Celebrating girls — or stereotypes?

“Empowering” girls can look a lot like enforcing gender stereotypes, writes Scott Richardson on Pacific Standard.

His daughter participates in Girls on the Run, a 5K run (or walk) for girls — no boys allowed — in third through eighth grade.
(Photo: Girls on the Run)Volunteer coaches lead their team through a pre-packaged curriculum designed to “encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development.” Girls discuss self-esteem, confidence, teamwork, healthy relationships, and “challenges girls face.”

Though boys are banned, older male relatives and friends run with girls as “sponsors.”

Men, women and girls are encouraged to “girl it up” with “skirts, tutus, big bows, bold patterned knee-high socks, tiaras, etc.), apply make-up or face paint, and spray color their hair,” writes Richardson.

There’s nothing for girls who might want to “butch it up.”

Richardson also questions “bombarding girls with ‘positive’ messages about themselves meant to counteract negative ones.” The program implies “that girls aren’t considered equal to boys.”

“What messages are girls really getting when special programs are aimed at trying to make them feel good about themselves as girls?” he asks.

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  1. Yes, yes, yes. I’m raising five girls, and I would never put them in programs like this. They like tiaras, pink, and hair paint, but they also like catching toads, digging in the mud, riding bikes, and dressing in dark colors. That doesn’t make them any less female.
    I also think Richardson is correct in seeing the implicit message of inherent inequality that is conveyed by programs that act as though girls need “help” to feel good about themselves while boys don’t.

    • Absolutely. both my DD and I would run from this ASAP. My DD, like her brothers, was a full-time elite athlete and would never have done any athletic event dressed as if it was a princess pageant (nor would either of us have had anything to do with a princess pageant). It’s stereotyping to the max; because what matters is how you look, not how you perform – NOT.

  2. My daughter is 5 and decided that, after 2 years of dance classes, she wants to play basketball this year. She has chosen pink shoes, and she may decide to play in a tu-tu. That’s fine, but I would not be signing her up for an event that actually pushed ‘girliness’. There’s a difference between encouraging kids to ‘be themselves’ and deciding that they need to conform to one stereotype while defying another. We’d be more into co-ed running while wearing pink, or even a tu-tu, than running with only girls while glamming it up far in excess of anything we’d normally do.

  3. Aaaaaaaaaand this is why I refuse to contribute to my district’s girls-only STEM enrichment program.