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How far do you encourage your dds to 'play the game'? (apologies, long)

(36 Posts)
Takver Fri 28-Dec-12 19:12:57

I've posted here as I'd appreciate a specifically feminist perspective.

DD is 10 & in yr 6 at primary. She is becoming a bit of a 'misfit' at school, partly because she's being picked on by one fellow classmate (being tackled, said classmate has her own problems & hasn't only gone for dd), but more generally is standing out a bit I think for various reasons.

She is (at least according to her) the only girl in her class not to wear either a crop-top or proper bra. She's reasonably well developed, and certainly could wear a bra if she felt inclined. Although she has a couple of crop-tops which apparantly (and also according to her) fit fine she hasn't ever wanted to wear them.

Similarly, most of the girls are getting into make-up, hassling parents for shoes with heels, listening to pop music etc. Again dd actively isn't into this at all.

Now I'm struggling with how far I should encourage her to 'fit in' a bit to make her life easier. I have to say that I sometimes wear a croptop, sometimes not, and never a proper bra - and I've always said to dd that they are something you wear if you are more comfortable, but that there's no intrinsic biological reason that you 'need' one. Obviously she is more comfortable without so doesn't wear one! Similarly I don't wear (or indeed) own any makeup or high heeled shoes, not through philosophical objection but because I don't feel any desire for them. Ditto to not watching BGT, Strictly, I'm a Celeb etc - don't mind others watching them but don't want to myself.

Now I worry that dd is following my lead and is going to suffer for it . . . but then I would like her once she is an adult to wear/do all this stuff if she wants to, not because she feels she HAS to - so therefore I shouldn't encourage her just to do it to follow the crowd! Any help gratefully received . . .

BeeBawBabbity Fri 28-Dec-12 20:08:36

It doesn't sound like she's bothered by being different to some of her friends, or she'd probably be wearing the crop top and watching the tv shows. If you're happy being an individual then perhaps she takes after you. I don't think she should be encouraged to try to be someone she isn't.

Sorry she's being picked on. But that's the bully at fault, not your daughter. I hope she has some friends who like her for her own individuality.

RiaUnderTheMistletoe Fri 28-Dec-12 20:10:09

I'd say definitely don't push your dd to fit in. She'd only learn that she's not good enough as herself and needs makeup etc. to be acceptable. God knows she'll hear that enough from the media, friends etc. She's old enough to notice peer pressure and decide whether or not to join in for an easy life, the best thing you can do for her is give her the confidence be herself.

Also, if 'girly' things don't come naturally trying to push it won't make her girlier anyway. She can always try things out if she changes her mind in the future.

LadyKinbote Fri 28-Dec-12 20:20:13

I think it's great she's not giving in to peer pressure. If you're worried about her socially just make sure she mixes with lots of friends in and out of school - there will be other girls (or boys for that matter) who share her interests. And it's almost certainly not your influence - most 10 yo don't want to be like their parents! She may change at secondary school anyway, who knows.

Takver Fri 28-Dec-12 20:41:37

I think the problem is that she used to be quite happy going her own way, but she is starting to feel quite isolated. Unfortunately their year has always split with the girls (6 of them) hanging out together, & the boys playing football. There are only 2 girls in the year below, and both are footballers (which dd really isn't).

I guess the one thing she is really getting grief about is not wearing a bra. Fortunately once you're 43 no-one gives a toss whether you wear a bra & makeup (at least only on MN, and you can ignore them!) but its harder in school.

There's a fine line to be drawn I think though at that age between becoming self conciously 'wierd', which can be quite isolating, and being able to be an individual.

TeiTetua Fri 28-Dec-12 22:14:19

I'm not sure if when you say that "the girls (6 of them) hanging out together" you mean that this is a very small school with just a dozen or so kids per year. If that's the situation, it makes issues of conformity very difficult, as there's not likely to be much choice of social groups. There do seem to be some people who can do things their own way and be accepted just as they are, but they're pretty rare.*

Maybe it's a pragmatic approach to tell her that when she's with her school friends, she might have to go along with them to some extent but you and she can share some non-conforming ideas when she's at home. It could lead to some mother-daughter bonding! If this is getting bad at age 10, think what it'll be like when she's 14.

*(Note use of "there", "their" and "they're" all in the same sentence.)

KRITIQ Sat 29-Dec-12 01:30:37

Is there an opportunity for her to make friends with girls and boys who don't go to her school, who maybe don't "follow the herd" so much - perhaps through Scouts, Guides, a youth group, Woodcraft Folk, that sort of thing. The pressures on young people to conform to gender stereotypes (and particularly for girls to look and act sexy from a younger and younger age,) is immense, pushed at them 24/7. If all your peers are doing it, it's hard to stand away from the crowd, but if you have other mates who dare to be themselves, then it can be incredibly reassuring and reinforcing.

Does she visit this website? Lots of inspiring material there from girls who do their own thing and about very inspiring women.

It sounds as though you have set a positive example for her and as hard as it may be to see her bullied or feeling down about being an outsider from the crowd, seeing you continue to support her to be who she wants is really, really, important. Best of luck.

Takver Sat 29-Dec-12 09:23:23

TeiTetua and Kritiq - between you I think you sum up the dilemma perfectly! Yes, it is quite a small school. DD's year is one of the larger ones in fact, the year below is only 6 children. We're in a rural thinly populated area, even the secondary only has around 650 pupils. (Though having said that this being west Wales the adults around aren't a particularly conformist lot!)

DD has joined Sea Cadets, which I hope will give her a different group of friends with different priorities (ironically really because you all have to wear a uniform and be identical right down to hair in a bun.)

I definitely don't want to push the message that you have to follow the herd - but on the other hand in my experience life is easier if you do fit in a little.

I'll definitely point dd towards Jumpmag, that's a good idea.

aufaniae Sat 29-Dec-12 09:49:59

Your DD sounds a bit like me and my sister. I had no real interest in make up or girly things. (I still don't wear makeup) I was very lucky to grow up when I did where makeup and obsession with looks wasn't pushed on girls in quite the extreme way it is now.

Most of my friends were boys throughout my teenage years. I got on with the girls in my class but we had nothing in common (they were into boy bands, make up etc). I didn't start to form strong female friendships till I was at 6th form. My friendships from this time have endured and as an adult I count myself lucky that I have both men and women among my dearest friends, unlike people I meet through work who seem to only have friendships with the sane sex.

It must be hard to see your DD be bullied, but I think lack of people with similar interests is the problem, not your DD. I would approach the problem by trying to support her in finding friends she clicks with.

Joining groups is a good idea (I was going to suggest woodcraft folk, kind of like scouts/guides but non religious and lefty. I went and loved it!). A practical issue problem with groups is it's very structured, it takes a bit of effort for the groups to spill over into RL. You can support this by encouraging your DD to invite her sea cadet friends for tea and to her birthday, to foster real friendships outside the group.

Do you have any family friends with kids who DD might get on with? Even if they don't live close, you could maybe invite them to visit. My sister also felt like a misfit at school. The girls in her class were bitchy and into boy bands and DSIS just wasn't interested. She felt pretty isolated. What helped her was a pen friend who was into the sane bands as her (these days it'd be Facebook) it helped that she had at least one person who understood her, and also a sports team she got involved with. She plays the sport to this day and many of her adult friends she met throughout the sport.

Will there be a wider group of pupils at secondary school? Hopefully that will be a chance to make some new friends with similar interests.

aufaniae Sat 29-Dec-12 09:51:56

Sorry, about the groups, I meant to say it takes a bit of effort for the friendships to spill over into real life!

Takver Sat 29-Dec-12 16:59:28

Agree that the whole makeup etc thing has got much worse since I was young - it definitely didn't start till secondary age back then.

Fortunately out of school dd does have some good friends - one of them unfortunately is a boy from her class who has also been being teased for playing with the girls so is hiding in the classroom reading all playtime! Maybe dd just needs to accept that school won't be so social for a while and next year there will be a bigger pool of potential friends to mix with.

I'm really grateful though for support on here - I was beginning to think maybe I should just encourage her to wear a bra etc but I think that you're all right that it isn't really about that but a wider issue.

TheSmallClanger Sat 29-Dec-12 17:05:47

Definitely encourage non-school friendships. As I always say, they are usually much less pressured at this age. I think Sea Cadets is an excellent place for her to seek out like-minded friends, as a sports team or something like Woodcraft Folk might be. (DH was a Woody for years). Does she also have cousins and friends of your old friends that she could socialise with?

Even if she doesn't end up having deep friendships with others at this stage, having some less pressured, less intimidating social space will be good for her.

madwomanintheattic Sat 29-Dec-12 17:43:36

Blimey, I typed out the longest reply in the history of the world, and it got eaten.

In short - y6 - pressure to be the oldest and more mature in a known peer group. Y7 - pressure disappears as they are the youngest, and have a wider peer group to choose soulmates from.

I bought dd1 a selection of bras and crop tops last week. She's 13 in Jan, and does a lot of dance (she is a tapper, but does core ballet, jazz whatever as well). We discussed it and she said she was uncomfortable and sore with the jumping and tap. She asked if she should wear them all the time, and I said she should do whatever she is comfortable with.

I immediately and aaahed about that, but am content that she has a broad enough feminist base to make decisions based on whether she wants/ needs to, or whether she is choosing to do it to conform on any given situation. She's also pretty well developed - full complement of body hair, menstruating etc. she chooses to dance hairy year round, but shave her armpits during competition season. She wears heavy stage make up for competitions and recitals, but none the rest of the time. It's almost as though it has provided her with the link that this stuff is 'performance'. I may even be raising Judith frigging Butler. grin

She's a Pathfinder (part of guiding here) and they invited 'equal voice' to their last meeting before Christmas to discuss women in politics - I dug out some more recent books and suggested she read the women/ politics stuff (can't remember if. It was kat banyard or someone else who looked at the media issues 'best of Breastminster' etc).

This is a tricky age - and decisions now do have a huge impact on that whole 'compromise' piece. But it's tricky to know when the dd is able to differentiate between peer pressure and maternal pressure, in order to be able to truly make her own decisions, and be mature enough to recognise when she is compromising.... I'm pretty certain that my eldest dd is, but I know that dd2 (at 9) isn't. She's intellectually capable of the decision, but the necessity of doing so would upset her - she isn't yet at the point where she could look at it coolly enough, she would just cry. (And yEs, I know that's fair enough even in grown women who suddenly see their own life as one huge compromise. Dd2 is old beyond her years!)

Takver Sat 29-Dec-12 18:38:01

"y6 - pressure to be the oldest and more mature in a known peer group"

I think that is very very true - and maybe hence the teasing of the less grown-up children in yr 6 from those who want to make the point that they are much more mature.

madwoman - your dd sounds really very sorted, using all this stuff to meet her needs rather than feeling she has to dress/behave a particular way - I hope dd can get to that stage smile

IThinkOfHappyWhenIThinkOfYou Sat 29-Dec-12 19:12:34

She sounds just like me. My teenage years weren't my happiest, although I don't think I was actually unhappy either. Its the time when you become yourself which is a lot simpler when you see your self image reflected back at you. I never did so I thought that there was something 'wrong'. I think I thought the others were growing up faster than me because they were interested in what I perceived of as adult things eg fashion and music and I pretended to have those interests because I genuinely thought I would grow into them. I didn't and I probably missed out on real friendships etc because I was wasting my time reading 'smash hits'. What saved me was having strong friendships outside of school so I could have something to focus on if school got too stressful. I went to a girls school but I didn't feel like a girl. I didn't feel like a boy either and I never wanted to be one but I knew I wasn't going to grow up to be the sort of woman that I knew and I haven't. Sea cadets sounds good. I think what I could have done with was an older girl (cooler than a mother, not that my mother ever went out without full slap and heels) to show me that there is more than one way to be a woman. That and the poetry of Andrea Gibson, which is mostly too old for a 10yo.

madwomanintheattic Sat 29-Dec-12 19:55:41

She seems pretty grounded at the mo... But we've a lot of teen nonsense to get through yet, I'm sure!

We're quite lucky in that we live in a very outdoorsy athletic community, so there isn't the 'boys do, girls watch them and look purty' culture. There are lots of strong male and female role models (Olympians too) and a fair amount of them are in and out of the schools, etc. we have paralympians, too, so even dd2 is growing up in an atmosphere which celebrates and encourages personal achievement rather than limiting it by virtue of gender or (dis)ability.

I'm a bit of a party pooper as I place a lot more value on the cerebral, lol, but I do see it as a healthy (in both senses) culture. There is also a high value placed on both individual and corporate volunteering - so a healthy sense of community responsibility.

Am not bragging about living in utopia. grin just suggesting that wider context as well as immediate peer group is important. Takes a village, and all that...

madwomanintheattic Sat 29-Dec-12 19:58:10

I was an air cadet btw. I'm all for it. grin

Takver Sat 29-Dec-12 21:13:30

Maybe I sometimes worry that dd's wider context goes a bit far the other way. Our friends are all mainly eco / activisty / hippy types (we lived in a housing co-op til dd was 7, and still see a lot of the people there), and I think it would be fair to say that none of the women I socialise with regularly wears makeup, heels et al, and when it came out in conversation at a craft/social group I go to that one member had never tried a mooncup we were all shock

Actually, I think this is why I worry sometimes that poor dd isn't so much rejecting all this stuff as not actually having a clue that it is normal to do/wear/be it grin

madwomanintheattic Sat 29-Dec-12 21:16:51

grin a veritable dilemma!

ThreeBoostsOneGalaxy Sat 29-Dec-12 21:20:01

When she goes to secondary school next September, presumably there'll be a wider range of children to interact with and potentially form friendships with. Your DD is more likely to find a group where she can be herself and still fit in. She will find things in common with some of them as there's a wider range of interests.

I would say keep doing what you're doing. Your DD sounds lovely to me and a refreshing change from the 'clones'.

Takver Sat 29-Dec-12 21:25:48

You all speak words of wisdom. I'll keep encouraging her on out-of-school friendships, sea cadets etc, and as you say secondary school should be a whole new ball game smile I think as well once we stop being in the depths of winter things will be easier as dd's main interests are sea based (surfing, life saving etc) and its easy to hang out on the beach with a crowd.

steppemum Sat 29-Dec-12 21:33:37

well, I don't normally post on this board, only lurk (you guys are very scarey!!) But I would feel very like you in this situation op/ my dd1 is only year 3 and not really a conformer, but she has asked for crop tops. It turned out that she wasn't comfortable changing for pe and wanted something under her shirt. I got her some basic 'short vest' type ones which she only wore on pe days. When the weather got colder she just started wearing vests. I hate this peer pressure to conform. I want her only to wear what she feels comfortable in and would not want to push her into bras at that age. However, as someone with big boobs, I would have been really uncomfortable without some thing once I started developing, so would want her to be able to wear one if it was more comfortable.

As to the make-up, high heels etc. I would be activley encouraging her not to conform, I hate it on girls so young. My neice age 12 has just got a pair of Doc Martins for christmas, and I said I hope my dds get into the DM look, as I can't stand girls in heels and short skirts. As I hardly wear make-up and never heels, I think she has a good role model!

Hopefully next year she will have a wider choice of friends and will gravitate to those she feels more in tune with.

Takver Sat 29-Dec-12 21:44:45

steppemum, I've made sure that dd does have crop tops that she could wear if she wanted, and have made it very clear that if she'd like to go and try on bras that would also be fine (I can't really buy those 'on spec'!) but she says she's perfectly comfortable without. In fact she does wear a crop top under one particular sweater dress that she finds scratchy. I think the only issue she has with changing for pe is the comments she's getting about not wearing a bra!

(She never wanted a vest under school polo shirts when younger, & I never pushed that either as the school is so hot even in winter.)

ThreeBoostsOneGalaxy Sat 29-Dec-12 21:57:10

It isn't specifically about girls, but I read a good book called 'Bringing Up GEEKS: Genuine, Enthusiastic, Empowered Kids' by Marybeth Hicks. It's a bit American in style but lots of sensible advice and suggestions about bringing up children free from the more shallow aspects of cultural conditioning. Not specifically about fashion but how to keep them grounded so that peer acceptance is not the be all and end all.

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Sun 30-Dec-12 01:31:56

I have a DS, no DDs, but I would thoroughly agree with the advice about developing out=of-school friendships and interests, just from hearing about the childhoods of younger friends. (am old and have a lot of 'nonconforming friends). It's really really really good for kids to be aware that the environment you're currently stuck in is not the whole world and that there are other potential friends and places to be out there...

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