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support thread: bringing up girls

(88 Posts)
BlueFlyer Tue 03-Jul-12 16:24:13

I'm a mum of a daughter and I have started this thread for anybody who is bringing up girls. I know quite a few people have started threads before about younger girls and stereotypes, but I'd also like advice on raising self esteem, resilience and imagination in older girls.

I'd really appreciate any advice from people who have experience, and any book, activity, media or other recommendations.

Hullygully Tue 03-Jul-12 22:39:41


fight back with sparkly hairslides!

FiftyShadesofViper Tue 03-Jul-12 22:49:09

This is a really difficult subject and I wish I had the answer.

I have brought both DS and DD up to believe they can achieve anything they want to. Although we never pushed gender stereotypes DD has always loved the pink, twinkly, girly stuff (unlike me)

Both DCs have done well but whereas DS is confident, DD is not despite her abilities. We have always told her she is beautiful, and she genuinely is physically gorgeous, but she can't see it and has real problems with image, eating and anxiety. I wish there was something we could do to help her but, as yet, we have not found anything.

ComradeJing Wed 04-Jul-12 03:02:17

Just marking my place. No time to read or contribute right now but I will!

Hullygully Wed 04-Jul-12 08:12:13

fifty sad

What are her peer group like?

EverybodyKnows Wed 04-Jul-12 10:37:20

Marking my place for now but very interested as I am raising 3 girls - 2 DSDs 12 & 10 and DD 8.

Fallingoffthefence Wed 04-Jul-12 11:07:01

The other thing I think is worth doing is to encourage involvement in after school activities with children who don't go to the same school. This really helped me when I was being bullied - having friends that I met one evening a week that weren't part of it all.

I want to talk to dd about healthy relationships as she gets older but worry about whether she will listen when she becomes old enough to start dating - I never listened to my mother!

MmeLindor. Wed 04-Jul-12 12:10:38

People do still say, "you are a tomboy". Or I assume someone must have told DD about it, cause she certainly didn't hear it from me.

I love the answer, "I am not a tomboy, I am a feminist". That would go down well in our family.

The images that girls see when growing up are very different to the ones that we used to see. I am planning to write about this - and hoping that I can an interview with DC Thomson (publisher of Beano, Dandy, Bunty etc) to talk about the differences between the comics of the 70s and 80s and the glossy image obsessed ones now available.

There is an American campaign at the moment SparkSummit. They have managed to persuade one teen magazine to stop photoshopping the images of girls and are now working on TeenVogue.

I bought TeenVogue the other day to see what it is like. They pay lip service to the "be yourself" thing but all the models pictured are slim, beautiful and flawless. Meh.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 04-Jul-12 12:19:44

My 13 yr old DD still reads the Beano grin

TheEnthusiasticTroll Wed 04-Jul-12 12:29:14

the only comic I will buy dd is the beano mainly because it is only £1.50. If she wants one anymore expensive I offer to find her a book in the charity shop for under £3 that she will learn or gain far more from, she gives me a very angry look

I absolutly hate kids magazines espcially the fluffy pink sparkly bunny and cats one. I have no idea what it is called it is just regurgiated fluffy bunny pictures with a different back drop on each page and very pretty blond girls very similar looking to the lely kelli models, fawning over them, I think it is the gateway to magazines aimed at older girls.

PosieParker Wed 04-Jul-12 12:35:46

Sexism and stereotypes happen by osmosis, you have to be really resilient to fight it. We don't eradicate it here, but we do offer an alternative. Today is 'dress up pirate day at school', my dd is five and, so I'm told, striking and beautiful. She wore Jack sparrow dressing up outfit, unlike every other girl (bar the one they call a 'tomboy') who were Pirate Princesses. It was a really proud moment, not only is she bucking the trend but she did it without thought. Everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, people ask her name and tell her she's beautiful, little else, my boys are beuatiful too, but people barely pass comment on this, comparatively, and it certainly isn't the only thing they say.

At 2-3.5yrs old dd would wear no other colour but pink, without a huge fight, and for the whole of '3' she would not wear shorts or trousers without a fight.
She wants to be a doctor when she grows up, her room is pink, she does not have a Barbie, she does have baby dolls, a kitchen, ironing board (all wooden but a bit pink). She loves being a girl but as yet is not limited by this.

Every time one of my children defines colours/objects as for girls or boys they are corrected. My ten yr old is alone in his class with this sort of thinking, I think it's tough to be a boy that thinks of girls as equal...ds2 is matter of fact about feminism, he thinks it's a given!

We do talk a lot about image, the right thing to do, sexism etc. I find an open and constant dialogue makes stuff normal.

TheEnthusiasticTroll Wed 04-Jul-12 12:38:44

my nephew chose a bright pink arm cast when he broke his arm. grin

MmeLindor. Wed 04-Jul-12 12:49:09

That is a tricky one - the compliments. I find that DD is told, "you are looking pretty" and DS is told, "aren't you clever" by grandparents.

We have just bought a house and the DC will for the very first time be able to decide on the colours and decor of their rooms. Will be interesting to see what they choose.

5madthings Wed 04-Jul-12 12:56:16

Every time one of my children defines colours/objects as for girls or boys they are corrected. this! i have never defined toys by gender, by children at various ages have done and i have corrected them the elder 3 who are 12, 10 and 7 dont do it anymore, infact ds3 LOVES tutus and fairy outfits and all things pink and sparkly! but my ds4 who is just 4 will refer to things as 'girly' or for girls and i always correct him!

and i find myself calling dd beautiful but i also tell her she is smart and strong etc, equally i tell the boys they are handsome but also tell them they are smart and thoughtful/caring etc. i guess its all about balance?

Fallingoffthefence Wed 04-Jul-12 12:58:30

Both my daughters have this T-shirt. The six year old tells people that she is a feminist all the time now. She is very much focussed on the 'you can like any colour you like and play with any toys you like' school of feminism. We can move onto more challenging theory later!

Some other thoughts. A friend of mine always tells children (girls and boys) that they look 'smart' rather than pretty/handsome when they are all dressed up.

I try to praise things in children that challenge rather than re-enforce gender stereotypes - so for example look for opportunities to praise boys (children's friends, nephews etc.) for being kind, helpful, gentle, considerate and praise girls for being brave, strong and so on. This isn't becuase I think girls shouldn't also be kind, helpful etc or boys be brave and strong but to counter the pressure they get from everywhere else.

Also because I think people often don't notice when children do things that don't fit the stereotype - at playgroups I often hear mothers describe their son as 'a typical boy' if he runs around shouting, but don't seem to notice the times when he sits quietly doing craft. Equally girls playing with dolls are commented on all the time for 'being like mummy' but not when they are hitting fences with sticks.

MmeLindor. Wed 04-Jul-12 13:11:32

Yes, I use "smart" or "neat", or praise that they got dressed without me having to nag them 15x (when younger it was praise for getting dressed without / with minimal help).

PosieParker Wed 04-Jul-12 13:14:40

Argh. I do use beautiful... but for all of them. Although my youngest, 3yrs, is cool...not cute Mummy, not beautiful, not handsome, but cool.

5madthings Wed 04-Jul-12 13:17:45

yes i call my boys beautiful as well, i actually quite often say 'good boy' to dd! i am so used to saying boy or boys! so she may well grow up with gender issues grin

nickelbarapasaurus Wed 04-Jul-12 13:22:12

DD si only 6 months, but I'm already fed up with it all.

One thing that is a bit more positive in this issue, though.

We went to Bluewater on Sunday, and, after a trip to Mothercare and Boots where it's all "girls must have this, boys must have that" (to be fair to MC, it's not as bad as it was - the "boys' stuff" is just as hideous as the "girls' stuff", just not as pink -the "neutral" stuff was a lot nicer!), DH got a bit annoyed, and decided that, as we sat on a bench, he would comment on girls/women wearing pink.
We counted for a little while, and including babies in prams, we saw 8 men wearing pink shirts, and only 7 women/girls/babies wearing pink of any kind (most females counted wore fuschia, actually, where the men wore shades from pastel to salmon)

PosieParker Wed 04-Jul-12 13:26:16

My dd is lovely now, well since about 2.5 but from 9 months to about 20 months she was not a pretty sight.....yet still people would say 'isn't she pretty?'....and all I could think was, erm no!

Ooooh, the 'Tomboy' thing. angry I'm going to be highly recognisable byt his anectdote but tant-pis: DS1 had lovely long, thick, golden glossy locks that came down to mid back by the time he was 3.5/6. We were walking into town one day and walked through a little green area with trees they like climbing in and he was climbing as usual. An old man walking past stopped and the conversation went like this:
Him: She's a little tomboy isn't she
Me: He's a little boy
Him: Well, he looks like a girl with that hair
Me: he's a boy
Him: looks like a girl with that hair
Me: well, he's a boy
Him: looks like......
and on and on

Still make me livid 3 years on. The mixture of 1)assuming that he was a girl just because of hair 2) Considering it a boy activity to climb trees and 3)carrying on and on really pissed me off.

GoodPhariseeofDerby Wed 04-Jul-12 13:39:25

Fallingoffthefence Thanks for that link! I do now have the mental image of my 4 taking over the playground all wearing those (though I'll have to wait for DC4 to get a bit bigger). The bag looks really nice as well.

Fallingoffthefence Wed 04-Jul-12 13:55:47

I remember my oldest nephew when he was a toddler was often mistaken for a girl, people were always telling my sister how pretty he was. Then if she said he was a boy (and she didn't always bother) they would often very quickly try to say something that was more 'boyish' - 'hasn't he got strong legs?' or 'a bet he's a handful'. My daughter (who wore a lot of his clothes as a baby) was often mistaken for a boy and the same thing happened in reverse.

What I find fascinating is the insistance some people have in finding evidence that a child is a 'typical' girl or boy - even when that child is actually behaving in a very non-stereotyped way. I don't tend to get into long discussions about gender stereotyping at play groups (except with my friends), but even if I say something fairly mild about how all children are different some parents really fixate on the bits of their children's behaviour that fits the stereotype.

The other thing that fascinates me is that it is often the people who are most convinced that gender differences are innate and that children are naturally one way or another depending on whether they are a boy or a girl who police the toys that their children play with. I knew one mother who was always going on about how you could tell that her son was a boy becuase he was so different from my daughter, even when she was spending half her life taking toys off him because they were for girls and trying to get him to play with 'boys' toys.

I read an interview with Cordelia Fine, who wrote delusions of gender, who said that parents who had several children of the same sex were more likely to see differences being a result of different personalities (becuase it was obvious they weren't about gender) while parents who had opposite sex children would often think differences between them were to do with gender differences.

nickelbarapasaurus Wed 04-Jul-12 13:57:40

god, yeah, that would piss me off too Librarians !

FWIW, I was a girl who wore dresses and had long hair, but my favourite hobby was climbing trees.
most boys look better with long/er hair when they're little anyway.

nickelbarapasaurus Wed 04-Jul-12 13:59:11

Falling - i have even so far quoted "we don't do gender stereotypes, do we, DD?" several times

5madthings Wed 04-Jul-12 14:01:08

thats interesting falling as i have 4 boys and then one dd and yes i see how VERY different my 4 boys are to each other! so even tho dd is 18mths old i do assume she behaves the way she does down to personality, she likes dolls, but she also likes cars and trains etc, it will be interesting as she gets older to see if she goes down the pink and sparkly route, i am NOT a pink person and dont really dress her in pink so she probably will just to spite me!

my 4 boys as i said are very different, a bookwormy ds1, a football mad ds2, a pink, sparkly mad ds3 and ds4 is just 4 and into toy story and super heros etc. they are massively different in personality, tho they all look very similar and as toddlers they were often mistaken for girls as they had longish hair and big blue eyes, i oftne got told they were too pretty to be boys or their eyes and in particular their eye lashes (very long) were wasted on a boy! shock

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