Thursday, March 22, 2012

Princesses, Ponies and Prettiness are NOT bad

When I first saw that Feminist Parenting Perspectives was going to be a brown bag in the spring, I made sure to sign up for the reflection because I knew it was something I absolutely HAD to see. The brown bag was led by a panel of 5 women of different backgrounds, children and with different parenting styles.

I was really looking forward to this brown bag because I was interested in learning about the implications of being a feminist and being a mother. Being a parent is always very difficult as it requires you to find a way to pass on your values to your children without having them rebel against them. I could only imagine how difficult it would be to raise children in a house free of gender stereotypes, but have all that training wiped away the moment they enter school. One of the panelists mentioned that she and her partner were very set on raising their daughter in a home where being a girl is about more than princesses and high heels. While this proved itself to be easier at home, when she entered day care there were social implications for her. She wasn't invited to the princess parties because she wasn't as interested in princesses as her classmates were.

The Barbie dilemma also came up inevitably. While Barbies do impose an unachievable physical standard of beauty for young girls...they're also toys and all kids love toys. I know when I was a little girl, my mom got me Barbie dolls, but she purposefully did not buy me any white barbie dolls. All of mine were either black or hispanic to respect my ethnic background. This wasn't because she hated white people or anything like that, but because if Barbie was already going to be my standard of beauty, she wanted it to be a woman of color. I really appreciated that all the panelists, while being self-identifying feminists, stressed the importance of not de-valuing the feminine. I think this is the most important aspect of feminism that is often overlooked. Just because you encourage your daughter to explore things that "only boys do," girls shouldn't be discouraged from pursuing activities and interests that may be labeled feminine.

Finally, the point that resonated with me was one by one of the panelists who was a working mother. She said that while she was gone much of the week, her children's father was in charge during that time. She said that time was great for building the relationship between father and child. I thought that this was an EXCELLENT point. The relationship between fathers and their children is really unappreciated in my opinion. Many people stress that women need to be mothers and being a mother requires her to be home literally taking care of her family, but no one ever discusses how this impacts fathers. Part of being a father is taking care of children when they're sick and reading them stories--not just going to work and paying the bills. I also think that a large part of being a mother is allowing your children to develop a relationship with their father in the same way they develop one with their mother.

-Renyelle Jimenez

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