‘Ponies are for girls’ … and so it begins …

Alright Tired Feminists, maybe you can help this mom out. I had a somewhat difficult conversation with my three-year-old last night. We were playing with some My Little Ponies and my kid told me that the ponies were all girls and that ponies were only for girls to play with. (Sigh) Are we really already at this conversation in my kid’s young life?

I’ve been sick for about 10 days straight (with a toddler who has also been sick for about 10 days straight), so my brain was not full-strength but it clicked into gear enough to think, “Oh, this is a teachable moment about gender.” I told my kiddo that ponies are for all people and that all people like to play with ponies. Dad chimed in, too, “I like ponies.”

The kid was adamant that I was absolutely wrong. “Ponies are for girls, mommy.” No matter how I tried to dice it, the kid was convinced that ponies were for girls only. I started to feel angry. Who has been telling my kid that some toys are for boys and some are for girls because that shit don’t fly in this Tired Feminist’s house? (Answer: Society, that’s who.) Finally, I remembered the “Brony” trend of men who love the My Little Pony show and ponies. I showed her the trailer for the documentary about said fan-culture. This seemed to (temporarily?) convince my kid that ponies can be for boys as well as girls.

This feels like winning the battle, not the war. After all, there will be other kinds of toys that will, unfortunately, elicit this sad conversation. And we didn’t even broach the idea that there are more than just (cisgender) “boys” and “girls.” Indeed, we go to church with several people who live their lives outside the gender binary and who are trusted adults in my kid’s life. Whether or not the kid has internalized this flexibility of gender identity is hard to tell but tonight’s conversation doesn’t fill me with confidence.

So, tell me what you’d do Tired Feminists? How do you approach the gender-binary conversation with your little ones? If we want to end the implicit misogyny of gender rules as well as issues like transphobia, we have to start by dismantling the harmful messages our kids get. It takes a village here, people, and I need some help from the village.

TMF: Spidey Sense tingling!

Copyright: The Tired Feminist

It doesn’t get more obviously gendered then the toddler underwear aisle.

Now this particular TMF: Tired Marketing Fail hits closer to home than most because Andrea Shindeldecker of Oak Park, Illinois is a mom after my own heart. You see, her five-year-old daughter LOVES Spiderman! Sure, other superheroes are great and all, but Spidey is tops. Sound like another little girl you’ve heard about on this blog before? Yep, as I’ve said before, my toddler is one of Spidey’s biggest fans. So, when this Change.org petition hit my inbox with the simple title Spiderman Underpants… well, you had me at Spiderman.

This TMF goes out to all the little girls who love superheroes and find no love at their local department stores. I’ll let Andrea explain:

Where to begin? My name is Andrea Shindeldecker and I’m many things, but as we say in the business, I am first and foremost, a mother. A mother to two amazing girls. I tell them every day that they are awesome and that they can accomplish whatever they strive for and that boys and girls, men and women are equal. The lessons they’re learning in the store aisles, reflect that my sincerest lesson, may hold a kernel of falsehood.

My first-born, Charlotte will be 5 in 2 days. She LOVES Spider-Man. All the superheros, but Spidey is her one, truest love. She has begged, since she was beginning to potty train, for Spidey undies. We even tried the boys. While buying out of the boys department works for t-shirts and pajamas, alas, not for underwear. Today, she got mad. She told me that it’s NOT FAIR. That she loves Spider-Man and knows more about him than lots of kids. It’s not fair that she can’t have the Spidey undies and it makes her SO MAD. If she’s not allowed to have something as silly as the underwear, what else can’t she have? A very good question indeed.

It’s not just Spider-Man that she can’t have. It happens with all the children’s characters. A boy who loves Dora or Cinderella, a little girl that wants both Thor and Foofa underwear. Every day, they’re told told that what they want is only for children of the opposite gender. It seems like such a small thing, but what we are telling small children, on their first MAJOR transition out of babyhood is that their favorite character is not for them. That they are wrong. What a terrible message. Kids can and do like whatever they want. Heroes and princesses alike, are for all children. And if a favored hero can be worn on a day they are nervous such as a recital or a first day at a new school; then why should we deny them that small comfort!? Why should we tell our kids they can only want the characters on one side of the store aisle?
It’s a big world, and we tell our kids they are free to be themselves and pursue their own paths. However, we tell them from a young age that they can’t be themselves, they can be pink or blue. I want my kids to feel free to embrace all their facets of their diamond personalities, to dream of being like strong heroes and courageous princesses, to be every color of the rainbow. I wish that for your kids too.

Let’s start with the underwear, and we’ll work our way out to the outermost layers of clothing.

This is a classic example of tired marketing failing our kids! Frankly, it’s a classic example of capitalism failing, if you get right down to it. I mean, isn’t the idea of capitalism all about supply and demand? Well, our little girls are demanding Spiderman underpants! Where are their Spiderman underpants?!

I must admit, when I first saw this email in my inbox, I got excited that maybe someone was finally making girl-style superhero underwear. Because my toddler is closing in on three-years-old and we’re right in the middle of the Age of Potty Training. And one of the things that delighted her was discovering she could have Spiderman underwear. I went ahead and bought her the boy-style briefs, but they proved uncomfortable for her and she would quickly take them off. And now, every time she looks at them, there’s a little disappointment on her cherubic face.

And just like that, my two-year-old has had her first experience with gender conformity. Society is telling her in not-so-subtle terms that Spidey is not for girls. Those underpants are not for you. And that fucking sucks!

And like Andrea, I have no desire to leave the boys out of this game because they are getting screwed here, too. If you’re little boy likes Dora the Explorer, Hello Kitty, princesses, or even just the color pink… fuggitaboutit. Not only will he face open mockery for his choice, but those girl-style panties won’t comfortably fit his needs anymore than the Spideys did for my daughter.

Honestly, we live in a time when comic book movies are enjoyed be people of all genders. I went to see Iron Man 2 one week before I gave birth to my daughter. That’s how much I wanted to see that movie! If you have ever been pregnant or known someone in the late-stages of pregnancy, you have to have some sense of the discomfort quotient I was willingly putting up with to see a comic book movie. (And I would do it again.)

So, if we all agree that girls and women can like comic books and watch comic book movies and be all up in the superhero business… then what’s the hold up on delivering what little girls want? And let’s not delivery this underpants-style equality in batches. Let’s de-segregate the underwear aisle!

And let’s not stop there… Because it ain’t any better in the diaper aisle:

Copyright: The Tired Feminist

Is there a reason why diapers are ONLY pink and blue in the major brands?

TMF: Different rules for girls

Let’s take a look at a couple of toddler shirts I found on a recent shopping trip to Old Navy for this installment of TMF: Tired Marketing FAIL!

First we have a shirt in the boys section:

Then we have a shirt from the girl’s section:

Notice anything? I mean, besides the pink and blue gender-coding? Just like in past TMFs, we see that the “boy” shirt is all about action and having an autonomous identity while the “girl” shirt is all about being an object, which in this case means making sure to be “Daddy’s little Treasure.” Now, I think it’s wonderful if fathers and daughters have warm and loving relationships. But I hope my daughter wants more out of life than to ONLY aspire to be the apple of her father’s eye. And I don’t know if we can get more overt about the difference in how we treat boys and girls than making shirts that proudly proclaim that rules don’t apply to a boy.

And before I go I wanted to share this pic, sent in by my friend (and reader) Barbara:

Have you spotted at TMF? Send ’em my way and maybe I’ll be posting yours up soon!

TMF: Girl Power!

Just a quick TMF: Tired Marketing FAIL! today… I snapped this pic as I was walking past the girl’s department at a major big-box store. I think it’s rather awesome (all unintentional Charlie Sheen references aside):


TMF: Name that sexism

Quick! Check out this t-shirt I spotted in the girl’s side of the toddler section and tell me why I just had to call it out for the first TMF: Tired Marketing FAIL! of the year. And… go!

Slut-shaming is wrong: This 13-year-old has it figured out

How awesome is this 13-year-old girl with her vlog about why slut-shaming is wrong. (Answer: “It’s part of a rape culture… [that says] it’s okay to rape sluts because they were ‘asking for it.'”)

How about this sex-positive, shame-free directive:

It is nobody’s business but your own how many people you’re having sex with or how much sex you have. And you don’t deserve to be hated on for being sexually active.

Here’s the video:

Seriously, how amazing is this girl? And how can I make sure my daughter turns out equally amazing (and with a truly great understanding of the institutional systems in our society that hurt women — at the age of 13!)?

PS: Speaking of awesomely enlightened teens talking about rape culture, check out this post by a teen talking about why people shouldn’t use the term “rape” as slang.

Scout’s honor

After news broke of the 7-year-old transgender child who wasn’t allowed to join Girl Scouts, my heart sank a little. You see, I was a Girl Scout for seven years. Denver’s Bobby Montoya has made national headlines because of a Girl Scout leader’s refusal to let him join because he had, “boy parts.”Oh, right. Boy parts. Despite the existence of “boy parts,” Montoya’s mother says that her child has been identifying as a girl since around the age of two.

“Bobby identifies as a girl, and he’s a boy,” [Bobby’s mother] Felisha Archuleta told KUSA-TV. “He’s been doing this since he was about 2 years old. He’s loved girl stuff, so we just let him dress how he wants, as long as he’s happy.”

You know, Felisha, I like you. I like you a lot.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as accepting as Felisha. When Bobby went to join Girl Scouts, a local troop leader freaked out and made the child cry, according to news reports.

“I really got upset because my grandson is himself. We’ve all accepted it,” Rose Archuleta told The Daily News. “We’ve all accepted Bobby as he is, and for this lady to talk to him that way, it was just awful. This lady shouldn’t be working with kids.”

You know, I’m really starting to like this family.

The good news is that the Girl Scouts issued a statement saying that they accept all children who identify as girls.

“Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

Kudos to the Girl Scouts for allowing kids to have the dignity and respect they deserve regarding their gender identity. No doubt, it will take time for that message to trickle down to every scout leader. And in every organization there are a few bad apples. But it is very encouraging to me that the Girls Scouts, which is an organization that provides leadership and socialization skills to thousands of girls, is stepping out front with a message that inclusion and acceptance are, indeed, the golden rule.

And it makes me happy that kids like Bobby can be accepted into a group that — with the right troop leaders — can provide amazing experiences. I know that not everyone enjoys or has a good experience in Girl Scouts. But I was lucky enough to have some amazing troop leaders who offered me guidance, encouragement, training in valuable life skills, and even a safe space away from violence and abuse in my family life. Without Girl Scouts I would never have gone camping as a kid. I wouldn’t have developed certain skills as swiftly and as early as I did. Without one particular troop leader, I might not have ever heard the message, “Why do things need to be perfect? What if something amazing happens when it’s un-perfect?” And I definitely would not have had a safe haven — if even for a few hours a week — from a scary home life. Not to mention all those cookies.

Thanks for still rocking, Girl Scouts!