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In Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween, Melissa Atkins Wardy provides parents with a guide to help them raise their daughters in a way that does not sexualize or stereotype them based on pre-conceived notions about gender. Wardy describes her own struggles when trying to provide her daughter with gender-neutral, non-sexualized clothes and toys and to help instill the notion that girls are not delicate princesses, but rather strong, confident and capable in light of the fact that few consumer items relay the same message. One of the themes present in every chapter of the book is the commercialization and marketing of girlhood especially in terms of toys and clothes. Wardy describes how young girls are taught to covet everything pink and sparkly and to adopt the notion that they at a young age need to enhance their looks by purchasing various beauty products. In short, young girls are being sexualized and objectified at an increasingly young age, and parents feel that they have little control to change or impact the way that their children think about themselves. Wardy therefore provides readers with tips on everything from dealing with outfits that are too revealing or that sexualizes little girls to how to talk to girls about weight and maintaining a healthy body. In the process of doing so, Wardy discusses how to change, impact or fight against the stereotyping, sexualizing and marketing of girlhood.
Wardy has worked hard to help change the way that marketers, parents and educators view girlhood and how they help impact young girls. In doing so, Wardy has taken on immense business and corporations that stereotype and sexualize girls and girlhood. At the same time, Wardy discusses the notion of the tween (girls aged eight to twelve, or sometimes between ten and twelve). Tween is a concept completely made up by marketers (even though the word tween has existed before), to in short, profit of the notion that girls between these ages are somehow in a special need of certain items to help them through these “developmental” years. In short, these girls are said to be too old for toys, but too young to be into boys. Tween is not a developmental stage, such as that of an infant or a toddler, but one completely made up by marketers. Therefore, it is noteworthy that Wardy chooses to include the notion of the tween in her book. At the same time, perhaps Wardy has decide to include the tween because many parents and educators now actually believe that tween is a developmental stage, or because the notion of the tween is actually gendered, referring almost completely to girls. Wardy also describes the immense profits made in the tween market, so a book like Redefining Girly that focuses much on marketing, consumption and the power of those buying the items, which most often are parents, might need to use the notion of the tween since it has taken a stronghold in the market.
When providing parents and educators with tips on how to foster and provide a more balanced and gender neutral upbringing for girls, Wardy includes written letters by professionals in fields relating to the issues in the book. These letters provide parents with more examples, and ways, to help encourage them to think and act critically about raising young girls. Wardy should also be commended for her own personal stories and honest accounts on raising her own children. Wardy described events and circumstances in which the rules applying to their home might not work when her daughter is visiting a friend or attending a birthday party. Such stories and honest accounts are both uplifting and empowering for parents who might doubt their parenting style or question some decisions they have previously made.
Redefining Girly is as interesting as it is educational, and Wardy provides parents with an easy, at times step by step guide on how best to respond to various scenarios relating to girlhood. The main audience of the book is parents, both to girls and boys even though Redefining Girly focuses mostly on girlhood, but the book could also be used in the classroom in disciplines such as Early Childhood Education, Human Sexuality, Gender studies, Feminism, Sociology and Psychology. Any parent uncertain on how to help raise a child in a more gender-neutral manner would certainly enjoy the book.
© 2014 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.