by Leigh Hallisey Learn more about Leigh here.
As the mom of a 5-year old girl and the product of a Women’s College, to say that I have “issues” around gender stereotypes would be like saying the jacuzzi on The Jersey Shore has “issues” with sanitation. I spend a lot of time questioning how, in 6 years, I went from finding out that I was having a girl and buying green, yellow and yes, BLUE (rebel!) clothes for her, to this room redecoration 2 weeks ago:
You could say I just gave up, the feminist/parenting equivalent of wearing sweatpants and Uggs. I was such a tomboy growing up—Matchbox cars, Wiffleball, dirt bikes, Tuffskins, Izod/OP hand-me-downs from my preppy boy cousins—that I was confident that my Mini Me of a daughter would be just like me. Dead. Wrong.
From the age of 2, she wanted everything to do with Pink. And dresses. And tulle. And glitter. Where did I go wrong? When Lila asked at 3 if boys can wear makeup and dresses, I said OF COURSE they can, clothing does not define your gender! (I almost pulled together a quick Judith Butler/Laura Mulvey PowerPoint, but then thought better of it). Barbie has been as welcome in our house as a serial killer. I finally let Lila have one a few months ago after warding off years of begging because the doll was, as I heard Lila tell her grandmother, “appropriately dressed” (read, it wasn’t bordering on a Janet Jackson Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction).
And then there is the subject of every Wellesley Woman’s waking nightmare: the Disney Princesses.
Resistance is futile, not only because they are everywhere, but because the more you tell your daughter how much you dislike them, the more she looooves them. During the Christmas toy commercial blitzkrieg, Lila paused the TV and called me into the living room: “Look, Mama, Princesses on TV! You really hate them, right? Right?” she asked giddily. (She did get a Rapunzel doll for Christmas, but only because after seeing and loving Tangled, I deemed her to be suitably sassy, smart, and enlightened. Why Did Lila want her? Hair.)
This is why I am SO excited about the new book coming out, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture (http://www.amazon.com/Cinderella-Ate-Daughter-Dispatches-Girlie-Girl/dp/0061711527) by Peggy Orenstein, releasing in a few weeks. I downloaded the sample on my iPad and was immediately addicted—her description of the very same struggle that I and many of my friends face on a daily basis with how to navigate raising girls in the current pop culture climate is hilarious, funny, smart, and self-deprecating. I can’t wait to dive into the rest of the book when it comes out—I definitely recommend checking it out. At FableVision, we are very sensitive about creating media for kids that is as free from gender stereotypes as possible. Our design philosophy, stories, and usability aim to be inclusive of boys and girls, and if a client asked specifically for a girl or boy focused product, our goal is always to capture, lift up, and celebrate what is unique and wonderful about boys and girls.
That said, we also realize that sometimes, you just can’t fight biology. We recently made some fun iPhone and iPad apps for our partners at Houghton Mifflin (check them out at http://www.thelearningcompany.com/appstore.html). In our early focus group testing, Lila said her favorite app was Gossie’s Eggcellent Parade, the one where she could dress up the duck in clothing. FV President Gary Goldberger's 5 year old daughter Tatum’s feedback on what features we could add for the next version was “More clothes.” And their go-to-outfit of choice for the little duck every time? The pink bunny outfit, of course.