Getting Our Girls Out of the Box: About Feminist Parenting

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Image via Galit Breen

We walk side by side. Her shoulders almost meet mine, our (fake) UGGS are in step. I note that her hair is up in a high bun that I’ve never been able to pull off.

I’m shopping with my oldest daughter for the rest of our five. Our cart is overflowing with plaid shirts and cozy slippers, Yoda puzzles and a play-dough set that my family will give me a hard time for, but will turn out to be a wild success.

I do a mental count of what we’ve picked, and for whom. Two “wants”, one book, and one creature comfort for everyone but my middle daughter.

“One more for Chlo,” I say. 

And we look at each other. Even beneath fluorescent lights that aren’t meant to flatter anyone, really, she’s lovely. Auburn hair glittering, almond eyes so, so very kind.  “More Legos?” she asks. And I nod. 

Chloe has found an unparalleled love for Legos. She takes her brother’s sets apart and puts them back together with ease, and within record time. She works swiftly and meticulously. I can see the concentration in the purse of her lips and the pride in the light in her eyes.

Did it catch you off guard that I said “her brother’s Legos?” Me, too. My husband and I have fallen into the trap of buying Lego sets for our son but not for our girls. Why? Only because they’ve never shown an interest before.

When they were little, big blocks in rainbow hues filled our living room (hallways, and bedrooms). The girls would create castles and cities and farms and stages and – sometimes – battlefields. But since they’ve outgrown those clunky blocks, their fine motor skills have been used for colored pencils and paint sets, science kits and guitar practice — all at their requests.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about products like GoldieBlox, toys aimed at giving girls the suggestion that they, too, can build, just like boys. 

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So when Kayli and I were shopping for Chloe, already a building-loving girl, my mind tiptoed there. Maybe “girl Legos”? Maybe GoldieBlox?

As we swerved what my husband would say was an already too-full-cart into that section of the store, I stepped in, felt overwhelmed by all of the pinks and purples, turned our too-full-cart all the way around, and went back to the aisle selling more traditional Lego sets.

Why?

Because my daughter already feels like building is for her. She’s already asked for Legos and I know with every fiber of my being that she’ll rock that 350 piece treehouse and I don’t need to entice her with a pink and purple bakery.

Feminist parenting isn't about color, or even toy, choices. It's about balancing your child's interests in one hand and putting all choices on the table in the other.

So, does that make my toy buying choice a feminist one? Absolutely not. It means I’m following my daughter’s interests. And if she was a princess loving, pink and purple wearing girl, I’d be in that bakery Lego buying aisle in a heartbeat.

K.M. O’Sullivan writes about feminism, politics, parenting, and more on her blog, Slightly Askew Woman. Awhile back, she said, quite succinctly, “Feminism means all options on the table.”

That line really struck me – in its simplicity, and its truth.

We owe it to our girls (and our boys, yes, but that’s another post for another time) to not box them in in any way. And if a brand that’s geared toward girls would make them happy and enrich their play choices. Why not buy it? 

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But my girl already wants to build Legos, so I wonder if the need is there for me to buy her a building set geared toward girls? If her interest is already piqued, if she already thinks that Legos are for her, what would be the point of buying “girl Legos” for her?

In reality, none.

Because feminist parenting isn't about color, or even toy, choices. It's about balancing your child's interests in one hand and putting all choices on the table in the other.

(*Epilogue: We bought the treehouse Legos, and she rocked them.)

What do you think?

Getting Our Girls Out of the Box: About Feminist Parenting

Galit Breen is the author of Kindness Wins, a simple no-nonsense guide to teaching our kids how to be kind online. She has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in human development and was a classroom and reading teacher for ten years. In 2009, she launched a career as a freelance writer entrenched in social media. Since then, her work has been featured in various online magazines including Brain, Child, The Huffington Post, TIME, and xoJane. Breen lives in Minnesota with her h ... More

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2 comments

  1. Profile photo of Amanda Amanda says:

    This is so important. Thank you! Rock the legos, sweet girl!

  2. Profile photo of Marlena AntonucciEditor Marlena Antonucci says:

    Well said, Galit! We have to open our girls to any opportunity and let them choose for themselves.

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