Can Girls Do That?
This is a question that has been asked so many times lately I can barely keep count. My 8 year old daughter has always been a girl who loves all things regardless of their gender specification. Sports, Arts, Science…you name she loves it and she never seemed to wonder if it was okay for her as a girl or not and neither did I. Both her father and I have always encouraged her to do what she loved and what interested her, regardless of whether it was popular for girls or boys. It didn’t matter…until now.
Seeds of Doubt
It all started this past year when she started 2nd grade. Suddenly my little girl started to develop this fear that because some of her favorite things weren’t for girls she was no longer allowed to love them. Not only was she sad but she was confused. Every time she wanted to do something she used to love without hesitation she now followed her requests with “Can Girls Do That?”
My first replies were simple Yes. Of Course. Sure. Then I started to notice the pattern and began to wonder why my once adventurous and nearly fearless daughter was now so concerned with what was okay for her to do as a girl? So I asked her. The answer I got was so disturbing and hurt my heart so much I almost didn’t know how to react.
This little girl who always jumped into adventures and activities feet first had been told by numerous kids and a few adults that the things she loved to do were not for girls. When she started playing basketball and told her class she was told that was a boy game. When she started taking Taekwondo and showed off a few of her moves during recess she was told girls don’t do that. Lastly, when she was asked what she wanted to do when she went to High School and her reply was study science and play football she was told she could only look forward to science because football was not for girls.
With each reaction to the things that made her happy her heart was damaged. These people were placing seeds of doubt in her that before never had been a concern. She slowly began to believe what people were telling her. Was she somehow not girl enough because she didn’t like dolls, princesses and pretty pink fluffy dresses? Was she only allowed to dance ballet and tap, sing or model? Was there something wrong with her because she wanted to do more?
These are the questions she was now asking me and I literally had to hold back not only anger but tears for the little girl who sat in front of me not sure of who she used to be so proud to be.
I’m Not Like Them
She was now worried because she wasn’t like most other girls. She loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles instead of Barbie, she would be happy for hours playing Super Hero with my son instead of Dollies with my youngest daughter and because her idea of a great outfit was a t-shirt with her favorite TMNT and her basketball sneakers instead of a dress or pink shirt.
I kept hearing her tell me how she’s not like them, like the other girls in her classes. She wanted to know what that meant? Why she didn’t like pink and lace? Was she bad for liking the boy stuff?
First I had to think. I didn’t want to do more harm than good in my answers. I am a combination of a Girly -Girl and a Tom Boy…I love my pink and pretty but I will hang out and play video games with my Chucks and jeans just as much. I told her this, I told her that as a Teenager I was no where close to being Girly. I was skinny, awkward and liked all the things other girls didn’t. I told her that was okay.
I talked and hugged and cried with my little girl as I tried to convince her that there was no such thing as boy stuff. All things were open to her. Anything she wanted to like she could and any thing she wanted to be was possible. She was a girl – yes – but that set no limits on her.
I answered her questions as best as I could giving her examples of strong girls and women who not only did the things she was told girls shouldn’t but did them well. Excelled at them even, all while still being the girls they were. I showed her stories about Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Candace Parker, Serena Williams, Gabby Douglas, Gina Carano and so many more. We watched Nickelodeon who now has a series called Bella and the Bulldogs all about a girl who plays football and still acts and feels very much like a girl.
Then last week we had the awesome chance to go to a Monster Truck Show. She was so excited and I was so happy because not once did she ask me if it was okay for her to go because she was a girl. Slowly I saw the light that had dimmed in her eyes come back.
While at the show we were cheering for this one amazing Monster Truck – Monster Mutt Dalmation. The driver seemed to be fearless taking jumps and chances that were amazing. Then the truck had mechanical issues. They stopped the show and the driver jumped out. It Was A Girl!! My daughter nearly jumped out of her seat! She was shocked and completely surprised. Despite Monster Mutt not finishing the show my daughter could not stop talking about it and the Driver, Candice Jolly. The impact it had on her was awesome.
We’re Not Done
I am so proud of my daughter for expressing how she felt and giving me the chance to help her. Yet I am still so saddened and disappointed with the adults and others who still hold the view that being a girl somehow limits what she can do. I now realize that no matter how far we have come as women we still have so much farther to go. We’re not done. There is so much more to achieve and to establish. Not just for ourselves but for the generations ahead of us as well.
Can Girls Do That? Yes! We Can Do It ALL!
Have you ever faced doubts placed in your children by others?
How did you deal with it?
**Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”