That’s right; our little bundle of joy is a girl. Nathan wanted the gender to be a surprise, but I used to open my Christmas presents and re-wrap them as a child. Needless to say, I do not have patience. Although I do have to say, pregnancy is helping me work on that.
Since odds are good we’ll only have one child, I think Nathan was a tiny bit thrown. But that quickly went away when we saw her moving around, saw her arms and legs, and saw her strong heart beat. As I told Nathan, our little girl can skateboard with him, play video games with Daddy, practice throwing the football, and play whatever sports she wants.
As a Woman’s Studies minor (few credits shy of a double major!), I am a little concerned about having a girl, especially now. With role models like Miley Cyrus, Disney princesses, and MTV shows like 16 and Pregnant, I want to be prepared and want my daughter to be a strong confident woman.
I went to my go-to source–the library. I checked out a few books, and found a great choice by one of my favorite authors from college, Peggy Orenstein. I first encountered her in my Sociology class via her book Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap. Her newest book, Cinderella Age My Daughter: Dispatches From Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, is a great resource.
Let me talk about my issues with Disney Princesses. In my first Women’s Studies class in college we were assigned a group paper and my group chose to watch the movie Pocahontas. After many viewings of the movie, other Disney movies, and reading many articles, I began to see the princesses in another light. Why didn’t they have mothers? Why were the women role models in their life often mean? Why were they always saved by men? Why did the story often revolve around a relationship with a man?
I wondered how Peggy handled this with her daughter. It’s not like I can (or want to) completely outlaw princesses in my home. I feel banning something only makes the attraction stronger; my daughter will also encounter these princesses outside the home. Peggy allows her daughter to chose the items she likes, but always has a conversation about the subjects with her. This led Peggy’s daughter to chose stronger Disney women characters, like Mulan.
Another strong point in the book is, yes, girls and boys are different. Though I believe in equality for women, I do acknowledge there are differences between the sexes. Orenstein’s book points to a study done in 2002 with primates. Scientists gave male and female vervet monkeys two “masculine” toys (a police car and a ball), two “neutral” toys (a picture book and a stuffed animal), and two “feminine” toys (a cooking pot and a doll). The monkeys had never seen the toys before and obviously didn’t now that each item had gender connotations. Both females and males were drawn to the neutral toys, but the females went for the feminine toys and the males chose the masculine toys. They also performed the test on rhesus monkeys six years later and obtained the same results. So is it all nurture over nature?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not going to give my daughter exclusively girls toys. I think it’s important for each gender to have a variety of toys to help them activate different parts of their brain (also in the book). But my main concern isn’t so much her toys; it’s the teenage years.
When we run errands or go to the mall, I’m always a little appalled by the lack of clothing on some teenage girls. That’s been a huge concern for me in finding out I’m having a daughter. Orenstein’s book and others I’ve read have emphasized COMMUNICATION with your teenage daughter is key. She will see things, and you won’t be able to control that. So instead of ignoring sexualized performances on MTV (hello Miley and Robin Thicke), watch it with your daughter and have a conversation about it. What did you think about her outfit? How do you feel about dancing that way?
I had a conversation with my mom since I feel she did a pretty good job. I never wanted to dress sexy or bare too much skin. In fact, I often felt embarrassed wearing a bikini (that’s a whole other issue!). Again, it boiled down to communication. My mom and dad raised me to be able to talk about whatever was on my mind (probably why sometimes I tend to share too much!). My mother also never really forced her opinions on me. There were times when she would definitely make them known, but she would ask me how I felt.
In a nutshell, I think no matter what gender child you will have, there will always be concerns. How do you raise a male child to be comfortable sharing his emotions and crying if he needs to? What if he wants to wear a pink shirt? What if his friends are pressuring him to have sex with his partner before he is ready because that is the “manly” thing to do? After reading books, and talking to numerous parents, I feel a little more at ease. As long as we talk to our child, remain open to communicating with her, and let her know we are always here for her, she will make the right choices for her.