Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween - Melissa Atkins Wardy

Title: Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween
Author: Melissa Atkins Wardy
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, 2014 (Paperback)
Length: 225 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction, Parenting
Started: March 13, 2014
Finished: March 18, 2014

From the back cover:

All-pink aisles in toy stores, popular dolls that resemble pole dancers, sexy halloween costumes in tween sizes. Many parents are dismayed at how media, marketers, and manufacturers are sexualizing and stereotyping ever-younger girls but feel powerless to effect change. Mother of two Melissa Atkins Wardy channeled her feelings of frustration into activism - creating T-shirts with girl-positive messages; blogging and swapping parenting strategies with other concerned families; writing letters and organizing petitions to corporate offenders; and raising awareness through parent workshops and social media. Now she shares her hands-on parenting and activism strategies with others dedicated to raising a confident and healthy girl in today's climate. She provides tested advice for getting family, friends, and community on your side; thinking critically about sexed-up toys and clothes; talking to girls about about body image; creating a home free of gender stereotypes; using your voice and consumer power to fight the companies perpetuating them; taking the reins to limit, challenge, and change harmful media and products; and much more.

I've followed this author's blog and business for several years (her clothes are adorable and very appropriate for both genders) and consider her a model for fighting against childhood sexualization, especially that of little girls. She goes through almost every scenario parents can encounter (having conversations with kids while watching certain shows and movies, kids wanting a specific toy that you're morally against) with her 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son and posts her responses via articles on her blog. So when I found out she was writing a book, I knew I'd be reading it for sure.

The book begins with the author outlining her initiation into the concept of the new sexualized girlhood when her daughter was born. Her experience resembles mine with my daughter: the pink horde of baby items that suddenly invade the house, the lack of choice in purchasing things for girls, the really inappropriate Halloween costumes, and the toys that look like something out of a porno.

Chapters follow on changing things up in your own home, getting others on board, appropriate toys to have, and proper channels to go through to achieve change. She has little excerpts throughout the book from authors, business owners, doctors, and other key figures in the fight against childhood sexualization that weigh in with their own strategies that readers can use. The best part of the book in my opinion are the real-life hypothetical scenarios that are in every chapter that include very good responses to kids, relatives, teachers, professionals, companies etc. The scenarios presented are incredibly realistic (already encountered a few myself), and the responses are appropriate to get your point across, especially in the dialogues geared towards kids (no honey, we aren't buying you a Monster High doll and here's why), since I find it difficult to come up with lines to use that get the message across to children in an age-appropriate way without making it a complete power struggle.

She also lists a bunch of books (many of which I've already read an reviewed this past month), websites, and films to further your research. Also valuable is the list of companies that carry approved items free of gender stereotypes to help raise a healthy, confident girl (many of which I have bought from already and recommend).

A must-read for parents of girls, or anyone involved in a little girl's life (or even a boy's for that matter, since the sexualization of girls effects boys as well).

Thoughts on the cover:
A really nice choice for the main image here, the model looks very natural and her expression has a hint of a spark that I just can't quite identify.

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