Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Book Review: Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween

Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to TweenRedefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween by Melissa Atkins Wardy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was more curious as to how this information would be presented, rather than looking for a new resource. I've been reading and actively analyzing gender stereotyping for a long time. I think this would a be a great resource for someone new to the arena. Because as the author correctly states, "once you see it, you can't unsee it". How the media and retailers are dictating childhood is awful. What's terrifying is how many parents follow along, sometimes even accepting it even tho it makes them feel uncomfortable ,especially when it comes to the way girls are becoming objectified at younger and younger ages).

There's a lot of this that I think works for raising boys and girls. Many of these approaches I've used with my son since his birth. Gender neutral clothing and toys, encouraging arts and sciences rather than superhero/princess play (not that it's not present. I am a Batman fan, raising a Batman fan), being outside and playing hard, etc...these are things all kids need. There's also a lot of emphasis on the importance of boys and girls playing together, and making sure they are in environments that encourage this and how to deal with spaces- schools, daycares,doctors offices, etc- that can fall into the rut of separating by gender.

But there are definite problems with the book. First, Wardy skirts around slut-shaming often. She talks a lot about having open dialogues with your daughter, about how to deal with circumstances when she wants to wear clothes that may not be age appropriate. But instead of emphasizing just that, it can become a discussion of "what sort of attention do you think you'll get?" or "Do you understand the message an outfit like that gives?" Wardy's daughter is not a teenager, and I'd be curious to see how these conversations go when she does have one. I guess we will see on the blog?

She also doesn't seem to talk a lot about body confidence, other than the fact that we should encourage healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle. The one time weight is mentioned, it's that we should be worried about the rise of obesity. Young children, girls in particular, will go thru phases of thinning out and gaining weight. I felt like there could have been more discussion as to how to help with body confidence,again, other than healthy eating habit and active lifestyle! You can be both of those things and it does not ensure that you will have a physical physique that will safeguard your confidence.

One thing that caught me off guard is her absolute hatred of Monster High Dolls. Yes, she hates Barbie, and Bratz are awful, but Monster High Dolls ("Meanie Monsters" she calls them) had their own special write ups several times. Here's what bothered me "Girls that dress like that often don't have full and happy hearts, and they use clothing like that to get attention and make themselves feel full". I like Monster High dolls because they are so far from human reality. They are complete fantasy. But I feel like her conversation with her daughter is actually teaching her how to view people who are different, or alternative, as something to fear or that they mean.

I was also uncomfortable with Wardy's idea of "Branding". How she "branded" herself and how to try and find your child's "brand". I don't feel like you can really go up against companies trying to brand themselves to your child, and then turn around and try and do it yourself. It felt unnecessary. Encourage your child without trying to pigeon hole them. They are going to go thru phases and try out new things, sometime to push our buttons, and other times to test their own limits and levels of comfort. I think it would be ridiculous to try and keep them "on brand". So parents, toss that idea aside because it's trash. You can have a happy, thriving, adventurous kid without "branding".

Again, I didn't hate the book, but I'm sure you can see there was more I disliked than liked. But if I were approached by a parent or family member who was testing the waters, I think this would be a good starting off point of noticing the world around and how to engage in conversations with family, friends, teachers, doctors, dentists, retailers, etc... to try and be part of enacting change.

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