Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Educator, Author

Embracing Girly: On Letting Girls Be Who They Are

There’s a debate that pops up when someone challenges the notion that girls are all about pink, princess, and sparkles. The point that I often make is that marketing and media has girlhood funneled down this narrow chute that provides only one way of being girly. Now, let me be clear, because some people seem to be misunderstanding, and thinking that people who talk about redefining girly are saying there’s something wrong with girls who like the color pink or who like to play with dolls.  There’s nothing wrong with a child choosing any or all of those things or loving them, but there is something wrong with media and marketers providing only one vision of what a girl can like and who she can be.

Let me tell you a story about three little girls, each with her own way of being girly. I have three daughters, each unique and different in her personality and interests. One of my daughters is what I call a “bling queen.” She puts glitter in her hair, on her skin, on her clothes, wears sequins to play outside, and is still trying to figure out how to wear a feather boa to school in a way that would be acceptable. She plays with dolls and loves animals, is into drama and isn’t that into sports. In other words, she fits pretty neatly into the niche that media and marketers focus on for girls. She is girly.

My oldest daughter is now in middle school and has never really played with dolls. Even when she was given one as a gift, she would put it on a shelf and let it gather dust. She doesn’t like to wear anything sparkly, but she does love bright colors, especially green. She plays chess, loves math, science and reading. She likes to try out new sports and has tried everything from cross-country biking to tennis to track. She loves to laugh and hang out with her friends. She doesn’t really into the current idea “girly” promoted by media, but she is girly.

My youngest daughter adores dolls and sports. Her favorite colors are pink and orange and she’s a killer soccer player. She runs around the yard in her purple sequined boots and dress wielding a sword and shield. She loves math and science and reading. This daughter runs between the world of the other two, sometimes fitting the girly stereotype and other times not. She is girly.

The whole point of the idea of redefining girly as advocated by people like Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals is not to say that girls SHOULDN’T like pink, heck hot pink is my favorite color and I wear it almost everyday. It isn’t to say that girls SHOULDN’T like princesses or sparkles. The point is that being girly is so much more than just those things. When girls are constantly fed the line by media and marketers that this is the only way to be girly, then their vision for themselves is limited. I am not anti-pink, princess or sparkle. I am anti-limitation. We need to learn to embrace girly, in all the different ways that it manifests itself in our amazing girls each day. We need to tear down those limitations and let them be who they are, because who they are is beautiful.

6 comments on “Embracing Girly: On Letting Girls Be Who They Are

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  2. Carol Carter
    January 29, 2012

    Love you line “I’m not anti-pink, I’m anti-limitations”. Going to use it next time someone starts on the ‘what’s wrong with pink” tack. Thanks for making sense!

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      January 29, 2012

      Thanks, Carol! My friends Melissa Wardy and Michele Sinisgalli-Yulo says this all the time too. It’s become our mantra 🙂

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  5. naomi
    January 25, 2012

    Yes I completely agree just let them be who they are. Some girls like to do pink and so do some boys. Some boys like football and others don’t yet the pressure in the playground to play football can be great. The same I think goes for sports and boys in general. If it is not football then of course they must be into rugby……apparently

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This entry was posted on January 25, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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