tripping the life unbalanced

Thursday, July 13, 2006

tales from the girly side

I have admitted here before that my spunky energetic daughter has been enamored with all things ultra feminine as of late. She loves dress up and high heels and lipstick and purses and barbies and princesses. I have been learning as I go along this parenting journey to interject when I think it's appropriate and let her be at other times. And for the most part, it's harmless stuff - she's playing at being girly and I think it's good to explore all kinds of stuff at this age. It's not easy to be asked to "play house like girls do" but I try to filter out the shit and leave the rest behind.

It has previously only been in the realm of play that we have encountered these issues. We now, however, have suddenly come up against the issues around gender stereotypes: "mommy, boys can't wear skirts!" "that boy said only boys can climb up the slide - it's too hard for girls" and my very favourite "but I don't wanna be a firefighter, mommy, I wanna be a FIREMAN!"


In many ways, I love this stage in her life because I get to see her start to really question what is put in front of her, on her own terms. In other ways, it's very difficult to help your daughter understand gender stereotypes at 3. Her world is so black and white right now, and conceptualizing grey...well, it's near impossible.

We experienced this difficulty the other night while reading books in Alice's bed. She had recently received a giant bag of books from a friend and I hadn't yet gone through to see what was there. And so when I lay down to read her a bedtime story, you better believe I was speechless when she pulled out this:

Not sure if any of you have had the pleasure of reading this book, but suffice to say it is probably my least favourite of any of the B. books. (and I'm not a fan, so you do the math). It's about a little cub who pisses off her older brother by following he and his friends around. It's not only the sibling shadow that bothers him (and that's a valid concern, take it from an oldest sibling), but the fact that she is better than the boys at traditional male activities: running, playing ball, marbles, and climbing. And THAT is what she gets punished for - the boys of course run off on their own and start a NO GIRLS ALLOWED club, and well, you can see where this is going. The book's message is apparently supposed to be a lesson about bragging and how it can lose you friends, but really it's just a diatribe about how girls shouldn't make boys feel badly if they - GASP - are better at something than the boys. Take this gem from Mama Bear (to Papa Bear who is actually defending his daughter's right to be the best in the room):

"how would you have liked it when you were a cub if some little girl could outrun outclimb and outhit you?"

Of course, this was the part in the story that I put the book down and had a long conversation with Alice. We talked about what girls and boys can both do, and how some people think that there are things that boys can do that girls shouldn't, and vice versa. It actually turned out to be a good thing we talked, because I think it's pretty confusing at her age to work out in her head why Mommy doesn't like her book.

She's still a little foggy on the details ("you mean people can do whatever they want, when they want, right? Like I can have candy whenever I want!") But at least she is starting to understand that boys can wear makeup and girls can be mechanics. I know we have many more conversations like this ahead of us, but I do take comfort in the fact that she is happy to explore all sides of the gender line, and self-confident enough to tell the boy on the slide that "girls can do whatever boys can!" unprompted.

Of course, I also take comfort in this:

Which is what her arms were wrapped around when I peeked in on her later.


  • OOOOhhhhhh, the Berenstain Bears. My girls love them, I think they are hillbilly squabble.

    My littlest could not wrap her head around boys on boys or girls on girls for about one year,it really upset her! Now she is fine. It sounds like you are doing a beautiful job talking with her....we can only show them the path.....Anne

    By Blogger crazymumma, at 8:49 p.m.  

  • I also hate the B. Bears, and my daughter, at least, has come through to the end of her obsession with them. For a much more positive version of the no boys/no girls allowed story, I highly recommend "Best Friends for Frances" by Lillian & Russell Hobbell.

    By Blogger landismom, at 11:57 a.m.  

  • I second Best Friends for Frances. A huge hit over here. And I'm with you on the Bears. Hate them. But, as I kid I thought they rocked.

    By Blogger chichimama, at 6:50 p.m.  

  • Good for you for having that talk! I haven't seen one of those B bear books since I was a kid and now I am glad
    I haven't.

    By Anonymous Missi, at 6:04 p.m.  

  • How sweet! I love that doll. I will have to avoid the B. Bears seeing as my daughter is almost two and loves loves loves books of any kind. You really do have to be picky because it's suprising how many books have strange messages in them. Good for you in decifering which is best for your girl. I'm a total tomboy too and I revel in it.

    By Blogger Stefanie, at 12:44 a.m.  

  • When I was young I hated the B bears. I'm glad that I can feel justified leaving them out of my son's library.
    First time to your blog, always nice to meet a TO blogger.

    By Blogger tania (urban_mommy), at 1:47 p.m.  

  • One of the worst kids books of all time:

    The Giving Tree

    The little boy keeps going to the tree (obviously a mom figure) and asking for things and she gives and gives and gives until there is nothing left so she dies. Icky, Icky, Icky.

    And " I Love You Forever" creeps my grandma out. Crazy woman who breaks into her sons apartment because she doesn't accept that he has grown up. Doesn't bug me as much as it bugs her(I kinda like the end when he takes care of her, at least I think that is how it ends I never got to read it much).

    By Anonymous Brenda, at 10:00 p.m.  

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