Redefining Girly: Play with Tools in Your Tutu

The photoshopped images and female stereotypes our girls are inundated with today in the media and on retail shelves are skewed and unhealthy; while this is no secret, it’s been a very tough trend to turn around. But we have seen progress: the Brave Girls Alliance, Miss Representation, and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media are all making great strides. And as I’ve mentioned before, a wonderful book called Redefining Girly by Melissa Atkins Wardy is on shelves to help parents steer their child toward pursuing what they’re interested in, rather than what they’re “supposed” to be interested in.

It was exciting to see that Melissa and family psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein recently appeared on the Today Show with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford to talk about these gender stereotypes and how they’re hurting our girls. Wardy explained that she first realized there was a problem when she couldn’t find anything plane-related for her daughter, who was named after aviator Amelia Earhart, to wear. “Nothing existed like that for girls,” she explained. “Girls were princesses, cupcakes, flowers, angels…where boys had ships and planes and rocket ships.”


Dr. Hartstein says this is problematic because girls are seeing and feeling at younger and younger ages that their appearance is all that matters. “We’re seeing girls younger and younger with eating disorders, saying that they’re fat as early as four or five [years old].”

How do you combat gender-sterotyping in your own home? Wardy offers some fabulously practical advice: buy your kids’ toys according to their developmental stage, not their gender. For example, when her daughter began pulling up and cruising, they bought her both a toy kitchen and a toy tool bench to play with. When your children are old enough, let them pursue their own interests. She says it’s important to give your daughter the space so that she can show you who she wants to be.  “We’re not saying Princesses are bad,” says Dr. Hartstein, “It’s ok to wear a tutu, but why not get dirty in your tutu or play with your tools in your tutu?”

Why not, indeed? Wardy’s book Redefining Girly is full of practical ideas, strategies, and ways to talk to your children that can equip parents to knock out gender stereotypes in their home. For everyday information on this important topic, you can also check out her website, Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies.

You can see Wardy and Hartstein’s full Today Show interview on their website. I’d love to hear what you do in your home to encourage your kids to be who they are, and pursue what they love no matter what their gender. Please share some tips for other parents in the comments!

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