I have a little story for all the folks who bash on Target for getting rid of their gender signs. For those who think it really doesn't matter if something is labeled "boy" or "girl" and who think that parenting dictates how children feel about it instead of societal expectations and influences.
You've probably already pegged me as the bra burning feminist I am, but in case you haven't...Hello. My name is Towanda.
Suffice it to say I've tried to instill a healthy feminist attitude in my girls. Not the "girls rule boys drool" version. That's not feminism. That's asshole-ery. But the version that says "Women and girls are human beings with value. That value is absolutely equal to boys. Boys are our allies in this fight for equality. They are not the enemy. We are all people who have some kind of gift to offer this earth. Your skills and value include but also lie beyond being beautiful and having the power to reproduce."
But on Monday Sunshine came home really sad from school, and she didn't want to talk about it. When I finally coaxed it out of her, she said some kids at school (mostly girls) have been making fun of her for having "boy stuff". Her favorite color is ice blue, she has an Avengers backpack and had worn a blue shark video game shirt from Old Navy to school that day. Yes we got the shirt from the "boys" section, but she liked it, so we just got it. She didn't even know it came from a section with phallic requirements. She just thought the shirt was cool.
When she told me she'd been picked on and even excluded from playing with the other girls for her wardrobe choices I hid my rage and told her that those weren't really people I'd want to play with anyway. She did say a boy from class actually gave her free admission to his recess club because he liked her shirt, and I secretly logged that boy down as "one of my favorite people." I then explained to her how flawed the girls' logic was, since there are plenty of female sharks in the ocean. Without female sharks there would be no sharks at all, so obviously sharks aren't just for boys. But she was still hurt. I asked if she still liked her backpack and shirts, and she said yes. But she didn't want the girls to see what she was wearing, and she told me she'd tried to keep her coat on all day (when temperatures reached almost 80 degrees). Heart. Break.
So I was crushed for my girl, and I wanted to punch some first graders in the face all at the same time. But I knew the kid had to find her own way, so we just talked a little about being ourselves. I told her I knew plenty of kids in her school who think she's the coolest BECAUSE she marches to her own beat. And this wasn't lip service. In kindergarten she couldn't walk into the building without kids from every grade calling out "Hey Sunshine!" or whispering to their dads "Look Dad! That's Sunshine! The girl I told you about." (It might have had something to do with the food fight she started with the 4th grade. But I'm trying to believe it's because she's a genuine badass. She didn't need to try and be anything she's not. My girl seemed slightly better after our talk, but my heart still hurt for her.
Then I was at the library dropping off some donations yesterday when I saw the answer. Sunshine is a Star Wars fan because she's watched the Star Wars Rebels cartoons, completed Jedi training academy at Disney and LOVES the Star Wars ride. She started the school year with an R2-D2 backpack and a Darth Vader lunch box, but until now she's actually never seen the movies! (I know...huge parenting fail). But they just so happened to have Episode IV sitting right next to the counter, and I snatched it up.
We came home after gymnastics, and I asked if she was down for watching it. She was beyond excited, so we popped popcorn and watched Luke, Han and of course Leia try and save the galaxy. She fangirled all over the place during the movie, but this morning is what rocked my world.
She'd been up late because we weren't about to go to bed without finding out if they escaped the Death Star. But she popped out of bed this morning ready to face the day. This never EVER happens because she's my child and we loathe the morning like vampires.
The first thing she tells me is "Thanks for letting me watch Star Wars last night Mom. I even woke up early!" I smiled and we got ready for school. It was spirit week, and she was supposed to wear exercise clothes, but she went straight to her drawer and grabbed her pink and black skirt and her Star Wars tee...the one that came from the "boys" section. She pulled it on, smiled the biggest smile and asked if that was okay to wear today. I told her heck yes.
She grabbed breakfast and babbled on about the movie and its awesomeness. Then on the way to school she said "Princess Leia is pretty awesome isn't she mom?" I agreed, and asked why she was awesome. She said "Because she didn't just wait around to be saved. She was a good fighter too." I again agreed and smiled to myself.
"But she's not that smart I guess," she said after a minute. I paused and asked why? She said "Because she got them stuck in the trash compactor!" I told her at least she took a chance. Everyone else was just standing around getting shot at. At least Leia had ideas and took action. She didn't care what anyone else's plan was. She wasn't just sitting around.
She said "Oh yeah! And they did escape. She's so cool."
She got out of the car for school with the biggest smile on her face. It's one I haven't seen in a long time. Today was the first day she's seemed excited and ready to face the world. And to think...I have a Disney princess to thank for that.