Little Girls and Little Ponies

By Chaorama (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s less than a week until the official launch of A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  I hope you have all ordered your copy.  Starting next week, I will review the book and then go through it with you chapter by chapter.  I would love to know that you are all reading along with me as we go.  Until then, continue to enjoy my musings on womanhood, feminism, raising a daughter, and all things in between.

When my daughter was born, as with my son, I determined that I wasn’t going to raise her in a way that pushed her to believe that only a certain way of playing, acting, or dressing was acceptable for a girl.  Like with Jack, we stuck with a lot of toys that any child would enjoy.  I explicitly avoided the “girl” versions of toys, such as the pink Fisher-Price Little People and the pink Bubble Mower.  I was certain that I was going to have a daughter who wasn’t afraid to be whoever she chose to be, and it wouldn’t be based on silly notions about lipstick and purses and princess gowns.

I got my wish, but it didn’t turn out exactly as I had expected.

It’s true that I have a girl who doesn’t play with Barbies; in fact, she doesn’t like most dolls.  She has never asked to be a fairy princess for Halloween, and she doesn’t stick exclusively to pink and purple clothes (she prefers her brother’s outgrown t-shirts paired with neutral-color skirts).  In her world, a purse is a storage compartment for toys, not lipstick.  She has virtually no interest in her hair except to complain when I comb it.

But she does like make-up, which she discovered when she had to wear it for a dance recital (for the record, my son does as well; stage make-up was required for everyone).  She likes fancy dresses; she likes to twirl for us and ask how she looks (the answer is always, “You look beautiful”).  She is a big fan of anything with Hello Kitty on it, including her favorite pair of rain boots ever—vivid pink with Hello Kitty’s head right on the toe.  And as I type this, she is watching an episode of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”

Which brings me to my real point.  The new version of My Little Pony is something I can get behind.  Sarah and I like to watch together.  (The reason I’m writing while she watches is that she’s chosen an episode she’s seen at least 3 times.)  Sure, the show includes all the typical girl stereotypes: the Jock, the Brain, the Beauty Queen, the Tomboy, the Ditz, the Wallflower.  But what I like is the rather atypical way that plays out in the show.  (I also like that it’s a show even my husband and son like, which proves that having strong female lead characters is not something that puts boys off, any more than having a strong male lead puts girls off.)

I like seeing a fresh, fun show that has girls in mind, yet doesn’t resort to typical girl-on-girl aggression themes or require them to solve only problems related to “caregiver” scenarios or popularity and beauty contests.  I also have the feeling that the usual personality stereotypes are not so much because a girl can only be any one of those things but because each of us has all of those qualities in different measures.  The number of times the show makes reference to needing the different gifts each of the ponies brings to a situation underscores that, as well as reinforcing the idea of accepting our differences and using them to work together.

Part of the way my own heart has softened is in understanding that there is a big difference between a girl wanting to wear pink and play princess and a girl feeling like she has to do those things in order to be a “real” girl.  The first is a matter of personality and style; the second is imposed on us by an unyielding culture.  Understanding that my daughter, despite my efforts and despite her lack of school-related peer pressure, enjoys lots of things that are intended “for girls.”  There would only be a problem if she rejected anything else because she stopped believing that it was okay for a girl to deviate from the marketing.

What my daughter has is, I think, a rare gift: the ability to enjoy whatever she wants, without fear that anyone will think she’s not a “real” girl.  I suppose, in the end, that my efforts to shield her from societal pressures on girls has paid off.

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Don’t forget to submit your essays! Only 8 days to go!

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2 thoughts on “Little Girls and Little Ponies

  1. You do realize that the “brony” phenomenon has gotten to the point that a girl liking MLP:FiM is almost subversive, don’t you? lol

    Seriously, though, I love this show and I love the way it gives depth to the archetypes that its characters fall into. I especially like the way “beauty queen” Rarity is portrayed as an artist and entrepreneur when it would have been easy to turn her into a stereotypical shopaholic.

    • Ha! That’s true. Bronies are everywhere!

      Agreed about the adding depth to the archetypes. Our whole family loves Apple Jack. She, too, isn’t just a run-of-the-mill tomboy. She’s hardworking and industrious. My only complaint is that the boy characters are often flat. I would be nice to see a little bit of the same treatment for male stereotypes, adding dimension to them.

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