Is Feminism Killing Young Girls' Femininity?
Femininity Is Under Attack in Today's World
In an attempt to bring equality to women, one particular aspect of womanhood is being attacked constantly, from the time women are little girls all the way up to adulthood. Many people are celebrating this attack as a victory without recognizing that it has its downsides.
There seems to be a growing trend of trying to make little girls into little boys in an attempt to help them find equality in the future. Girls are being encouraged to dress more like boys, play more like boys, and act more like boys, with the assumption that this will make them feel just as confident in the world as their male counterparts.
In today's world, many see weakness when they see a girl who likes to dress, play, and behave in ways that have traditionally been considered feminine. This is not necessarily a great situation for young girls who enjoy traditionally feminine activities, and there are a lot of girls who fall into this category.
I'm not saying that every girl should be limited to just playing with dolls and be banned from playing with cars and trucks. I'm just saying that if a girl's natural femininity leads her to play with toy ponies and wear sparkly pink clothes, there shouldn't be a negative stigma attached to her choice.
While I think it is important for females to have the same rights and opportunities that males have, I think that this attack on femininity is not the answer, and could in fact be a huge step backwards.
As long as “feminine” is treated as a synonym for “weak,” girls are going to continue to be underestimated..."— Audra Williams
Do you feel like femininity is under attack by the feminist movement?
Feminism Vs. Femininity
In order to put this article about potentially sensitive topics in context, I think it is crucial that my readers and I have a common understanding of the definitions of the words feminism and femininity.
Sometimes the definitions of these words become skewed, and that can turn the issue into a muddy argument.
The following definitions are taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
- Feminism: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
- Femininity: the quality or nature of the female sex
In summary, femininity is basically just the way that females naturally are and feminism is a belief that females should have the same rights and opportunities that men do.
These two ideas are often held in exact opposition to each other as if you can't be feminist and be feminine at the same time, but in reality, there is nothing about being feminine that makes it so that a female can't have equal rights and opportunities with men. In fact, it seems counter-intuitive that women have to leave femininity (or their own womanliness) behind in order to have equal rights and opportunities.
I'm not saying that it's less than feminine for girls to enjoy the same activities that boys do. I'm just saying that if a girl does enjoy stereotypical feminine activities, there's nothing wrong with that, and she shouldn't have to change her ways in order to be treated equally.
Men don't have to quit acting like men in order to receive the rights and opportunities they have, so why should women have to give up acting like women in order to have those same rights?
Benefits of the Feminist Movement
Women have come leaps and bounds when it comes to having equal rights and opportunities. As a woman myself, this is something that I think is long overdue in the vast history of humanity.
It's interesting to note that according to the National Society for Educational Statistics, there are more women earning degrees at all levels, from associate to doctorate, than men.
We live in a world where there are more opportunities open to women every day.
There's still more room for progress in some areas, but candidly speaking, when it comes to educational opportunities, career choices, or any other area of my life, I don't feel limited at all by the fact that I'm a woman.
I had the same opportunities as my male counterparts in school. In fact, I actually had more in many cases, because there was such a strong emphasis on giving girls opportunities to get involved in extracurricular science programs and such.
I get the exact same pay as the men who work in my profession, and I've recently begun the adventure of breaking into a new field that historically has been dominated by men. I've done this with the full support of the men and women around me.
All of this demonstrates the amazing progress that has been made through the feminist movement.
Do the Toys Kids Play With Affect Their Future?
Today there is a strong movement to make sure that you encourage your daughters to play with toys that inspire them to be scientists, mathematicians, and other careers of high merit in the world.
This is an interesting idea. I know I certainly enjoyed building things with Lincoln Logs and blocks when I was a little girl, but I never attributed my intelligence or success in life to having dedicated so much time to these particular toys.
I know I was just as good at climbing trees, making forts, and playing cops and robbers as any of the boys in my neighborhood, so perhaps that exposure to "boyish" activities is the secret to the fact that I've found success on just about every path I've chosen to wander in life.
Do you think that the toys girls play with have a powerful affect on the roles they play in society as adults?
Confession: I Liked to Play With "Girl" Toys
Here's my big confession. The picture above is actually a picture of my own toys.
In fact, even today, if you gave me the choice between playing with a gender-neutral Lego set and one that was more feminine in nature, I'd go for the pretty pink and purple one with kitties and flower planter accessories any day of the week.
I don't think this has anything to do with my intelligence or my ability to have a successful career, but it has everything to do with my personal preference. I grew up loving to play with My Little Ponies. I collected unicorns for most of my childhood. Many people today would condemn my parents for allowing their daughter to collect so many stereotypically girl toys.
Surely, a girl who grows up pretending to be Rainbow Brite, using the power of cheer to change the world, would never amount to anything more than being a ditsy giggly waitress right? By the way, I'm not saying that all waitresses are ditsy or that being a waitress is a poor career decision if that's what someone chooses to do with their life. I'm just saying that many people act as if a girl who plays with girl toys will definitely become a giggly ditz and would not be capable of pursuing a higher education in the future that would enable her to get a job that requires a degree.
I write this to share the message that playing with "girly" toys didn't ruin my life, prevent me from pursuing a college education, or cause me to give up on having big dreams and working to achieve them.
I am living proof that a girl can grow up loving Care Bears and still become a responsible contributor to society as an adult, and I don't think I'm the only one. I think if you talked to the women who are stepping up and filling roles that were traditionally filled by men in society and asked them what toys they played with as children, you would discover that many of them owned and even played with girl toys.
What message are we sending to girls when we devalue their choice of toys?
Is Negative Stigma About Traditionally Feminine Toys Beneficial for Anyone?
My biggest concern when it comes to the effect feminism is having on femininity isn't whether or not playing with traditionally feminine toys affected my own success. I'm confident that it didn't have the slightest effect on my ability to be a successful adult.
My concern about the negative stigma associated with girl toys is that it will have a negative effect on children who, like me, prefer to play with those types of toys and are now growing up in an environment where those toys are often frowned upon.
I see this happening in the following ways:
- Children that would rather play with colorful ponies, dolls, and pink Easy-Bake Ovens will feel like there is something inherently wrong with them for wanting to play with such "silly and useless" toys. They could feel like they are inferior to other peers that choose to play with more "intellectually stimulating" and "gender-neutral" toys. It is horrible to think that young children could be developing an inferiority complex just because they prefer one toy over another.
- The children who prefer girl toys will feel that they need to hide their true feminine nature in order to appease the desires of their peers and more importantly, the adults that they respect and look up to. A young girl who loves to dress up in princess costumes may feel uncomfortable expressing that desire to a mother that would prefer that she dresses up in scrubs with a toy stethoscope around her neck, and she will hide her true nature in order to appease her mother's desires.
- Children who prefer gender-neutral or masculine toys will feel that they are superior to the children playing with girl toys. This will likely affect the way they treat these other children, confirming the idea that femininity is a weakness and perpetuating the myth among children that boys are smarter than girls.
Let Kids Be Kids
I think it's time to relax and let kids be kids. Some kids like to play with dolls and others like to play with train sets. Many kids are like I was and enjoy playing with both.
There's no reason to create a negative stigma around toys that aren't inherently bad for children. The fact that your child likes to play with a pink toy vacuum now is no indicator that your child is destined to be a maid in the future.
Killing natural femininity is not the answer to all gender equality issues. Rather than wasting energy worrying about what kind of toys your children prefer, spend your energy playing with your children. Spend time talking to your children about how wonderful they are, what their future goals are, and how they can achieve their dreams if they are willing to be persistent.
This will have a much more powerful effect on your children's future down the road than their favorite toy ever will.