Like A Girl

This week our guest blog comes from a best good friend of Ellen’s, Cassie.  She runs her own blog, Wholehearted Dragonfly.  This slightly edited post originally appeared here.  Enjoy!

So I just printed off the local parks and recreation schedule to see if there were some classes my husband and I could sign our daughter Iris up for (no I don’t believe she has to be busy all the time I just thought it would be fun!).  So mostly now I’m excited about signing MYSELF up for Bollywood dance class because what the heck! Why did I not know about this.

Oh, but back to Iris.  I showed my husband the schedule and I was surprised at his reaction to my excitement about putting her in ballet. We both agreed she would like gymnastics the best, but it doesn’t fit best with our schedule.  When I read Kyle the ballet description about poise and grace and fun!  he wasn’t sold.   I actually appreciate that about our parenting style, we are able to tell each other when we aren’t okay with something.  And I appreciate that: those aren’t top qualities he wants our daughter to possess.  But I draw the line at the preschool hockey league he then suggested for her.

Really this conversation just made me think once again of this tricky space about “girlness” in our world and the ways I bump up against it in my own life and with my daughter.  I really didn’t try too intentionally to be a gender-neutral-all-wooden-toys-no-pink-for-my-daughter mama.  I mean really most days I was just happy that she was still breathing.  But I did really appreciate the moments that people helped her express so many different sides of herself.  From the big poofy gorgeous purple dress that she wore to Kyle’s graduation, given by my mother in law, to the onesie from my sweet friend Ellen that says, “Forget about princess I want to be president”, to the flannel shirt and “boy” shorts from my mom. I really like all of these things because these gifts are so true to who these people are.  

Okay…so sometimes I would tend towards the less traditional girl because I am a feminist and I think it is my job to teach her that being a girl isn’t defined by being pretty, quiet, and small (this from Brene Brown’s research that even today these are still the top qualities women feel pressured to possess!)  As I teach her what it is to be a girl, I am also teaching myself. But I also think that when people gift Iris with things they love, she learns love, no matter how frilly or boyish or anywhere in between it is. At least I hope!

So back to gymnastics, or ballet, or both.  It does feel like chicken and egg sometimes.  Will Iris become more into pink, tutus, and dance if we enroll her in ballet? Or are we just encouraging a natural desire in her that already includes wearing tutus…well and a cape, usually while naked.  And inherently, there isn’t much meaning in any of those things until I put it there. Until I say…now act like a lady, and cross your legs. (I will never say that!!!).

A girlfriend and I were just talking about how dialogue was happening  that more accommodations be made for pregnant woman in the workplace (such as are made for other medical conditions).  Then on a Facebook post she saw a number of women were saying, “we can’t have it both ways…both asking to be treated like men and then asked for special favors.” I was arguing to my friend that this didn’t feel like the central debate for me, because I don’t want to be a man, nor do I want to be treated like a man. I want to be a woman, who is treated equally to men. I want this for Iris too. I want being “girly” to be mean playing sports professionally if that’s what she wants. I want her to wear tutus while solving quantum physics equations. I want her to wear lipstick and go to the moon.  I want her to continue to shout triumphantly, “I have a vagina!” like she did the other day to my mom and me.

So, as every parent wants for every child, I just want all the things.  Stay tuned on whether we do tumbling in the spring or pirouettes this Fall.


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