Thursday, October 3, 2013

glitter, sexuality, and hetero-normative femininity

Let's not be reactionary, let's be visionaries!

I'll be the first to admit that I over think things, some people who love me might tell you I over think *everything.* While this can be a bit annoying, it's not that I am being critical, I'm trying to understand the why, the what behind the words, the larger context and how something fits into it. And yes, this can come across as being critical or judgmental, but that's not where my mind, or heart, is. 

Today I saw this image: 

This rubbed me the wrong way initially because of the word "teach."  I don't think you need to teach girls to be strong, intelligent, and adventurous. I think some girls are born with those traits, and you should support girls in nurturing them. But wait, what about the girls who aren't strong, intelligent, and adventurous?  What about the girls who want to grow up and spend their days planting flowers in their gardens and avoiding adventures whenever possible? 

I decided to go check out the site and see if maybe I was being over reactive, or missing some larger part of the picture. And I found that I could support the Value Statement of The Brave Girl Alliance. 

But on their front page this sentence caused me to pause, "The diva fashionista is overdone and boring. Families are looking for multi-layered, diverse, intelligent, and strong media characters to enrich their girls imaginations. If our girls can see it, they can be it.  " Hold on just a minute! My diva fashionista daughters are not boring! My Diva fashionistas are multi-layered, intelligent, and strong in a several different ways. 

But they didn't stop there: 
"We ask media creators to rethink branding that pigeon-holes girls into the lowest common denominator (glitter, sexuality, hetero-normative femininity). "

WHAT!  Did they just define the "lowest common denominator" as "glitter, sexuality, and hetero-normative femininity"?!?! Last I checked glitter, sexuality, and hetero-normative femininity were all natural and normal and wonderful. Well, glitter may not be all natural, and some people think it's the lice of the crafting world, but we don't want to live without it at our house. 

This reminds me of insults such as, "You run like a girl!" 

My girls love fashion, with a special affinity for things that sparkle, they are sexual beings - that's part of being human, and they are fairly hetero-normative in the expression of their femininity. While they recognize their privilege, suggesting that what they are is the lowest common denominator makes my mama-bear hackles stand up.  

We can empower without dis-empowering. This seems like a direct parallel to the idea that equal rights for someone does not infringe or take away someone else's rights. Marriage equality means just that, "let's make the right to marry equal for all people" not "let's take rights away from heterosexual couples." In the same way, empowering one gender should not involve dis-empowering another. And empowering girls should involve empowering *all* girls, not just those who are have no interest in glitter and fashion, or the color pink and baby dolls. 

It's o.k. for girls to like glitter and want to be a princess. It's o.k. for boys to like glitter and want to be a princess. It's o.k. for boys to like tools and construction equipment, and playing in the mud. It's o.k. for girls to like tools and construction equipment, and playing in the mud. And it's also very true that girls and boys who like glitter and want to be a princess may also like tools, construction equipment, and playing in the mud! 

In the effort to champion a cause or expand people's views, it is important not to offer up a new narrow definition. We must not decry whatever it is we oppose and in the process simply create a new box for people to be put into, we must support people in truly expanding their vision and opening up to the possibilities. 

Someone is out there thinking: The Brave Girl Alliance means well, you should leave them alone and stop being so critical. Or even: The Brave Girl Alliance is for brave girls, so girls who aren't brave should go form The Alliance for Girls Who Embrace Hetero-normative Femininity. To that person(s) let me say: I consider myself analytical, not critical. The way we use words is important. We need to be aware of how other people may hear them, or the impact they may have. This is precisely the point that The Brave Girl Alliance is trying to make, but I feel they need to brush up on their meta-cognition. And remember, girls who embrace their hetero-normative femininity can be brave, strong and multi-layered, too! 

Everyone can be a princess, but no one has to be a princess. That's equality people.  

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