Girls Will Be Girls: Finding a Balance

I’m not exactly a feminist, but I’m not exactly not one either.  I truly believe that girls can and should do anything and have the same opportunities that boys have.  I definitely don’t want my daughter to ever feel like she is excluded from success just because she’s a girl.  But I wouldn’t consider myself a crusader on the topic.  My daughter, like many girls her age, loves to play dress up and princess.  She’s very “girly” to say the least and that’s just fine with me.  In fact, ever since her baby shower I was thrilled that I had a girl because everything was just so cute, frilly and pretty!  I’ll even admit to being the one to dress her up in pretty princess gowns and I love to play beauty salon with her.  But recently she decided to dress up like this:

May I wash your feet, Sir?
Photo: K. Stevenson

No, she’s not dressed up as the Virgin Mary. She wanted to dress up as a “scullery maid”.  (She learned about this kind of maid from the movie Cinderella.)  She didn’t even give herself princess status.  She went right to servant.  Uh oh, I think somewhere we took a wrong turn.  I didn’t have a panic attack about the objectification of women or anything, but now I’m on a mission to help build her sense of girl power and prove to her that girls can do anything.

The first thing I did was put this book by Peggy Orenstein in my cart at Amazon:

cinderella ate

Photo credit

The author became a mom to a little girl who, before she knew it, was bombarded by pink and princess and all that glittered. It seemed harmless, right? Well, she set off to find out the true impact of the rise of the girly girl. I’m not sure I’ll agree with everything she has to say but it seems like it’s worth the read, especially since she uses her firsthand experience with raising her own daughter.

And because I believe that books can save the world, I turned to the internet and my public library for some more inspiration to help empower my girl. If you’re on Pinterest, these links will look familiar. Every Saturday Zoey and I go to the library and pick out books. I let her get whatever she wants, but usually I go in with a list of my own too.

I started with this list from a blog called No Time for Flashcards. I was able to find quite a few of these at my library and they were awesome. The one that Zoey and I enjoyed the most was The Princess Knight, about a princess who trains to be a knight her whole life, even though her brothers laugh at her. Eventually her father wants to give her “hand in marriage” to the knight who wins a tournament! Well, imagine everyone’s surprise when the Princess Knight secretly enters the tournament and kicks all the boys’ butts! We also loved Willow, by Denise Brennan and Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney.

Photo Credit

Photo Credit

Then I found the website A Mighty Girl, which offers suggestions and products to help raise smart, confident, and courageous girls.  There was a whole section on books that you can sort by age and reading level.  Not only are the book selections about strong girls, but they are also a diverse mix of stories and biographies that I might never have known existed.

The list is pretty big and we haven’t made our way through it yet, but so far our favorite is Mama Played Baseball, by David A. Adler about a young girl whose dad goes away to serve in World War II and her mom takes a job as a professional baseball player.  We also loved Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller, by Doreen Rappaport which was our first biography, in picture book form.  I also recommend Girls A to Z, by Eve Bunting and, if you’re a hockey fan, The Magic Hockey Stick, by Peter Maloney.

mama played baseball

 Photo Credit

There are tons of resources out there to help raise strong girls, whether you choose princess or not.  I’m choosing to find the middle ground because that’s what works best for my family.  I hope you find these suggestions helpful.   For more perspective on being a feminist and a mother, check out Michelle’s post here.

Author’s note:  While I link to Amazon.com for all of these photos/books, I was not compensated by the authors for mentioning their books in this post.  I just liked them and thought you’d find them interesting too. 

16 thoughts on “Girls Will Be Girls: Finding a Balance

  1. I’m SO GLAD there are others who have read and enjoy Miss Rumphius; it’s hands down my favorite children’s book. Can’t wait to check out some of your other recommendations! (And I just happened to stumble upon The Princess Knight at the library yesterday and thought it was super cute!)

  2. Just to follow up on a couple of the comments- all feminism means is that you believe in equality. It doesn’t mean you can’t be a girlie girl or that you are required to attend rallies or burn your bra. Feminism is about solidarity & accepting and respecting another woman’s lifestyle choice.

  3. Why so many online statements that begin “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then go on to express sentiments that are clearly feminist? One way to raise strong girls, whether princessy, tomboyish, or any combination or place along that spectrum, is to stop contributing to the implication that “feminist” is something to distance oneself from. But that’s just my frustration with a lot of the blogosphere…these are all great resources, my somewhat girly-girl and I love A Might Girl, and Miss Rumphius has been a fave since we received it as a 2nd birthday gift.

    1. Thanks for the comment Diane. You are right–I was stating that I wasn’t a feminist but was one at the same time. I was trying to avoid labeling myself, I suppose. I appreciate your opinion and I’m glad you like the resources. Miss Rumphius is just a beautiful book with an amazing message. Who wouldn’t agree with doing something to make the world more beautiful? Awesome.

  4. Love it! My girl loves playing princess and all things girly, but she is one tough little cookie too. She loves to play in the dirt and climb while wearing a dress and fancy shoes. Thanks for the resources 🙂

  5. A Mighty Girl is a GREAT website and I love following them on Facebook, as they often post really interesting articles (and then extensive resource lists of books, etc., to support whatever it talks about).

    1. Sharlene I loved those two too! It was so hard going through those lists to narrow my choices down! I kept finding ones that made me go “Oooh! That one was great!” What I also noticed was that the Might Girl site has a lot of seasonal/holiday book suggestions which are so helpful at this time of year. I started a new list to take to the library!

  6. I hate to break it to you, but if you believe in equality you are a feminist ;-P

    Great book suggestions! I LOVE finding books with positive messages. I would like to add to your list the “Can Do Kid” books and “My name is not Isabella.” We own those and I love reading them to my girl!

    1. Thanks Michelle!
      I guess I have to admit it at some point, right? =) I think I have an extreme view of feminism in my mind that I need to break free of. I’m not a Norma Rae or a Gloria Steinem but I love that I can reap the benefits of the trail they blazed. So while I’m not going to be at a rally somewhere shouting about rights and waving a sign, I will be helping my girl find her voice and her strength. Smaller scale, but big results I hope. And thanks for the suggestions–I’ll have to check those books out!

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