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!

  • sianychick

    ooh I’m going to read that even though I have boys! Scratch that because I have children and it’s really important.

    As I have told you before they have wooden swords and they have a doll with a pushchair. They have Star Wars action toys (which were mine not my husbands lol) and they have a kitchen. I get some funny looks from other parents but I’m just trying to cover it all lol

    That video was also interesting. I think its true that the most important thing is either way is go with them. My oldest boy would much rather draw and create amazing dinosaur lands with lego than play football. He, like is mummy, is not that coordinated yet and has no interest in sports. The other parents used to laugh at him playing imaginary dinosaurs on the side of the pitch instead of football. I just used to see myself in little boy form. He asked to stop going to football and for now he has. I’m not writing off football for him i’m not writing anything off. He says he’d like to try gymnastics instead so we are doing that. If I see an after school art class i’m banging down their door lol

    Only slightly connected but I’ve been stressing lately because academically he is a little behind. Just like I was at such a young age. (My teachers all used too complain I was too busy daydreaming.) The teachers keep giving us more and more to do at home. He is only 6. In parents evenings they never mention how creative and artistic he is. I always have to ask the question at the end ‘and what is he having success in?!’ It upsets be that they don’t see all this wonderfulness that I see. I get sucked in sometimes and frantically do flashcards and extra extra reading with him despite how tired he is from school. Then I think what am I doing??? I want to support the area he struggles with but not at the expense of everything else.

    Each day my mantra needs to be ‘I accept my children for who they are, where they are are at and how they feel’. It helps keep me grounded.

    In fact yesterday I whispered to Isaac before school is ‘all mummy wants from you today is to be who you are, be kind always and try your best’. He looked at me like: what are you on about mummy? Hopefully if I say it enough it will sink in right? For him and for me lol

    ahh another essay 😉

    Sian x

    • brendachapman

      As I think I’ve told you before – love the “essays” and you are an amazing mom!! Thank you, as always, for chiming in!

      • sianychick

        lol it looks so much longer after I hit post 😉 x

    • Elise

      Hi, where did you find a doll with a pushchair?

      Regarding sports vs arts oriented child, imagine him living in Tribeca or close to the parisian Canal st Martin might help feel comfortable about it!

      • sianychick

        Hiya actually I can’t find it online now but it was a Baby Born boy doll with a blue stroller. It took me ages to find a stroller that wasn’t bright pink. I remember thinking that that was all wrong too. I got it ages ago and they both still play with it.

        Absolutely I really love that Isaac is artistic, He reminds me of me as a child, I was never sporty either. My biggest regret is not going to art school. I think my stressing comes from that important part of him not being valued in the school setting. I so easily get caught up in it all because his teachers are so negative. I need to remind myself to chill out. He is amazing just as he is so ill let him point the way x

    • Lisze Bechtold

      Oh, I have to reply to this. It’s developmental. My oldest did not “get” reading until after first grade when he suddenly started reading signs. We put him in extra reading classes to no avail. Phonics meant nothing to him. By second grade he HATED reading. Then he got an exceptional teacher who let each of the students progress at their own rate, and see that progress by rating books they’d read as easy, challenging, or just right. They could look at their own records to see that books once challenging were eventually easy. His attitude about reading did a 180º turn, although he would only read non fiction picture books. Keep supporting your artist kid. They are the square pegs in the round hole of school.

      • sianychick

        Thank you so much for your kind reply that is encouraging to hear x

  • Very insightful and quite hilarious – because my daughter DOES play with tools in her tutu. She and her brother also play cars, trains, animals, kitchen, etc. And they also sing and dance together!

    • brendachapman

      That is so real! I did the same kind of stuff when I was little – and so did my daughter. 🙂

  • Jody Bower

    I’m re-reading James Hillman’s “The Soul’s Code” in which he argues for us all – parents, teachers, society – to clue in to what each individual child’s “calling” is and treat it with respect. The clues are there if we look. “Each child is a gifted child,” he says, but we have to step back and let their gift unfold in its own unique way.

    • brendachapman

      Agreed! Thank you!

  • Cristian Ignacio Fabio

    Interesting Topic, mmm, I would be very grateful if someone explain to me how to understand to be a very good person

  • Cristian Ignacio Fabio


    Remember to tell you a detail: I
    received replies from Pixar, they did not know how to answer my
    complaint and took it as if it were a “special case” at least, my quieja
    letter served part of their function: Change the mentality, for good.

  • Lisze Bechtold

    Great post. One of my favorite toys was Legos, and that was back when there were only two shapes–square and rectangle. My youngest son’s favorite toy was his plastic food. Let both genders have it all. Planes on dresses! (This would be a great business model for a someone.)

    • brendachapman

      Yes, it would be a great business model! Go for it! 🙂

      • Lisze Bechtold

        Alas, my tiny business plate is full as a children’s book author and illustrator.

        • brendachapman

          (sigh) I know what you mean. 🙂

  • Pingback: New Children’s Book Shows Kids How Different is Awesome()

Real Time Analytics