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Raising Girls: Go With the Flow?

8 March 2012 No Comment

-By Mary Liepold, Editor In Chief

In honor of International Women’s Day, we are taking part in the Gender Across Borders IWD blogging campaign.  They asked the question: “How can we, as a culture and as members of the global community, involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way?

My answer is below – what do you think? 

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The gift of grandchildren invites us to re-examine things we thought we knew. Right now, I’m having some new thoughts about raising girls.

My daughter told me the other day that part of the reason her four-year-old daughter owns every princess dress in the Disney collection, with plastic high heels to match, is that I never bought her a Barbie doll. I don’t even remember the Barbie conversation, but I’m sure she’s right. Back in the 1970s when she was small I pretty much said no to pink and plastic. It was the logical corollary to saying no to guns for the boys. It’s what we crunchy-granola feminist moms did at the time.

Well, OK, maybe I went further than some. I threw away the TV so she and her three brothers wouldn’t absorb sexist and consumerist messages. I bought lots of legos and music and books instead―especially those with positive messages, like Petronella and Three Strong Women and Free to Be You and Me. I provided art supplies and piano lessons, lots of dress-up clothes that weren’t made in sweatshops, academic encouragement, and a positive environment with fallible parents who love and respect each other.

Mary Liepold

By and large, I like the results. My daughter spent 16 years after college working for progressive nonprofits, which is just what I’ve always done. She’s a happy, engaged fulltime mom, just like I was when our kids were young. Her daughter doesn’t have a Barbie yet―probably because Barbie’s not as hot as she used to be―but she likes to play wedding (with Grandma as the groom, on our weekly playdates). And her mom, who doesn’t cook as much as I did and serves up lots of today’s highly processed “organic” foods, is about to invest in a new play kitchen larger than the one N. already has.

Fortunately she has a younger brother, so she also gets to play with trucks and trains, and nobody bats an eyelash when he wants to borrow one of her tutus or her fairy wings. She’s been reading since before she turned two and she goes to Chinese lessons on Sunday afternoons. My daughter’s a patient, loving mother who’s absolutely tuned in to the kids and she can afford to buy almost anything they say they want, so if N. asks for a microscope or a metronome she’ll have it in a heartbeat. Come to think of it, this child IS a princess!

So, have we arrived at a time when girls will just naturally want to be princesses and scientists and heads of state too? Is the playing field so level that we can trust what the culture has on offer? I was never a bra-burning Mother Hubbard feminist, and though I’ve never seen Legally Blonde, I like the idea of a woman who makes guys drool and kicks their butts professionally at the same time―at least as long as she’s essentially kind.

I’m not about to stop going to demonstrations for peace and the environment, but I’m curious to know what others think. Is it time for us to relax and go with the flow?

The views and opinions expressed on the Peace X Peace staff blog are those of the individual staff members, and do not necessarily represent the organization.

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About the Author

Mary Liepold is the Editor-in-Chief at Peace X Peace. To reach Dr. Liepold, email maryl@peacexpeace.org.
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