Monica Bielanko
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The Business of Raising A Woman

I've never bought my daughter a doll. There are a few lying around the house, gifts from relatives and friends. So far she has shown no interest. Her favorite toy? A fishing pole that she carries around the house and into the tub, casting it around and catching whatever the little, plastic hook will grab onto. I've untangled the bastard from more body parts things than I care to mention.

I'm not going to lie, I'm secretly thrilled she digs the fishing pole. And Serge, well, come on. He's been brainwashing her since birth.

I'm sure he reads fly fishing manuals to her when I'm not around. At her age reading is all in the intonation, you know? Once upon a time the beautiful princess was learning to tie flies. Her handsome dad, the king, decreed that everyone in the kingdom must always start with the Mustad 94840 in sizes 14 and 16 for most dry flies and the Mustad 3906 in sizes 12 and 14 for most nymphs...

Much to my mom's disappointment, I don't go for foofy or frilly. No lacy dresses, no giant bows on my baby's head. I don't judge, it's just not my thing. Now, if Violet starts asking to wear pumpkin-sized bows that obscure her entire head, fine. I may be bummed but if it's her thing, it's her thing, I just ain't inflicting it on her.

That's kind of how I feel about dolls. If she asks for a Barbie, she can have one. But I don't want to hand her baby dolls and Barbies just because she's a girl. I don't want to lead her in any direction, just because of her sex.

Now that I think about it, that hooker wannabe Barbie totally blows. Where is Skipper? Is Skipper still around? With tits out to there, feet only made for high heels and that creepy smooth area where her Lady Parts are supposed to be, I'm not sure Barbie is the kind of thing Violet, or any child, needs to grow up staring at.

I overheard a co-worker on the phone today. She was upset that her babysitter painted her 18-month-old's fingernails. I completely understand. I'm not a fan of pierced baby ears, fingernail polish and you'd have to shoot me and bury my bloated body six feet under before I'd allow Violet to participate in a beauty pageant at any age. I cannot even count the ways in which they horrify me. Won't even vote in those cutest baby photo contests let alone submit a photo.

You can argue beauty pageants engender poise and confidence but I'll disagree with you until Donald Trump gets a grip and removes that dead fox attached to the top of his head or Mel Gibson is back on top at the box office, whichever comes first.

Where do the ladies learn the poise and confidence? Is it the part where they acquire the rabid eating disorder in the months spent preparing for the pageant or is it the part where they trot across a stage in a swimsuit and heels, ass cheeks a talk-talkin while a bunch of creepy judges goggle at all the tits and ass and then rate them from one to ten? Oh wait, you must be referring to the part of the pageant where they're asked a really important question to which they bullshit a non-answer, smile and wink. That's the confidence part, right? Or is it the poise part?

And do we really need to get into the nightmare that is the children's beauty pageant? Those parents need to be poked, prodded, spray-tanned then strung up by their genitals.

This may prove unpopular with a lot of my contemporaries but I'm also not too keen on those dance classes little girls take. You know, the ones where they put on all the make-up and tease their hair into a whirlwind of sparkles and hairspray?

I understand the benefits of dance class and I love dancing. I may dance like Elaine Benes, but much to the embarrassment of friends and family, I do enjoy shaking a tail feather every now and again. And there's nothing sweeter than little girls in their little leotards with their little tap shoes.

Dancing is awesome, so maybe it's just the recitals that have gone awry? Some renegade from the goddamn Toddlers & Tiaras brigade got a little nutty with dime store blush and a can of Aqua Net. With the hair, make-up and costumes appropriate for maybe Joan Collins circa Dallas. Or was it Dynasty? Who shot J.R.? Shit, I can never remember. I'm just saying, little girls with hands on hips shaking their bony, little booties creep me out. Pouty, lipsticked lips? Sweet Jesus.

Or am I an uptight assface and it's all in good fun?

As a child I wore poofy dresses and bows and frilly underwear and even had a brief stint as a model at the local mall. I was also a huge pain in the ass when I was four.

Mom relishes telling the story of how I liked to take up three chairs in Sunday School. I'd sit on the middle chair and fan out my dress across the seats to the right and left and Heavenly Father help anyone who tried to sit on my attire. Mom tells the story as if I was just the cutest little thing. What an asshole, I always think about four-year-old Monica. She needed a good smack to the noggin. Dressing up and modeling had a negative affect on me. I was aware of clothing and what was supposed to be "pretty" way before I should have been.

It's a fine line, man. I don't want to predispose Violet to scoffing at stereotypical girly-girl things like I'm doing right now even though I've enjoyed many a girly-girl item in my past. Many women find great enjoyment in clothes, make-up and just the right pair of shoes. A lot of folks like dance recitals showcasing little girls with big hair. Sure all that stuff may help build Violet's confidence. But I want to raise a woman who doesn't think she needs those things to kick ass and take names. A woman who knows her worth comes from what's inside.

But hell, that all goes out the window anyway the minute she hits double digits and makes friends with girly-girls who tell her she's, like, SO NOT cool if she doesn't have whatever-it-is that whoever-it-is has dubbed the hip thing in 2020.

It's just so goddamn tricky, this raising a girl business.

Reader Comments (29)

Right on! That "molding" shit is just so retarded. Some people wonder why someone grabs their butt on the subway, then comes home, puts pink shit on their little girl and lets their little boy get away with murder. If I ever have any kids it'll be all black clothes-wise. Or does that dispose them towards cheesy 80's goth? Hmmm, might have to reconsider...

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKJ

Violet in her footy sleeper with the toy fishing pole is MUCH MUCH more adorable than any little pageant girl.....Go Mom, you're right on!!

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmyLynn

well said! as a general rule, i'm opposed to anything that sexualizes a child. what the fuck people? let children enjoy their youth, they have YEARS to obsess about their looks as teens and adults.

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpeach

I was/am a total tomboy. As a kid it was overalls, my hair was NEVER brushed, and no makeup until my junior year in high school. I should bring you pictures because I looked like a boy so it's a mystery how my husband/boyfriend found me attractive.

It seems fitting that I would have a very feminine daughter. Scarlett loves pink, dolls, she mothers, and would pick a dress over pants any day. She has car and trucks but she would much rather tuck in her American Doll she calls "Darla". This of course terrifies me as I see visions of MTV's 16 and Pregnant and Maury episodes.

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

I used to be very very hardcore on this. I went to a women's college, after all. But I've come to realize that I am my daughter's best role model. If I am kickass, that pretty much balances out any pink tutus she wants to wear. There's nothing wrong with being a girly girly if you know who you are and what you stand for. She might not stand for what I stand for, but at 6, I already know who she is. I knew it by 2. She'll be fine. So will Violet. And big hair is just ugly no matter what. ;-)

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

I think you're raising her quite perfectly to be an amazing woman. I was just interwebs-searching for party favor ideas for 11 year old girls... about 95% of the suggestions were nail polish/lip gloss/'lovely'-smelling lotions. I thought to my 11 year old self, yech.

Keep on showing her the way to be a well rounded person!!

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

It is so depressing watching my SIL mold her daughter and son. "Good girls have clean hands and good boys play in dirt." Seriously? My god, I rejected all things girly as a child and was as dirty as any boy. It makes me so sad to know that my niece is so fully brainwashed on that Disney princess crap that she won't even try anything new unless "a prince can show me how." How is that good? For her birthday I bought her the book Feminist Fairy Tales and my SIL won't read it to her nor will she let her read it. She says it's "Too ideological." What the fuck? What about you and your Pepto pink princess world that tells her her only values is to compromise herself, land a man, and live as his indentured servant? My niece idolizes Ariel! Of all the princesses to like, she picked the one who won over the prince by virtue of her silence. How fucking depressing. At least Belle liked books.

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

karate. that's what she needs to do. confidence, discipline and self-control, plus the ability to kick ass

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

I hear ya.

My coworker was HORRIFIED that I hadn't pierced my 16-month-old daughter's ears yet. I was horrified that she was horrified. And although I did paint her toenails (because she saw me painting mine & was enthralled), that child will never take part in a pageant so long as there is breath in my body. And even if I'm dead, I will come back and haunt the SHIT out of that pageant, because NO FUCKING WAY.

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjive turkey

I think you've got the right idea, letting Violet lead the way. She wants to wear pink glittery nail polish? Cool. Play with dump trucks? Awesome. Dress like a ballerina and wrestle boys into the dirt? Even better.

PS. Skipper ruled. She was smart and fun and strong. Way better than priss-ass Barbie. (My sister and I used to make all sorts of tragic accidents befall our second-hand garage-sale Barbies. "Oh, no! Barbie is trapped under the Dream Townhouse elevator! Hold on! Skipper will save you!")

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

I think the most important thing is to raise Violet to ask questions of the world around her, and not allow herself to be one of the sheep blindly following along with everyone else because that way seems easier. As long as she is happy and well rounded, you can just sit back and wait for the fireworks when she gets to the age where her constant asking of questions will infuriate her teachers who prefer kids to just sit back and learn by rote that which they want us to actually know, rather than the important stuff that they prefer to gloss over!

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDamien

Free To Be You And Me, that's how I was going to raise my daughter. After all, I was a founder of the "People for A Non-Sexist Society" in college (closest acronym we could get to 'Penis'. Little wonder it took me 12 years to graduate, eh?). Anyway, some years later, I have twins. A boy and a girl. Believe me when I say I didn't have time to raise them differently, heck, I used to wear a pin that said 'if they're still alive at 5 pm, I've done my job.' They had the same toys, did the same stuff, watched the same tv. Clothes were different, but I went for strong color for both - lots of purple, green, and black. Babies look so cool in black! I gave them both dolls and trucks, it was all really mixed up. So to say I was stunned when the following happened is an understatement. They had that toy with the stacking donuts, you know the one, big to small, stack 'em on the white cone - and my boy would throw them as far as he could, my girl would put them on like bracelets! I. kid. you. not.

Now they are 18 and away at college (don't get me started). My girl got everything pink for her dorm room, my boy chose blues and browns. I haven't been able to go into their bedrooms yet, but when I do I'll start packing up all those purple and green clothes, dolls and trucks. [sigh] too fast. too soon.

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjls

I'm 12 weeks pregnant and hoping for a girl. I can't wait to pierce her ears and paint her nails. I know this makes me really uncool-but I loved that shit when I was little and I still do. I also don't have a problem with Barbie. If my kid rips Barbie's head off and tells me to fuck off with the nail polish when she's three-I'll happily oblige, but I don't know. I don't think there is anything wrong with doing girly stuff with your kid.( I'm not talking about pageants-that is a whole other monster). I really feel like I'm in the minority when it comes to this though. Everyone wants their daughters to be tomboys-which I have nothing against. But there is definitely a backlash against pink.

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTeres

It's not that I would want to raise my girl as a tomboy or that piercing ears is uncool I think it's about letting a girl choose her personality instead of handing her pink things because she's a girl.

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGemma

right on sista! I have two teenage girls who take great pride in out -fishing and out- hunting any boy/man. Thank you to my awesome husband who knew upon birth that girls can do anything boys can do, (sometimes even better!) Although they are pretty girly, and they are only girls in the jr. high that hunt/fish, they take great pride in their accomplishments. And have some great friendships w/ the boys that enjoy the outdoors. WIN-WIN!

My husband especially scores when it comes to the potty and fishing. Note to Serge: when Violet is fishing w/ you, always take the time to take her to a BATHROOM whenever she needs to go. You'll have a fishing partner for life.

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermom of 2 girls

My 1 year old little girl wears her older brother's hand-me-downs. She has baby dolls that the Grands bought her, but prefers a plastic hammer as her favorite toy. As a dad I have no idea what I am doing when raising a girl. I find that I often treat her just like I did her brother, which is ok if I got that right. No guarantee there. But I hope I am not screwing her up. But when she falls down I don't rush and pick her up, i just tell her to "toughen up cream puff" just like I did with her brother. I also like the " Walk it off" and "Rub some dirt on it and you will be ok".

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

After having two boys I was so excited to have a little girl and do and buy all the "girly" things but she is really a tomboy at heart. She loves to go fishing and loves to play cars and stuff with her brothers but she usually does it holdng her baby dolls. She likes to dress her self now and will wear pink but the pink gets dirty and mudding and I don't care.

I am so with you on the pageant things no way no how will my daughter ever do this. She asked about dance once (because her friend does it) but we are going to wait until she asks again. Not really sure if I want her doing it or not. She did play softball last year and wants to do it again this year.

You are doing a great job with Violet and she will find her place just like most kids need to push her and mold her into something she's not!

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

If V ever did want to take dance classes, I know could find one that's creative movement-based or a modern dance class with no recital or end product involved, or even gymnastics, if she took it casually. This would be closer to actual dancing too, instead of junior prostitution.

Ririe Woodbury:

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchristinewithanx

I really don't think the problem is all the pink shit, if anything comes in pink for me or the girls I am all over it. My house is so loaded with frills, dancies and most of all pink. I allow my girls to decide if they want to paint nails, pierce ears, fish, dance and either way is great with me. Kids come with their own personality, likes and dislikes. Trying to get them to sway one way or the other is all the parents. I think Meg has paved the way much more for Ava than I have. I also think it is so damn funny that everything i swore i would not do with my girls we are doing. I love the girls dance recital ONE time a year and we go all out but any more than that and I may die. I for sure thought i was going to be a stage mom and thank the lord i am not. You just have to take one thing at a time and hope we are not jacking them up to much. Violet will be great fishing or in dance and probably both!

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRis

My mom put me in Baton classes, tap dancing, and gymnastics. I always felt akward. I have 5 mom wanted a girl to "doll up". Lame. but now I am the only mechanic in our family, force me to play with barbies and I want to take it apart and see how it all goes back together. You are right not to push these things on V, but even if you do, she is who she is and can't be forced. lol. look at me, right? But I so do not agree with tramping your daughter out, with makeup and tight little outfits that showcase their little girl parts, uhn uh.
My mom is a little upset, wishing I were a lesbian, so as not to have to explain her daughter the mechanic to anyone, any further.

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

It is hard raising a girl and knowing how to balance everything. My oldest, now 8, was all butterflies and rainbows, and everything purple as a preschooler/toddler. My youngest, at 3, can identify cars at 100 yards. Car rides with her consist of "look Mama! a blue Hyundai, or a Red Lexus!" said over and over until we acknowledge it. She wears boys underwear because she wants cars and trucks on it, and is frustrated with the Thomas Train series because only one engine, who doesn't appear frequently, is a girl, the other girl characters are just train cars. She is sad that Roary the Racecar isn't a girl because his name sounds like one. I think sometime that at 3 she is already feeling disenfranchised with marketing for kids. It frustrates me that going to Target the only girl things are princess related and boy things are car and train related. I don't mind it if that is what the girl wants, to each their own, but for the girls that aren't like that, what do they get to choose? Maybe, like mine, they happly wear their t-shirts with a '68 Charger on it over and over (with pink sparkly tennis shoes).

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I couldn't wait to turn 5 years old b/c that meant I get to get my ears pierced! I will never forget, I picked out the red stones, b/c my birthday is in July. I don't even remember the pain, just remember being so proud!
Don't deny your daughter that feeling.

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I'm also torn about the dance classes. I loved them when I was little, but I'm certain they contributed to the eating disorder I later developed, not to mention the cruel realization that I would never ACTUALLY be a dancer and I'd better figure out something else I'd like to do with my life. Is it really wise to allow our little girls to spend the vast majority of their free time engaged in the pursuit of something that, in the best of cases, will lead them down a career path where they'll probably have to "retire" and start over before the age of 30, spending the best years of their lives starving themselves and earning next to nothing, devoted to an industry that will throw them away the minute they begin to age? I think not. I mean, we all adore the sight of a little girl in a tutu, but does anybody REALLY want their daughter to grow up to be a ballerina? What message are we sending?

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjamie

This is a great topic. My little girl, who's almost four, is a total tomboy but she does like a few girly things. She favors pink clothes and sandals and she wears toy links as bracelets (can't get her to take them off) and likes to paint her toenails/fingernails, none of which I have a problem with....probably because her favorite play-time activity is digging in the dirt with her little toy dozers and dirt-movers. She also loves to run back and forth in our fenced in yard and throw tennis balls into the raspberry bushes for the dogs to find. She is constantly sitting in the dirt or running around and getting filthy and that's just fine with me.

Since she was old enough to show interest in anything, her favorite thing has been airplanes. She knows where many parts of the plane are, and she knows different types of planes. Her dad thinks she's going to be a bush pilot in Alaska by the time she's 18 - wishful thinking on his part (or maybe not) because then she could take him hunting and fishing anywhere he wanted to go...

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHanni

PS Boy toys are the coolest, so I could never really relate to girls (or women) who only wanted girly things - BORING. My daughter is the same way and I love it!

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHanni

I was a total girl growing up, so I would be flummoxed by a tomboy (which means that is probably what I will get). That having been said, I agree that the best thing to do is just let her lead the way, whatever that may mean. (Though I must admit to a big anti-gymnastics prejudice due to the whole eating disorders thing...)

What *does* bother me, though, is when people think there is something intrinsically *wrong* with being girly and that it is somehow more morally valuable (for lack of a better term) to be a tomboy. This just perpetuates the message that for women to be valued, we ought to be more like boys/men/the traditionally masculine, while downplaying the feminine. And *that* I disagree with.

September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Just to clarify: although I am secretly thrilled Violet likes the fishing pole, there is NOTHING wrong with being girly and liking frilly things. If that's what Violet digs, I'm all for it. I just don't want to lead her that way because she's a girl like my mom did with me. It placed too much importance on what's supposed to be pretty. And I think it's sweet when little girls take dance class, it's just when they wear make up and have that JonBenet Ramsey hair that I get all creeped out.

It was this story I saw a while ago that bothered me:

This? Cutest thing ever:!

September 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who

How many parents of boys are not doing blue or not giving them trucks/trains or footballs or other stereotypical boy things?

September 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTeres

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August 11, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterxnxx

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