Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Girlie Girl Rant



My friend Sarah wrote a thoughtful post on how we talk to girls. Read here. She got me thinking, well I am always thinking about the subject, but now I want to post something in the same vein.

People often assume that Elise is a "tomboy" because Cordelia is so "girlie." I am not really sure why people think there has to be some sort of balance, but more than that I can't really understand why people think that girls have to be one way or the other. Actually I am annoyed with everyone, myself included, for using the term "girlie girl." What's that mean anyway? I know people assume it means pink and kitten cuddles and rainbows, but I have never known a truly "girlie girl". Or "tomboy" does that mean no pink and dirty hands and tree climbing? Both of my children are all of those things.Speaking of which why don't we say boylie boy?

Anyway, I am speaking from the lofty peak of experience. I am, in fact, a girl. I am raising two girls. I have ladies all around me, it's a regular estrogen-fest up in here, excepting my husband who is so cool that he doesn't need to worry about some sort of testosterone balance. So, now that my creds are all out on the table let's continue.

I am troubled that we live in a world that tries to put people into categories. Yes, I do understand that it does help us to better comprehend our world when we can deal in larger groups rather than seeing each person as an individual, that is exhausting. So we lump people into labels of likeness. I think I first noticed it in high school (preps, jocks, freaks, etc.) and throughout life it continues. There are races, religions, genders, fans, and so on---it is very helpful in a general sense to think about people as belonging to a particular group, but it can be harmful too and I see it clearly now that I am a parent.

I see it when I try to explain things like how Native Americans were treated by early settlers. Cordelia wants to know if she is part of the good group or the bad group.

I see it when I try to explain that our best friends share a different faith. Cordelia has questions, wants to know if there is a right or wrong, because children see things in black and white.

I see it when I explain veganism to Cordelia.

I see it every day. The labels we create are at first rather helpful in sorting out the stew of humanity, but it comes at a cost.

Cordelia is "girlie" people tell her that. What is that doing to her mind? Will she not feel strong or hard or brave? She is all of those things and to put her into a category at such an early age seems detrimental to her growth. 

What will it mean to Elise if people call her a "tomboy" all the time. Will she not feel beautiful or soft or feminine? She can be all of those things as well.

I don't really know where I am going with this, beyond saying that I am going to try my hardest not to categorize children and let them just be the people they are meant to be, multifaceted and unique.

What are your thoughts?


E.K. said...

Boylie boy is commonly known as manly man.

Mom said...

Can I still use the "quirky" category? I'm pretty sure we need to keep that one alive and going least in this family.

Sarah and Josh said...

Perhaps because Elise is more adventurous, more rough n' tumble, that she's a "tomboy." Annoying because she could be jumping on the couch, wearing a tutu and pearls and she's still be considered a tomboy? Which is also annoying because if a boy were adventurous or rough n' tumble he'd be called...a boy. If a boy were gentle and kind and liked to make his animals talk while wearing sunglasses and waving a wand...he'd also be called a boy. Let's bust outa these boxes, yo!

Victoria said...

I love the name of this post, you funny girlie, girl! HA!
Seriously, labels create separation and in my book, separation is what's wrong in our world. I feel that way about grades, awards, competitions,states, countries, religion, etc. The less we label ourselves and others, I feel, the better. So, what do we tell them? I believe you cannot tell your children enough...just how "good" they are. Don't misunderstand...their behavior can be unacceptable...but they must be made to understand that the judgment is about their behavior, NOT who they are. I truly believe, when you constantly reinforce your child's inherit goodness...they develop a core belief in themselves that becomes unshakable by others, including society and its labels. I believe this is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.
As for their tendencies to prefer one thing over another...encouraging preferences is just that and I believe, should not be labeled.xo

sara said...

I think it's a lazy way to categorize kids' personalities...I agree, girls can be both tomboys and girlie girls. Boys can too (or whatever the boy equivalent is for those labels). Jackson is rough and tumble when he plays with school friends, but he is super gentle and loving with babies. Everyone has different sides to their personalities!

Stacy said...

I've been thinking more and more about gender roles and the expectations we place on children due to their sex. If my son wants to play with dolls, what are people going to say? How can I make it okay? Gender is something created and assigned by people. If he's super boy like, great. If he's more sensitive and soft, great. But I hope society can allow him to be him.

Daphne said...

I know a very sweet kid who actually does call things "boylie". "This shirt is very boylie."

Daphne said...

I know a very sweet little boy who actually does call things "boylie." "This is a very boylie shirt." "Do you think this haircut makes me look boylie?"

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