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Am I wrong to let my daughter enjoy being girly then?

(210 Posts)
pictish Tue 08-Oct-13 10:28:33

DD is four - she will be five in Feb. I have two sons as well.

I have never encouraged or acknowledged a marked differentiation between the sexes, regards their interests and clothing. I always steered away from that stuff, letting them make their own minds up.

However, dd has embraced girliness wholeheartedly. She loves pink, and dresses, and My Little Pony and all things sparkly. In the interests of autonomy, and cultivating her own tastes, I don't mind it in the least.

I am starting to feel though, that through reading MN, unless she is playing football in bovver boots, I am doing her a disservice.
My mil (who is lovely really) is rolly eyed about all things pink and girly, and can't resist from making little comments about it. "Oh that's a very fancy dress" (sarcastic).

I have explained that the girliness is her own choice, and just what she happens to like, but I think it goes over her wants to think it's me pushing this onto her. It isn't.

I sometimes wonder if, in the quest for equality, we sometimes go too far the other way, and heap scorn upon girls who want to be girly? I feel the need to defend my dd's right to love pink and sparkly, as it is now heralded as so deeply uncool.

I thought it was all about offering choices...but nowadays (particularly on MN) it seems as though a girl being girly is a failure.


Kewcumber Tue 08-Oct-13 11:07:16

OF course anyone should be able to chose whatever they like.

But I find it interesting that pink and sparkly is deemed to be "girly". It isn't in other countries and wasn't here once upon a time which tells me that girls (and women) are conditioned to accept that pink and sparkly is the epitome of being a girl/woman.

I would let her choose what she wants but I certainly wouldn't reinforce that pink and sparkly is "girly" its just what she likes because if a 4 year old boy likes pink (and frankly many many do as pink is an attractive colour to most small children) then is it "girly" for him too.

Or is it just a colour that she likes and colours (contrary to popular belief) don't actually have a gender.

FacebookWanker Tue 08-Oct-13 11:07:20

I know exactly how you feel Pictish because I'm in the same position. I never bought pink for DD when she was younger, but she LOVES it and ALWAYS wants to wear it. She's always talking about looking beautiful etc. She's 3. I always feel that I'm being judged for 'putting her in pink' but if it were up to me she wouldn't wear it.

I would feel bad for forcing colours on her that she doesn't like or want to wear. I know she is very heavily influenced by what she sees ober girls wearing and I still hate the lack of choice. She wants an Innotab for Christmas. They're available in pink or blue...why not neutral. She loves the iPad and it isn't pink.....

TheFabulousIdiot Tue 08-Oct-13 11:08:41

Naaah - really - don't worry about it. There is no way at all that she's going to be denied making a choice to wear pink and buy my little pony and do girlie stuff.

I would personally think a dress with netting under it would restrict some of the things she might want to play with at nursery though.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 08-Oct-13 11:09:02

Sounds fine.

Its also perhaps worth pointing out that a child who's into pink sparkles at age 4 may develop quite different tastes within a few years! So long as she has the choice, and she's got clothes/shoes she can do real stuff in not just lelli kellis and 'fancy dresses', and you encourage her not to be a sheep just doing the same as everyone else, no problem.

I guess what we all want for our DC - girls and boys - is for them to be confident individuals.

pictish Tue 08-Oct-13 11:09:39

Do you ever pick her up on it?

No - not really. I said "ach it's fine - it's a cheap dress and very comfy, so I'm not fussed about paint or tears" - but I know I may as well be talking to a brick wall.

pictish Tue 08-Oct-13 11:13:30

I would personally think a dress with netting under it would restrict some of the things she might want to play with at nursery though.

Like what? It's a t-shirt dress that sits just above the knee, with a mesh skirt. It's soft and loose and not restrictive in the least. I wouldn't have put it on her for nursery if it was. I'm not an idiot. grin

Grennie Tue 08-Oct-13 11:16:11

My mum wanted me to be a tomboy like she was. I refused to wear anything except skirts and dresses until I was 12, and played with dolls. I think she was disappointed.

But I still grew up to be a feminist because of the books my mum bought, the way she challenged gender stereotyping, etc. Those things are important.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 08-Oct-13 11:19:16

>"Oh I'm sure you'll have to be very careful not to spoil such a lovely dress at nursery, by climbing or getting paint on it"

Your MIL is being a twit saying that. Your attitude is fine - she wears what she wants, its cheap, doesn't matter if it gets wrecked any more than if it was a t-shirt and trousers.

My DD stopped wearing pale pink shortly after climbing all 3 of the Yorkshire 3 peaks wearing pink trackies and pale trainers, decided at that point she wanted khaki chinos which didn't show the mud, and walking boots. grin But that was her choice - point is that being dressed in pink did not stop her climbing those hills!

Stravy Tue 08-Oct-13 11:20:56

*I'm not trying to be antagonistic btw - this is something I have been pondering for a while.

I was moved to start this thread because I bumped into mil this morning on the way to nursery. Dd is wearing a pink dress with a netting tutu skirt today...and mil could not help herself from making the usual catty observations about that.
"Oh I'm sure you'll have to be very careful not to spoil such a lovely dress at nursery, by climbing or getting paint on it" - the onus being that the dress is impractical and silly. The dress was £8 and made of stretchy jersey, so it's comfortable, and I don't care if it gets painty or torn.
She just sees pink, and assumes I must be a facile ninny, when in fact I think it is she who is being narrow minded...iyswim?*

I emphasise with this. I used to get this a lot when dd1 was younger and I find you often hear comments about girls enjoying 'girly' things that are immediately followed up by some sort of unnecessary disclaimer such as "dd preferred playing with her disney princesses rather than barbie (she also loves playing in the mud and climbing trees!)" whereas you never see "ds always preferred the wooden train sets to the plastic (he also enjoys dressing up, crafts and baking!)"

I don't believe little girls are making these choices in a vacuum but I don't think any of us do and they seem to be the section of society that is most harshly criticised for conforming.

MadCap Tue 08-Oct-13 11:22:04

This is a really interesting debate and I thought it'd be a good place to share a website that a friend shared with me. I particularly like the doll's house you can practice wiring in.

Stravy Tue 08-Oct-13 11:22:37

highlighting fail sad grin

TheFabulousIdiot Tue 08-Oct-13 11:25:13

I guess I am thinking of a dress with acres of netting, but it sounds a bit more flexible than that and if you don't mind it getting roughed up then that's great.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 08-Oct-13 11:25:59

So it's not that the dress restricts your DD - it's that your MIL has subconsciously thought 'pink fluffy dress=quiet, sedate 'girly' behaviour'.



PeggyCarter Tue 08-Oct-13 11:27:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FacebookWanker Tue 08-Oct-13 11:47:02

Madcap thanks for the link...great website!

wordfactory Tue 08-Oct-13 11:50:23

I don't think any scorn is heaped upon girly girls OP.

In fact, I'd say society, particularly in the UK, values girly girls highly. Toys, clothes, telly, books are all geared to embrace girly girls.

There is very little choice. One actively has to seek it out. Girls who are not into pink, sparkles and My Little Pony are the outliers!

NoComet Tue 08-Oct-13 11:50:31

I was a primary child in the 70's and you had no choice, but to be a Tom boy if you wanted any fun.

Girls bikes were miniature ladies bikes, they'd have fallen apart jumping over piles of builders sand and bouncing of curbs.

There weren't many girly versions of anything, but if there were they weren't up to the job.

There were no girly toy cars, Lego, skate boards, kites no gendered board games.

The idea of a pink push chair, pram or car seat you couldn't use if DC2 was male was totally laughable. Many DCs wore coats, wellies and jumpers that belonged to the other sex sibling. Clothes were much more expensive relative to wages, no way would DM have bought pretty pale pink or frilly white clothes as they would have got trashed.

WoTmania Tue 08-Oct-13 11:58:41

I can't say I've noticed the attitude you're talking about on MN at all; what I have noticed is a tendency to say that despite gender neutral parenting the girls are drawn to pink.
I think it's important to remember the context in which girls make these decisions and to bear in mind that often girls are given access to pink and sparkly in a way boys aren't no matter how they are parented.

As for your MIL's attitude, well, that says a lot about her. You sound like you're quite happy for dress to be properly played on where as MIL sounds like she's conforming to the pretty dress = must not ruin or play much etc.

Floggingmolly Tue 08-Oct-13 11:58:44

My dd was exactly like that at five. By seven she had abandoned all things pink and glittery for Deadly 60 and a shark obsession which lasted years; she's 12 now and can't stand pink anything.

FacebookWanker Tue 08-Oct-13 12:00:15

But wearing non pink isn't being a Tom boy. I was born in '71 and I never wished for pink wellies, pink Lego etc. I liked wellies and I liked my toys. I never wished for a boyish version of my toys.

I played with Lego, Meccano, Tonka toys but also liked my Sindy dolls.

I do think that on MN lots of people make a big thing of girls enjoying climbing trees etc as if it's something to be proud of, when really it's just a child being a child. Why is it remarkable that a girl like wearing pink AND climbing trees?

Grennie Tue 08-Oct-13 12:01:20

Starball - But lego, kites, etc weren't seen as girls or boys toys, just toys. I was a "girly girl" and loved flying my stunt kite and playing board games. Toys are much more gendered now, than they were in the past.

FacebookWanker Tue 08-Oct-13 12:05:24

And I wouldn't buy a pink car seat, buggy etc. We used skate boards, roller skates kites etc that were gender neutral. It never crossed my mind that they should look 'girly' pink Lego does the same as traditional coloured Lego. I really hate the way some toys or other products aimed at children are either blue or pink. It's not needed.

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Tue 08-Oct-13 12:07:25

I have real issues with the term 'girly' actually.

To use the term girly is to made all sorts of assumptions and use all sorts of short hand about what it means to be a girl/female. And then, to make it worse, it gets traded back to us as an insult (girly throw, etc).

So I try to avoid that term. I also avoid tom boy. When my DD is into dolls she is not 'being a girl' when she climbing a tree she is not being a fake boy.

But leaving that aside, I think part of the tension is that "Well my daughter is just naturally into pink/frills/dolls" is all too often used in discussions as a way of closing down discussion and preventing analysis or gender stereotyping and societal pressures. "It's all innate so shut up and stop moaning", etc. And when people try to respond to that, they often get accused of hating all things pink and frilly and deriding 'girly' choices.

There is nothing at all wrong with a girl (or a boy) wanting to climb a tree in a tutu, or push a pram in combat trousers. Or any combination of the above. But I do find that, where the DD's make very 'conventional' female choices in things, I have more concerns about whether it is their genuine personality coming through, or whether outside pressures led them down that route.

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Tue 08-Oct-13 12:09:34

Facebook - it is worse than that. Pink lego isn't just lego with some pink thrown in. It's a more restrictive, prescribed range that affects how a child can play with the toy. Which really gets me ranting....

woozlebear Tue 08-Oct-13 12:11:29

"Oh I'm sure you'll have to be very careful not to spoil such a lovely dress at nursery, by climbing or getting paint on it"

Can you turn the tables on your MIL and pretend to have totally missed the fact that she's being catty? Act like you think she's seriously telling your DD to be careful of her dress and have a word with her, saying you want to be very careful that DD doesn't grow up thinking she has to be careful of looking pretty and restricting her activities, and you're worried that saying thinks like that will give her the wrong message.

Should a) embarass her into shutting up and b) make her realise there's no need for the catty comments as, essentially, you both want the same for DD.

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