Book Review: Redefining Girly by Melissa Atkins Wardy

by Gio

Redefining Girly Melissa Atkins Wardy

Name: Redefining Girly
Author: Melissa Atkins Wardy
Pages: 256
Price: $10.72

Containing practical, specific parenting advice; strategies for effecting change with educators, store managers, corporations, and more; and tips for challenging and changing the media, this essential guide gives parents the tools they need to fight back against the modern stereotyping and sexualization of young girls. Activist Melissa Wardy shares tangible advice for getting young girls to start thinking critically about sexed-up toys and clothes while also talking to girls about body image issues. She provides tips for creating a home full of diverse, inspiring toys and media free of gender stereotypes, using consumer power to fight companies that make such major missteps, and taking the reins to limit, challenge, and change the harmful media and products bombarding girls. Redefining Girly provides specific parenting strategies, templates, and sample conversations and includes letters from some of the leading experts in education, psychology, child development, and girls’ advocacy.

Barbie was one of my favourite toys when I was a little girl. I wanted to be like her when I grew up. Nope, I didn’t want to be blonde, with big breasts and an insanely narrow waist. Barbie was beautiful, but I admired her because she had managed to carve a successful career for herself (she was a doctor, a teacher, a businesswoman and still had lots of other jobs) while also being in a successful and longlasting relationship with Ken. Not an easy feat.

I was also obsessed with Disney Princesses. They’re often dismissed for doing nothing more than waiting for their princes to rescue them, but they have all been through hell. Cinderella worked like a slave for her step-relatives and Snow White had to take care of seven dwarfs who took her in after her stepmother had tried to kill her. Belle was separated from her father and forced to live with a beast, while Ariel didn’t stop at anything to follow her dream, no matter how much everyone tried to discourage her. And they never became bitter or evil. They taught me that, no matter what happens in life, if you’re kind and good, you’ll get your reward eventually.

disney princesses sexy makeover

But a lot has changed since then. Barbie and Disney Princesses have undergone a sexy makeover. The focus is not anymore on their careers, or on their kindness. No, these days, it’s all about looks. Barbie wears shorter dresses, other dolls wear too much makeup and have even thinner bodies. Clothes for girls, as well as Halloween costumes, have become skimpier and sexier, and toys for them, which are mostly pink, are kept separate from those for boys.

While there is nothing wrong with being a girly girl who likes Barbie, princesses, everything pink and even makeup, it becomes a problem when that’s considered the only right way to be. Girls who hate pink, like science or sports, or don’t fit into the ideal of what a girl is supposed to be, are often forced to purchase their clothes and toys in the boys’ department, are considered weird and, sometimes, are even bullied.

Sexualization and gender stereotypes undermine little girls’ self-esteem, preventing them from chasing their dreams, carving out successful careers in fields that are seen like men’s territories, having healthy relationships, and becoming the people they are really supposed to be, rather than the people someone else has told them they should be. And that’s something to be looked at. But girls can be, and should be, much more than that.

pigtail pals

How can parents stop the sexualisation and gender stereotyping of their daughters and teach them that they can be a lot more than just a pretty face? It seems like a losing battle sometimes, but it’s not. Melissa Atkins Wardy, founder of Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies, a company that sells appropriate and empowering apparel for children, became an advocate for children’s right to a non-stereotyped and non-sexualized childhood after the birth of her daughter.

She has now written a book, Redefining Girly, that is full of helpful and practical tips on how you can bring up healthy, confident and happy children who can think critically and follow their dreams. Have you ever wondered how you can help your daughter love her body? What to do when a family member or a friend gives your daughter a toy or a piece of clothing that you consider inappropriate? And how you can stand up for your beliefs and put up with their pressure when they tell you that you’re making a big fuss out of nothing?

How do you deal with a doctor who makes demeaning comments about your daughter’s body, or a teacher who perpetuates gender stereotypes in class? And should you let your daughter go to a party where you know she’ll be given a makeover and have to take part in a fashion show? And how can you let brands know that the children’s products they sell are completely inappropriate?

little girl birthday party

If you have ever wondered how to deal with these situations, I urge you to pick up a copy of this book immediately. Not only Wardy explains what you have to do to protect your daughter in these situations, but she also offers tips on how to start conversations with her about media and body image issues. But don’t worry. Wardy never preaches to you. Reading the book is a pleasure because you feel like you’re talking to a fellow parent who shares and understands your worries (which is just what Wardy is).

But you don’t have to be a parent to read it. Everyone has children they love in their lives. It can be a stepdaughter, a little sister, a friend’s kids or a young student. The way you behave around them can influence them in a positive or negative way. You’d want to provide a good example for them to follow and the book will help you do just that.

Available at: amazon

If you have a preteen daughter, you should pick up this book immediately. It offers practical tips on how to fight gender stereotypes and the sexualization of little girls, and raise them to be happy, confident and savvy women who aren’t afraid to chase their dreams and be people they want to be. Melissa never preaches to you. The writing style is very colloquial, making the reader feel like he/she’s talking to a fellow parent.

Rating: 4.5/5

Disclosure: this item was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, the review contains an affiliate link. For more information, please see my disclaimer.

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Allison February 26, 2014 - 4:24 pm

Wonderful post. When I was a kid, I don’t remember girls’ toys being so separate from boys, and there wasn’t the predominance of pink that there is now (tho’ I love pink). I too loved princesses including the 12 Dancing Princesses, and I focussed on their heroism as well (loved your description of what they had to overcome). Hope that Wardy’s book gets a lot of attention. Great that you’re helping.

Gio February 26, 2014 - 9:57 pm

Allison, I agree. There have always been toys for boys and pink toys for girls, but when I was little there were also lots of toys that were neutral and marketed to both genres. But those seem to be the exception these days.

I think that princesses can be good role models for girls if you tell their stories in a way that focuses on their accomplishments and good qualities rather than their looks. Instead, even they are sexualized these days. *sighs*

I hope so too. It’s a wonderful and helpful book that everyone should read. 🙂

Trisha February 26, 2014 - 6:39 pm

I remember when I was a kid, when you’d get a Happy Meal at McDonald’s, they’d ask you if you wanted a girl’s toy or a boy’s toy. That always bothered me, even then. So, what? Girls can’t like toy cars? Boy’s can’t like little dolls?

Luckily, when I was a pre-teen/teenager, they stopped doing that. Then they’d just ask if you want the car or the doll. No genderization, which is good.

Gio February 26, 2014 - 9:59 pm

Trisha, it’s great to hear that things are changing. Everyone should be free to like whatever they want, without being made to feel weird or inferior for it.

Janessa February 28, 2014 - 2:48 am

Ooo I’d enjoy reading this! I may have to pick up a copy on Amazon! This is a really thorough and great review, Gio!
I told my friend who loves history that you do posts on history and makeup and I’m going to fwd all your history and beauty posts to her from now on. :] Hopefully she subs to you someday haha.

Gio February 28, 2014 - 4:09 pm

Janessa, it’s a wonderful and very inspiring read. I’m sure you’d enjoy it.

Aww, thank you so much for that, I really appreciate it! If she likes history, she may also like my other blog, History and Other Thoughts *wink wink* *shameless plug here, haha, sorry!*

But thank you so much for all your support hun! It means a lot!


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