Contrary to popular media culture belief, as the mother of two daughters aged three and six, I do not spend every waking moment of our lives ruminating on the subject of gender politics as it concerns my girls. But the media and certain organizations hell-bent on breaking the so-called mold of stereotypical girlhood would have you believe I do.
To date, I have not suddenly become paralyzed with indecision when it comes to choosing pink and girly LEGO over non-pink LEGO for fear of raising marginalized or gender-conforming human beings. Nor have I lost sleep over the fact that Princess Mulan now wears a ball gown instead of traditional Chinese garb. Why? Because I’m not entirely convinced that policing Lego colors or banning princesses is the way to go.
You won’t catch me standing in line picketing a JCPenney or Forever21 because they’ve decided to print T-shirts that call into question my daughter’s intelligence, or because they’ve succumbed to so-called traditional marketing opinion and ironically assumed that boys do stuff better. But that’s because I wouldn’t have purchased that T-shirt in the first place.
That said, I am unmoved but the fact that certain individuals think nothing of supporting the status quo because, like those of us who are hardwired to rage against the machine, it takes all kinds.
My own personal philosophy when it comes to raising my children is Live and Let Live. It’s something my own mother used to say to us, her three girls, while we were growing up. As a single parent, I assume she was under intense scrutiny for the things she did and did not do, but it didn’t matter to her because she felt very much in charge and empowered by her own life. She wasn’t politically swayed one way or the other as it concerned the popular feminisms of the day, because if a single woman of color raising a family while working full-time isn’t “evidence” of female empowerment, I don’t know what is.
With arm’s length regard, my mother embraced the notion that the odds were stacked against her by virtue of her being left alone to raise three daughters. But that didn’t stop her from instilling a value-system that would support her direct needs and her family. If she had succumbed to popular opinion – and gossip – and believed the hype that her daughters who did not have the physical presence of a male figure in the home were supposedly more inclined to be baby-mommas, or have difficulty in school, or to be promiscuous young women, then perhaps our lives would have turned out very differently. But she didn’t.
If also, for example, she had believed the marketing flavor of the day – in which white systems of beauty were touted as the “ideal” – meant that her daughters were unattractive or that we would be destined to suffer self-esteem issues, they weren’t given a moment’s contemplation or discussion.
The reason being is that my mother didn’t believe in putting too much stock into agenda-bearing organizations, which she felt undermined her ability to make her own decisions that directly affected her life. And this is key. In life, we are given the beautiful opportunity to do what works best for us without feeling the pressure to do, act, see and hear a certain way. And the awesome thing is that given your own unique set of circumstances, no one can dictate that to you.
Having the beautiful influence of my strong mother means that at the end of the day, I’m just not sure how seriously agitated I get with a pontificating movement that wants me to support a belief-system that touts the perils of giving the overwhelmingly materialistic offspring of an overwhelmingly materialistic society a pink toy that is believed to carry an insidious plot to conform all girl-children into mindless pink automatons.
To me, this is a privileged, self-absorbed First World problem. And in the grand scheme of things, while I do believe it does warrant some discussion, it’s the least urgent of our problems.