When it was time for our daughter to move from a tricycle to a big kid bike, all she wanted was a red bicycle. The first birthday gift I remember getting was a red two-wheeler for my fifth birthday, so we were both pretty excited to go the store and pick hers up.
But to our surprise there were no red bikes. She was 6 and her only choices were pink or purple. Her excitement about riding her red two-wheeler faded fast. Instead we bought her a second hand red bike and took off the Hot Wheels decals. But she knew the difference.
We’ll never know what would have happened if she had been able to find the shiny, red bike of her dreams, but I suspect she would have been a much more eager bike rider. As it was, the Hot Wheels bike sat untouched until she outgrew it and was forced to look at the slim pickings available in the next size.
Two-wheeler #2 also sat virtually untouched.
There’s a serious problem with girls not being as active as boys. It’s a problem because we know that being active is good for every child’s physical, social, and emotional health, not to mention their confidence, self-esteem, and academic success.
Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, From Birth to Tween
And after reading Redefining Girly it’s becoming clear to me that this disparity in activity can, in part, be tracked back to the “pink or princess culture” (which is different than just liking pink or princesses but you’ll have to read the book to find out more about that).
Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book is a parent’s guide to understanding the sexualisation and stereotyping of girls by marketers, media, and manufacturers, and helping us steer our own daughters in a healthier direction.
Redefining Girly shows how so many of the choices that parents face are coming from forces that stem not from a concern for our children’s health and happiness, but a desire to make money at the expense of their health and happiness. We see how corporate bottom lines are influencing the way our children feel about themselves, each other, and the world they are growing up in; and just as importantly, what we can do about it.
As parents it’s essential to understand that if we buy into the “pink culture” we’re giving our daughters an extremely narrow definition of what it is to be female and while there may be some activities and sports that fit that definition, the vast majority do not.
It takes a conscious effort to raise kids who are exposed to all the colours, toys, sports, and play opportunities. It takes a conscious parent to make sure that girls get all the chances that boys do to get dirty, explore, take risks, and learn skills (and that boys get all the opportunities girls do to nurture, be creative, and express their emotions). Our current culture isn’t really set up to support this though, so we may find ourselves going against the grain.
Atkins Wardy helps us navigate everyday situations such as birthday parties, presents, and Halloween costumes. She has advice about handling teachers, doctors, and other adults that perpetuate gender stereotypes around our children, in a respectful, thoughtful, and easy to do way.
Redefining Girly is a quick read that is full of letters from the experts and practical advice for parents. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to raise a confident, happy, and active daughter or who wants to support other mothers and fathers raising daughters that are in the words of Atkins Wardy, “full of awesome”.
Maybe if enough of us stop accepting the limits of pink and blue for our children we’ll be able to use our collective voice to tell manufacturers that our kids not only deserve more choices, but their health and happiness depend on it.