A Feminist’s Adventure in Mothering.


eeds hair clipOver the weekend, it dawned on me that my daughter could probably wear a hair clip.  I got so bizarrely excited I actually squealed with delight at the thought.  I immediately ran upstairs and started sifting through my makeup/hair bin for hair clips.  Her hair is still a bit too thin and she kind of rips it out within 15 minutes, but for the first minute or so I cannot get over how cute she looks!

And yet, I am conflicted by this excitement.  Unlike with my son, for whom clothes were somewhat boring–  browns, blues and greens–Edith’s clothes are like miniature outfits that I’d love to wear.  And now I get to do her hair and use accessories.  This is just too much!

Being a mother has certainly caused me to examine myself and the ways I treat my son as compared to my daughter.  As a feminist who holds a BA in Women’s Studies, I am very conscious of social constructs of masculinity and femininity.  When Edith was first born, I was disappointed by the choice of baby clothes.  It felt like everything was pastel and covered in butterflies and ballet slippers.  But as I looked through the bin of my son’s baby clothes to see what I could put her in, I was struck by the amount of trucks and dogs that I dressed Don in and didn’t think twice about.  As I watch both of my children grow, the assumptions I once held about things being nurture vs. nature have been challenged as well as the choices I make regarding toys and clothes for my children.

So, you can see that when I got unbelievably giddy over a hair clip, my head once again began spinning… Is it weird that I’m excited?  Am I pushing her into one way of being that she might otherwise not have chosen?  Then, 15 minutes later the hair clip fell out as I helped her march across the lawn in pursuit of a ball.  My head started racing again…maybe she will be an athlete?  One of those girls who like clothes and sports?

Or…maybe I should just relax and do my best to raise a happy and healthy young woman who can think for herself.  At the end of the day, I don’t think my putting a hair clip in my daughter’s hair at age 1 will cause her any long term issues.  Plus…it’s just so darn cute!  If I’m this crazed now…I can only imagine what’s to come.

12 comments on “A Feminist’s Adventure in Mothering.”

  1. She IS so stinkin’ cute!!!

    I am so the opposite of girlie. I tend to believe that a lot of kids are “naturally” drawn to the gender-specific stuff – I would LOVE for my girl to be less frilly only because she is a size behind her brother and I would love to recycle his clothes as instant hand-me-downs. Or it would be great to have to buy only one set of toys (who am I kidding – with my two, you have to buy TWO of everything to avoid the fighting!!)…but she gravitates towards princesses, frills, pink and glitter. Similarly, my son has limited interest in her toys with a few exceptions unless she’s playing with them and he wants to aggravate her. I don’t know if this is a function of everyone else around them (grandparents, teachers, friends) or if it is because they are innately drawn to these things?? And the more they are drawn to it, the more we want them to play with the stuff they love – it’s part of the cycle, I guess.

    Anyway, I think as long as you are teaching her to make the right choices and give her the chance to do that when the time comes, you are doing your best as a mom!

  2. Great post, Jill. As you may recall, Wade loved polly pockets, all things pink, and dresses. He only divorced himself from those passions when the girls in first grade started to make fun of him. Instantaneiouly, he got rid of the polly pockets and started to wear a baseball cap (backwards). Two years later, he secretly confessed to me that he still misses his polly pocket “roller coaster” and was sad that he didn’t have more time to play with it before he gave it away. Makes me SOOOO sad!

  3. Great post. This is why I like to question people who express SYMPATHY to mothers of sons. The implication is that only a daughter will be your little clone or disciple. Well, I wasn’t that for my mother, lord knows. My sons’ interests were varied. Some appealed to me, some did not, but again, as a daughter to my mother, we had NOTHING in common until I became a mother (then she could relate). So maybe our kids are really just people, and we can react to and interact with them that way. It’s endlessly fascinating to me how human nature causes us to be wary of/confused by someone not exactly like us! This is what drives wars and dehumanizes people from other lands and turns them into “collateral damage” (I realize I am making a leap here).

    What would happen if clothing manufacturers made clothes without trucks or flowers on them? How would that affect our perception of kids who don’t really look especially male or female (babies, for example)? Let’s dress all babies in red or green and stop telling them they are “pretty” or “handsome”!

  4. Yes. You are doing your best. I am a feminist raising a son – would that be a great book. We are showing him equal value in the moms who stay at home and those of us working ladies. He is a good nurturer and very strong. Did I mention handsome as he looks like hubby????

  5. As the single, lesbian, feminist mother of a 15 year old boy, I’m loving the opp to weigh in. Before my son was born, I, like some of you, was it’s nurture, not nature. What was I thinking!? My mother hoped that her first born daughter would love dolls, frilly things, and dance lessons. The poor thing! I was a tomboy, as we were called back then, through and through. I had dolls, but I had all male dolls – Ken and Allan, GI Joe, Johnny West. My parents were by no means new age parents, this was the mid 1950’s on. So, I give then a LOT of credit for not totally squelching my innate nature. My son was introduced to dolls and stuffed animals ( one of which he still sleeps with), but he naturally chose sports, sports, sports. And he still does. It think the important thing is to give them choices and options and support who they are. We can raise strong girls in pinks, frilly things, and gentle boys who love sports.

  6. I can TOTALLY relate to this. I am so much less gender-neutral as a parent than I expected to be (though still far more than society at large) and I go back an forth between feeling guilty and apathy about that.

  7. I agree wholeheartedly with Michelle on this one! I was somewhat conscious of what Miles wore when he was younger (opting for neutral puppies vs sports, sports, sports), but it is a lot more acceptable to put a girl in a football jersey, than a boy in a pink shirt with ruffles. Miles had tons of colorful clothes, but when he wanted a Cinderella shirt, I had a hard time finding one that was not covered in glitter. Instead of telling him that “only girls can wear Cinderella” I made an iron on printout and put it on a yellow shirt. I did keep a bunch of his old clothes for Ava, and though she is going through a decidedly pink glitter fashion time, she still wears flannel with jeggings 🙂

    I also got so excited when the Doc announced that it was a girl, because I LOVE hair and makeup stuff, and dreamt of french braids and pigtails… Well, Ava HATES her hair being combed- there is almost always a drive-by combing that has to happen in the am to get rid of the snarls- and she just barely lets me put a clip in to keep it out of her face! We have come to an understanding that she can keep her hair longer (the way she likes it, plus I have NO time or patience to constantly cut hair and bangs) if she puts the front in a clip. Maybe someday I will get to fulfill my french braiding fantasies 🙂

  8. Ha! I love this Jillian. Before Lillian was born I said I wouldn’t get her pink or princess stuff unless she wanted it. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. She owns a princess tent (not that we call it that) and I love putting her in pink frilly stuff. I love that saying “feminist isn’t about what choice you make, but having a choice” – some day too soon Edith will want to pick out her own clips and clothes, till then I say, mommy decides!

    1. You always make me feel calm. I actually repeat that saying– I am starting to believe that you coined it! Thanks for supporting me in the choices I make.

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