Thursday, September 01, 2011 • 10:14 AM Comments ()

Pretty Smart Girls

posted by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

When confronted with this image, what do you say?

No comment.


I think the JC Penney shirt is such an extreme example it went viral. The uproar was so great they pulled the shirt and apologized.

Okay, but do I offer my three year-old-daughter a choice about what to wear or how to wear her very long hair? I often do.

I don’t like that I like her clothes—the less pink ones—so much. I don’t like that we can’t bring ourselves to chop her hair short. I don’t like that so many people greet her with a comment about what she’s wearing or how pretty she looks. I don’t like hearing her friends comment on each other’s pretty clothes or shoes or headbands.

All that disliking doesn’t change the fact that her trying on anyone’s shoes she can find is amusing to her family.

It’s hard not to feel somewhat complicit even if I do celebrate—constantly—her smarts, her agility and strength and pluckiness and humor.

And it’s also true that enjoying how you look and what you wear and how you wear it doesn’t have to be bad, not at all.


When she fished the Glinda Barbie from the trash and said, “I found this in the trash! Why?” I could only shrug. I’d found it during my clean-the-almost-empty-house campaign of August 2011 and figured a naked, gnarly-haired old Barbie just wasn’t give-away-able but also wasn’t necessary to continue owning. Had I thrown it in the kitchen trash, I guess it’d be in the landfill (or better, still the rigid plastics recycling bags, slated for delivery September 17th). Barbie’s back in action, though.

We won her at a lesbian baby shower as a prize for winning some contest. I think that almost redeems her right there. She had—long, long ago—a pink gown, a crown and high-heeled shoes and a wand--and a hairbrush. Now, she has only the soundtrack. If you raise her arms, she says, “Tap your heels together three times,” and a few other recognizable good witch phrases.

Maybe Barbie got on her radar screen after eyeing Sophia’s Barbie—or someone else’s. I’d forgotten Saskia had even seen Barbie, but of course she’s seen loads. A couple of weeks ago she chose Dora the Explorer band-aids when we were emergency band-aid shopping for me. Quoting Saskia: “I love Dora.” I had no idea.

Saskia was outside a few nights ago carrying her doll. She was yelling, “I love my body outside. I love my body inside. I love my body!”

Or so I thought, because when I said, “It’s great that you love your body everywhere,” she corrected me. “I love my Barbie,” she clarified.

Oh, right.


One more word to add: feminism. It’s such a good word. I make sure to throw it around my house a bunch so the kids are comfortable with it. My friend Avi is doing a neat series on her blog called this is what a feminist looks like. I’m a feminist there, too. Saskia is a feminist on Tumblr. And in real life, too, even though I haven’t yet heard her say so. She is sure she can do anything her brothers do if not now, then “when I am big.”


While on the subject of feminism, if you don’t know Feministing you totally should. My friend Bill is a close friend to a Feministing goddess, Jessica Valenti (he even officiated her wedding). This week, hanging with his daughter, was comfortably ensconced amongst the very young women in our town.

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Pretty Smart Girls
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