web analytics


When to start teaching your daughters about feminism?

I used to be one of those women that thought that they possibly were a feminist but possibly weren’t, not least because of the stereotype of feminists as badly dressed, grumpy men haters.

But as time has gone on I have realised that whilst there are areas in which equality has come on leaps and bounds, there are plenty of others where women suffer just because they are women.  And that’s not fair and we need to keep on trying to change it.

Which I guess makes me a feminist.

Although hopefully a nicely dressed one who doesn’t hate men.

I have two daughters and part of my impetuous to try and change attitudes is because I want them to grow up with more opportunities than me and without having to fight some of the battles I’ve had to.

But we seem to live in a society that is teaching young girls that their aspirations should mainly be to become princesses and presumably off the back of this to grow up to become WAGs.

Whatever happened to giving girls role models like Marie Curie, Margaret Thatcher, Emmeline Pankhurst, Beatrix Potter?  Whatever happened to letting girls play at being doctors, vets, firefighters, pirates rather than just princesses and fairies?

I had an attack of The Rage in John Lewis recently – all of the clothes were split into boy or girl (and labelled as such) and if I wanted to buy bright primary coloured items for the girls I had to go to the boys collection.  The girls section was a sea of pink, pastel and sparkles.

I had a similar attack of The Rage in the Early Learning Centre where it appears that every toy now comes in a choice of pink or blue plastic.  The gender non specific bright primary colours seem to have disappeared entirely over the last three years and I couldn’t bring myself to replace our red bubble machine with the barbie pink one so the girls are condemned to the ‘boyish’ blue.

What is it with this onslaught of pink and its associated assumption about princesses?

When did we stop showing girls that they can be heroic, strong, courageous and start telling them that they should only be decorative, beautiful, poised?

Have you seen the princess magazines that are on sale?  There are no princesses jumping on horses to go and fight battles like Queen Elizabeth I or Joan of Arc.  There are no princesses running multi national companies or leading countries like Cath Kidson or  Helen Clark.  There are no women fighting courageous battles like Aung San Suu Kyi

But when I try and gently counter this I am treated as I am exposing my daughters to some form of poison.  That I should be encouraging them to conform to this stereotype.

One of the reasons I keep on working is to show the girls that you can work.  That there are choices and that motherhood doesn’t mean an end to ambition and achievement.  Admittedly I’m still working on that balance but at least I’m trying.

I’ve searched out books where the princess is strong and brave and doesn’t rely on a prince to complete her life – the Paperbag Princess and Princess Smartypants are firm favourites in our house (I suspect that Bigger is hoping for a crocodile or a motorbike for her birthday).

But it all feels like so very little.

Do you have any suggestions for how to quietly counter the anti-feminism sea of pink?

Photo credit – Pink Stinks (and yes you should go and check out their campaign)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

10 comments to When to start teaching your daughters about feminism?

  • I hate all that as well, and fight it any way I can. It can be very hard, though. I have also bought “boys” clothes for my daughter – and last week a pink dummy for my baby son; it works two ways – but the influences are so huge they’re hard to stop on your own.

  • aclambart

    Not only is it important to teach your daughters about Feminism, its important to teach your Son’s about Feminism – I am…. 🙂

  • nikhk

    I wish I had the answer. As the mother of a boy, I worry about this from the other side – how do I teach him to respect women and to treat them as equals when girls are increasingly presented as simpering airheads? How do I counteract the assumption that boys should want to play with trucks and dinosaurs, and not kitchens or pushchairs? Much as I shudder at the pink aisles in shops, I also flinch from the boys’ sections – invariably a sea of wheels, monsters and tools in a palate of dark colours with the odd splash of luminous green or orange. Deeply unappealing, either way.

    I do worry about our kids – there seems to be no common ground any more.

  • Great post and one I heartily agree with. IN fact I blogged in much the same vein as you here


  • I think my little girl has it easy because she spends her entire life surrounded by boys stuff and wears boys clothes. I do my best to counter-act this by actively buying pink stuff and encouraging girliness to little effect. Although she seems to love ponies! Shes doing her best to teach boys to respect girls, something which is really a problem as far as I can see from their peers.

    I can recommend Mary Anning as a role model suitable for their ages- she was a Victorian Palaeontologist who started her business when she was a child. The Anholts have written a kids book about her called Stone Girl Bone Girl.

    I dont think a lot of it is about toys, clothes etc etc its about their immediate role models. Its how your husband talks to you and you him, how friends and family behave and how you nuture their interests. eg If you take them to the airplane museum they will be aware of that as a possibility…

    I just go with the flow at the moment and I can honestly say the pink/ blue toy thing doesnt bother me as its how they play with the toys and what they get from them which is important.

  • Kirsty

    I really agree with your post. Your commenters are very wise. If I’m being totally honest, this is a reason that I’m relieved to have two boys. I consider myself a feminist and I’ll try my best to teach them to respect women and about gender balance, but actually, I feel selfishly relieved that they’ll be able to make career choices without being restricted by people’s prejudices. I agre with the point above that the attitudes around them at home are a crucial factor. Also encouraging them to ask questions, and to challenge the status quo.

  • Redbedhead

    I was nodding all through your post and agree completely. G has just turned 3 and is obsessed with princesses and insists on only wearing ‘pretty dresses’ (although that does include her witches outfit!). However I try and remind myself that she also loves doing things like gardening, playing on her bike and has an amazing ability to find the largest and scariest toy in the park and make a bee-line for it, so I am hoping that her princess tendancies are being suitably balanced out.

    • Muddling Along

      I can balance the ‘dancing dresses’ if they are worn with wellies and whilst wearing a hard hat… but then I also worry that I’m imposing my stereotypes of a non-girly girl onto her

      Fearless girls are fab!

  • Karen

    Interesting post…I’m not sure that clothes and colours a feminist or non-feminist makes…I have two girls, they are as equally into pink and being fairies and princesses as they are into Thomas the Tank Engine and playing pirates in the wood. In fact one of them requested a black birthday cake with Spencer on for the 3rd birthday and the other a blue one with Gordon. In the same vein they enjoy looking after their dolls, putting washing in the machine, playing cooking as much as they also like to pretend to go to work and send emails – after all they like to mirror what they see me doing and I do all of the above. Research shows that whether we mean to or not we do treat boys and girls differently in very subtle ways without knowing it. I don’t think pink stinks – I think its important for children to grow up
    with a childhood that is free from expectations – many of them invented by consumerism and marketing- and allowed to become themselves rather than what we want them to be. If my children can see what is out there for them to achieve and I can show them the myriad of paths they could chose to walk then I’ll be happy….and if they chose to marry footballers or a prince than run their own company or do both – I’ll be happy as well…so long as its their choice rather than someone elses.

  • I’m so with you. I’m sad that having a daughter means having to wince going through toy and clothing departments because I hate “Barbie pink”.

    I’m not saying she can’t have a pink dress, but I’d like to be able to choose to have a pink dress from a choice of red, green, blue, orange, yellow, brown, whatever colour you fancy dresses. And if you do find an item that isn’t pink, there’s always some tiny pink detailing, presumably to ensure that thick people know what gender the child is.

    Anyway, I almost threw a Mother and Baby magazine across the library this morning after reading an article on how to avoid unconscious gender streaming that talked about how to empower your princess. i don’t have a fecking princess, indeed I might just buy an ak47 for the first person to refer to Meredith as that.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>