A feminist mom makes peace with pink, Disney Princesses and Barbie

Lily's aluminum can houseboat - though it more has the feel of a pontoon boat, doesn't it?

Lily’s aluminum can houseboat – though it kind of seems more like a pontoon boat, doesn’t it?

I’m ending 2013 with a bald confession: I’m a feminist, and yet my two young daughters, ages 5 and 2, play often with Barbies (particularly in the bathtub, for some reason); they adore Barbie and Disney movies; they like the colors pink and purple; and they eat many of their meals on Disney princess plates.

Does this make me a failed feminist mom? Aren’t I worried about the potentially corrosive effects of conventional, “traditionally” gendered media/toys?

A little. Sometimes. But frankly, not really. Because my daughters also like playing with Legos, and Lincoln logs, and marble raceways, and face paint; and they like watching “Word Girl” and “Wonder Woman” and “Pippi Longstocking” (and Lily’s currently addicted to hearing Nancy Drew chapters read to her each night); and they like all kinds of different colors, not just pink and purple.

Plus, something that happened this past weekend only strengthened my resolve to keep encouraging my daughters to play freely with what they want, in the way they want: Lily, my 5 year old, collected aluminum cans from our recycling bin and went on to build – with mounds of masking tape, of course – a houseboat, upon which she seated two of her Barbies.

I couldn’t have asked for a more salient metaphor.

For Lily, left to her own devices, pursued a creative building activity – something for which the Girls in STEM crowd is always advocating – that also incorporated her hyper-feminized Barbies into the mix. She didn’t need a nudge from her feminist mom. She just needed freedom to experiment. Continue reading

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Arguing for two (and eventually, three)

Joe and I are celebrating our ninth anniversary today – which makes me remember that when Joe and I first started dating, I quickly learned that for some people, arguing is a sport.

Indeed, Joe would have – or has, I guess, as a litigator – turned pro, so born was he to this calling. I, however, am not cut from the same cloth. Being the classic, diplomatic, peace-keeping middle child, I have always gone to great lengths to avoid confrontation.

Plus, the two of us came from very different families. Nothing was too insignificant to parse, and argue about, at length in Joe’s family. When I was growing up, meanwhile, the only kind of disagreement that happened usually involved tears, slammed doors, and extreme discomfort (on my end, anyway). To my mind, arguing was an absolute last resort. If there was nothing significant to be gained by an argument, I didn’t see the point in engaging in one.

So how were Joe and I ever going to work? It’s a question I asked myself several times early on – especially when, on one occasion, Joe stridently argued a position that I couldn’t believe he actually held. In one moment, my eyes narrowed, and I stopped pounding away at the issue long enough to say, “You’re just arguing this side for fun, aren’t you?”

He was. And as extraordinarily annoyed as I was in that moment, the exchange did finally convince me that arguments about beliefs and issues didn’t have to be painful and wrenching. Look at Joe. He was arguing passionately for something he didn’t even believe. When you experience someone turning that ability on and off at will, you realize that most arguments can simply be an intellectual exercise, not a soul-deflating, emotional fistfight. Continue reading