you could chalk up more to sheer laziness than a fashion statement. I've been this way for as long as I can remember, when way back in the day I was racing my Matchbox cars around Barbie's van. When I became pregnant most of my friends were confident that I would have a boy because, well, that's just the way it should have been. Surely the universe would see fit to give us a son. Bringing a daughter into our lives would be a cruel joke. But then I shot forth a baby girl from my loins and I knew instantly after one look at her pink cheeks that, no, it should be this way. I should be the mother of at least one daughter. I will show the world that a girl can be more than frippery and lace.

HoooBoy. Do I have my work cut out for me.

Though I don't normally allow much of it in my home or on my child, something tells me if given the chance Chicky would work the frippery to its fullest extent. She is turning out to be, despite my best efforts, quite girly.

It slays me.

Because, God help me, I love it.

Before she was born, Mr. C and I had many discussions about what types of activities (mainly sports related) were going to be appropriate for Chicky as she grew up. On the Yes list: T-ball (softball, baseball, the first female shortstop in Major League Baseball, I'm not asking for much), Soccer (though I loathe the sport. Loathe. It.), Basketball, Lacrosse, Field Hockey (again, loathe, but I can respect a tough bitch who'll take a wooden field hockey ball off of her naked shins), and pretty much any team sport that requires you to throw a few elbows from time to time. On the No list: Cheerleader...

Um, cheerleader and....

No, that's pretty much it.

(No offense to my former cheerleading friends, but we'd rather see our daughter participating in the sport, not cheering from the sidelines. And yes I know that cheerleaders are real athletes - It would be a cold day in hell before you see me at the top of a pyramid or performing a perfect liberty while being suspended in mid-air - but we don't want that lifestyle for our kid. Know what I mean? Don't make me go into it here 'cause that would make for one long post.)

Mr. C and I both knew early on that if given the choice we would much prefer a daughter who was like us, a child with a healthy distrust of all things peppy and anything that required pompoms, ribbons and ankle socks. We've even gone so far as to debate the purchase of traditionally gender-specific toys such as kitchens and toy vacuums but have never had a problem bringing toy trucks and soccer balls into the house. But why are we fighting it? We are raising a girl. So what if she prefers baby dolls and purses? Why has it become taboo to treat our daughters as feminine creatures?

Well, for one reason, in Chicky's case anyway, Mr. C's family seems to have a hard time with the extreme girly girl archetype. As a recent example, Chicky was given a plastic tea set for Christmas by my father. She loves it. She'll spend multiple minutes playing with it. That means more than one whole minute in a row! Can you imagine?! Anyhoo... Recently she went to visit my in-laws and brought it along. My mother-in-law took one look at Chicky pouring her make believe tea into her Daddy's cup and said "You better watch out, you've got a girly girl on your hands." This one comment wouldn't mean much if not for the fact that since she was born my MIL has been using Chicky's easy tears and crying jags to admonish the warning that we'll soon have a "twirling princess" as a daughter.

"So freakin' what?!" I scream. Loudly. In my head. One day I'll grow a set of balls and actually speak up for my kid instead of just grabbing her and walking away.

In my husband's family a child would have a better chance of being accepted if they were gay than if a girl was overtly feminine or a boy extremely masculine. A young jock needs to be in touch with his feminine side, and a girl can wear as much pink as she wants as long as she's tough enough to play rugby. Severely traditional roles are frowned upon. I do agree with them to an extent, so maybe this is my way of rebelling for rebellion's sake. I definitely want a daughter who is not afraid to have skinned knees, but knees that are peeking out from under her pink skirt. How cute would that be?

(Ooh, but look at her kick a soccer ball! And she's got a fantastic arm! And cat-like reflexes good enough to snatch falling pasta boxes in midair (true story)! There's hope for her yet in the eyes of my husband's family.)

You might be wondering where my family stands on this issue. You can be anything you want - and I do mean anything, you should see some of the yahoos in my family - as long as you love the Red Sox. We're simple folk.

I don't want to go backwards 50 or 60 years but have we started going overboard trying to de-sex our children? Why has it become a negative statement when someone says "Oh, she's such a girl, or, He's such a boy." Is it okay to dress your daughter in a shirt that proclaims I'm A Little Princess but only if she's dragging along a dump truck? Or what about a young boy whose favorite toy is a doll.? Not an action figure, a doll. Personally, I'm okay with both for either sex. Maybe not the princess shirt. But certainly the dump truck. And I'm becoming comfortable with the idea of tiaras and tutus. For the girls. If your son wants to wear a tiara after a certain age...

Let's leave that for another post.

Recently, while playing with some other children her own age, Chicky was roughhousing with the only boy in the group. His mother remarked, "Wow, I didn't expect her to be so tough. She seems like such a girly girl."

That's right, my girly girl is one tough chick. Don't mess with her tea set because I can't be held responsible for her actions. She just might try to cut you with her tiara.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand the whole de-sexing thing either. If my daughter wants to wear a tiara and play with her baby dolls, so what?! She can still grow up to be whatever she wants to be...and if she wants to be a princess, so be it. =)

Diana said...

I'm sorry but this is one of many things where I think the extremists have finally fallen right off the cliff - we've passed the point of no return and are officially lost in the land of ridiculous-ness.

Tell me, how is pushing a girl to play with trucks or a boy with dolls any different than pushing a girl to play with a tea set and a boy with hot wheels? It's not, there is no difference. There isn't even a difference in motive. It's meant purely to ingrain some sense of gender 'direction' in their person and it's wrong. Completely and utterly wrong.

Offer a variety of toys and encourage whatever interests they exhibit naturally. Leave sociological ideals out of it, foster independance and a sense of true self. That's my motto.

Unknown said...

I am in the same boat! I was ALWAYS A tomboy- beating up boys (and girls) gettin' dirty, dress hatin', etc. etc. And Leah? According to her, she is a Picess (princess) and she loves wearing skuts (skirts) and desses (dresses). Go figure. I'm all for her being who she is- as long as she isn't a cheerleader ; )

Julie Pippert said...

Eh I call my girls my girly girls. I call them that to their faces, and we laugh. My little one loves baby dolls and race cars, and will haul three year old boys off their battery-motored Jeeps, all while not snagging her stripy tights that perfectly match her little pink dress. The big one gained an unwarranted amount of attention at the dentist for having two rubber lizards and a frog as loveys instead of a stuffed puppy (which is equally likely).

I never had an idea who my kids were as individuals (or who they should be); I just waited for them to tell me and went from there. So clearly, this is how I think it ought to be.

Good for you accepting your daughter's varied intersts.

Mad said...

Mine's a girly girl too. The daughters of feminists will love Barbies. Frankly, I'm cool with the whole thing, nay I indulge it when she so wishes: like for example the last two weeks when she has insisted on wearing a Tea Party dress every single day. She isn't even 2 yet.

But you know, she has a whole life to make up her mind on how she situates herself with respect to gender. My job is to let her know that all options are open. Even girlie-girlness.

Anonymous said...

ah, chick. i love how you write about your girly girl. your love is off the charts.

i love the "multiple minutes" line. i know how long that actually feels.

Amie Adams said...

From the land of all boys, I'm jealous of your tough cookie!

Just limit the amount of sequins. You want to make sure you didn't give birth to Nancy Reagan.

Lisa said...

She sounds like such an interesting little person. She might be little but she's got a BIG personality! (which I adore and admire, btw.)

carrie said...

Nothing profound to say over here, other than if you take the pink out of my daughter's life, you may as well dig your own grave - and that was NOT forced upon her, are you kidding? With 2 older brothers, I think not. She has played more soccer, baseball and my personal fav "jump on your brother until he screams" than any toddler I know!

Let her be herself, like you are! :)


Lara said...

woohoo, field hockey! i played for two years and got a black eye once each year! do i win your respect?

oh, but i was also a cheerleader. did i cancel it out, or have i actually dropped into the negatives?

and i think the important things with all these gendered traits is to have the options available. let both boys and girls experience dump trucks and dolls alike. and whatever they like, let them play with those kinds of toys. sometimes that might mean "going along" with the more "traditional" roles or expectations, and sometimes it means reversing them. most often, it means finding a compromise somewhere in the middle. i think you're doing a great job of that mrs. c. :)

Mamacita Tina said...

Funny how no matter what we push on them, children will turn out the way they want too anyway. Gotta' love them for who they are!

Anonymous said...

Once my daughter wanted to buy a toy gun at the store and I told her no. And when we got home she made one out of a stick. Right before we went to ballet class.

You can guide them, but they will turn out to be who they are anyway, I guess.

Radioactive Tori said...

I agree with you that I would rather have sports playing girls than cheerleader girls, but sometimes we don't get to choose what our kids love. I have one hockey playing daughter and one who does cheerleading. Both are cool girls that I love with all my heart.

As long as you love her, she will turn out exactly as she should...a full person who happens to like some girly things.

Blog Antagonist said...

I think there is such thing as a born girly girl. My mom was a hairdresser and we were brought up as girly girls. However, my two sisters are very un-girly. I am very girly.

One of my ungirly sisters has the only female grandchild. She is surrounded by boys, and her mother has zero interest in hair, make-up, and the like. And yet, she delights in dress-up, domestic play, and make-up. She adores purses, shoes and jewelry. She is girly to the max.

I don't think there is anything wrong with embracing femininity because I don't think femininity is the antithesis of intelligence and empowerment.

Chicky Baby can still rule the world. She'll just be doing it with matching shoes and handbag. :?)

The Domesticator said...

My husband and I often have this same discussion. My daughters are both girly girls, and I was NOT when I was growing up (I was a tomboy, called myself "Russell"....heheh....) anyway, where was I? Oh yes....my girls...they are princesses, and it has nothing to do with either my husband or I. They just are that way. And I think it is cute. I say as long as they are happy being who they are, that is just fine.

Sparky Duck said...

I envision the first NFL female placekicker having a remarkable resemblence to Chicky in the future.

Anonymous said...

Funny. I have a followup to my post on the girly girl since my daughter has just gotten 2 new barbies, and enough princess attire that it looks like someone vomited pink in our house.

That being said, I don't think of the issue that people have with the barbies etc as being de-sexing as more to what it represents -- unrealistic self images and at times (depending on the toys) inappropriate.

To follow that, however, I think there's nothing wrong with the fairy tales etc.. when there's a parent says "hey, that's not the end all -- you don't need a prince, but it's nice having him around to do the dishes"


Anonymous said...

I love watching those contrasts in my own kids, how my highly-emotional-in-a-girly-way daughter comes off the bus shooting her finger guns at the neighborhood boy in her class, yelling, "Pinhead! Pinhead!" Her best friend is a boy, but she wants to paint her room pink and purple stripes. My son is so typically boyish in the way that he approaches problems and runs in circles zooming vehicles and gets over his little boo boos so quickly, and yet he is the one in the family on the doll kick. I can usually find him putting a baby doll to sleep in his bed or rooting through his sister's Polly Pocket collection to find the matching shoes.

(Speaking of fairy tales, "The Paper Bag Princess" by Robert Munsch is a great book, especially for little girls. "Ronald, you look like a prince, but you are a bum.")

Nichole said...

First of all, commenter Diana put everything I wanted to say in perfect words. ;)
Also, lists of goals and desires for our children are always going to change. Things come up...parents begin to slowly realize that sometimes ideals can be tweaked or tossed aside all together.

Before E was born we made the lists of things we'd do/not do, and co-sleeping was definitely on the do-not-do list. When E came along, with all her tears and fussiness and disdain for her crib we felt we had no choice but to co-sleep. Things change.

Like you, I definitely do not desire E to become a cheerleader, but I'm not sure what I'll say to her when she's 13 and asking to be allowed to tryout for the squad. I just don't know.

You raised a lot of great points, Mrs. C!

Anonymous said...

So do I Sparky Duck. So. Do. I. ... wearing pink cleats. ;)

OhTheJoys said...

I think Roo is going to be a girly girl that can kick the boys *sses at sports. Already she loves her baby's and purses, but also THE BALL.

wayabetty said...

I think it is innate in the kids how they turn out. I'm the same way, I was a tomboy growing up, and now I'd prefer sneakers over heels, and jeans over slacks, etc...but my daughter is such a girly girl but she's a tough cookie too.

I guess having two older brothers will do that to her. She was carrying a purse while pushing her little car around saying "peep, peep" and watch out if you take her toys away, her brothers have been bitten more than once and having hair pulled from her before. And of course, she got many time outs already and she's only 21 months old. I joked with the hubbie that I hope she doesn't get kicked out of school with her tough behavior, and he just shook his head and said "just like her mother!" Hee hee.

Her Bad Mother said...

Wonderbaby loves jewellry and purses. And cars. So it is that she can often be found on the livingroom, with a wee purse hiked over her shoulder and mommy-sized bracelets dangling from her arm, pushing a truck around and shrieking vroom vroom.

Which seems to me to be as good as it gets.

Redneck Mommy said...

Fric is a gorgeous (and I'm not biased - she inherited my husband's pretty genes instead of my mutant hillbilly ones) and she is tough.

She plays on all the sports teams and then comes home to pile on the jewellery. She rocks the tiara like no one else. All the little boys are in awe of her. And in fear.

But if anyone in my family dared to criticize who she would be, I'd have grabbed that tiara and sliced them myself.

If you need me to help with the inlaws, you know how to find me.

Cuz I may be insanely pretty, (minus the hairy legs... and the delusional personality) but I know how to fight dirty and take it like a man. Like my daugher and your little Chicky.

Mama en Fuego said...

Chicky, you and I are two peas in a pod. I was devistated when I found out I was having a girl. What was I going to do with a girl? I don't know how to be girly, I'm a tomboy in big girls clothes!!! I love quading and camping and blue jeans with baseball caps...

My daughter however has brought out the girly in me. I can't get enough little pink dresses and pants with ruffles on the butt.

In my defense, she also has a camo onsie with a bucket hat.

Irreverent Antisocial Intellectual said...

I, like Dirty Birdie, was devestated when the sonogram turned up the hamburger sign. I don't know how to be girly! And, in my hormonal state, I thought I'd raise a lesbian (not that there's anything wrong with that) because I have bigger balls than most men.

Now I wouldn't trade my fiesty little girl who prefers pinks and purples for anything.

But cheerleading? NEVER. It will not be allowed.

Namito said...

Look out Zena, Chicky's comin' through.

The Impling is both fish and fowl as well. She loves looking at trucks and trains, and airplanes, but she also likes gazing at the moon, wearing ponytails, and clothes with flowers on them (and tutus...they are just freakin hilarious).

We have a number of transitional objects now: a horse; a stretchy, lifelike treefrog; a lil' people pirate (ho ho HO!); and a twee little white, pink and lavender unicorn.

What they all have in common is that they are small enough to stay in her pockets, so her hands are free for climbing, and swinging, and spinning. You know, the IMPORTANT stuff.

No interest in dolls as of yet, but it is infinitely funny to put diapers on her stuffed animals and lil' people. It seems to be enough.

moosh in indy. said...

the moosh can't leave the house without a purse stuffed full of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I agree, if our lot in life is girls bound and determined to be girls, they are going to be bad ass girls.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%

Let kids be kids - if girls want to wear pink and boys want to play with trucks- let them. Why do we have to push them in the opposite "gender" direction?

I've always loved make-up and have no interest in sports. I still went to graduate school and kicked butt academically. Never once did I want to be like the boys.

Kate said...

As a total tomboy, I was secretly very excited that I gave brith to 2 boys. I would not have known the first thing about what to do with a girl.

Great post on this subject. It's funny how some things are "ingrained" - my boys have been clutching matchbox cars since the womb.

SUEB0B said...

What a great, thougt-provoking post. De-sexing...how interesting.

I was never a girly girl. But even now, behind closed doors, I would love a tiara and a boa and some spangly things...

Ruth Dynamite said...

Go get 'em, Chicky! (And I know you'll be looking darn good when you do!)

Food Meister said...

I'm so not a girlie girl and don't want my dd to be one either. (Luckily, so far she isn't; she's just your average, fun-loving kid.)

I don't like the word 'girlie' at all. Where I live it doesn't refer to a princess-type girl. More like the Britney-Spears-spreading-her-legs-without-panties-type of girl.

MrsFortune said...

Hahahaha ... I'm cracking up over here... have you read Susan Jane Gillman's "Kiss My Tiara" or "Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress"? Both are terrific reads and speak exactly to what you are saying here.

Anonymous said...


No, really.

'Cause I'm not really a girly-girl. And Bethany is only 7 months old, but I am having WAY fun dressing her in girly attire and putting bows in her hair.

But if she becomes a tomboy, I'll totally be okay with that. I'm really enjoying watching who she'll become!

I hafta tell you, though: the cheerleading thing got me. 'Cause -- again, no offense intended -- I'm just not prepared for that.

So I'm sure that's what she'll decide to be.

Thanks, Chicky. Now I'm worried.


josetteplank.com said...

Veeerrryy timely subject for me. Wow. Almost creepy how much this has been on my mind lately. Although, I'm kind of taking it from a different angle right now - from the angle of a new mom-to-a-boy who is being advised by some other moms that "boys will be boys" and just wait until I see how much more out-of-control and destructive my little guy is going be how much I'll let him "get away with it" because "boys will be boys".

To which I'd never say, "girls will be girls and just wait and see what a demanding little pink-puff diva you'll have, because that's who girls are."

So, this whole "nature/nurture" issue has been rattlng around in my head lately.

Ah well...that's my own schtick for another day.

My dd's seem to be a pretty good balance of Power Puff and frogs-in-your-pockets; sit-and-color and rough-and-tumble. They play soccer and they play My Little Pony.

I think that it's really impossible to raise a child "gender neutral" because there is so much other information from other people, culture, television telling them what boys are and what girls are.

I just introduce my girls to all sorts of activities and they pick and choose what fits them best. Sometimes it's pink; sometimes it's blue; sometimes it's plaid. The only place I'm heavy-handed with my gender-role information is when they say something like "so-and-so told me that girls can't be doctors/throw a baseball/be soldiers/have to be the princess and not fight the dragon" and the like. Then I go all feminista on them. ;)

Creative-Type Dad said...

We have some friends who were trying REALLY hard to "de-sex" their daughter, even down to the toys they would let her play with - it was the saddest thing we've ever seen.

The finally gave in when she was around 5.

I never understood why they would do that. Maybe because they're "freaks"

Avalon said...

I was a tomboy in the worst way. BMX motocross bikes, hockey......
When I had my daughter, I banned pink. Only yellow or peach or light purple clothes for her. NO PINK. You guessed it....she turned out to be the biggest girly ever. Loved anything pink, rated the quality of dresses by the how-far-out-they-spun factor, Barbie was her best friend. She is now 23, but is still a girly-girl. I got over myself and even buy her something pink now and again. They will be who they will be no matter what we do.

Avalon said...

I was a tomboy in the worst way. BMX motocross bikes, hockey......
When I had my daughter, I banned pink. Only yellow or peach or light purple clothes for her. NO PINK. You guessed it....she turned out to be the biggest girly ever. Loved anything pink, rated the quality of dresses by the how-far-out-they-spun factor, Barbie was her best friend. She is now 23, but is still a girly-girl. I got over myself and even buy her something pink now and again. They will be who they will be no matter what we do.

Anonymous said...

They are their own person, aren't they? Nobody could have anticipated that I would have a little girl who loves snakes more than anything but hates any sports with balls. I swear she is not related to me.

Christina said...

I was an equal opportunity tomboy as a kid - I liked boys toys and played with Transformers and GI Joe, but then also had My Little Pony dolls and Cabbage Patch Kids. When I had Cordy, I told people I didn't want any pink - girls look perfectly girly in purple and green.

Actually, Cordy does look good in pink. But she's so not a girly-girl yet. She was the only girl at a Christmas party who got a Backyardigans pirate ship and loved it, while all the other girls got dolls. She likes some "feminine" things, and she doesn't mind dresses, but she's also happy in pants and playing with trucks.

If she later chooses to be girly, then I will accept it, but I'm kind of proud of my stereotype-free girl. Either way, it's her personality, and I'm not going to be the one to interfere. Enjoy your girly-girl!

Jenifer said...

Listen, we can get our daughters together and they can give each other lessons. All my daughter wanted for Christmas was a dinosaur. We bought her the Dora doll house because I am a girly girl and want a girly girl daughter, though I am fighting a losing battle. She took the Dora doll house characters and fed them to the dinosaur..... Mmhmm, yup, real girly girl on my hands.

Heather said...

Certified tomboy here, I think boys with tiaras are cute, and girls playing with dumptrucks are cool. The reverse is true too, but man would I be thrown to have a girl who preferred tiaras. (she'd still be cool in my eyes though, I would just really, really suck at playing with her)

Lawyer Mama said...

I have boys, so not many tiaras laying around, but my two year old loves to play dress up in Mommy's clothes & shoes. As a small girl, I was girly but then became a tomboy. I think it's great if boys & girls can have both!

Oh & cheerleaders can do both! I was one & also did swimming, track, and gymnastics.

megachick said...

de-lurking from the archives. i was directed here by inside fatherhood. i am also a tomboy raising a girly girl. i don't mind her wearing dresses every single day, but when she asks me to play barbie with her....ugh, no thanks, let's read a book. i'm pregnant again and it looks like another girl. help me!

Anonymous said...

Mimi is truly a girly girl -- wants to wear dresses every day, loves pink and purple, prefers ruffles and bows. My husband's mom (who has three boys) has no clue how to relate to her. My mom is delighted because now she has someone to play baby dolls with (which is funny because my mom is truly a tomboy, but loves dolls.) I am shocked to see this little feminine girl. It's fascinating how their personalities and preferences seem to be established at birth.

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