hold the glitter, please (or: why i don't want my daughter to be a princess)

A girl. Last Tuesday, we found out that the tiny human I've been growing is a girl.

I'm going to be 100% honest: I never thought of myself as a mother to a daughter. My whole life, I've been surrounded by boys. Siblings, friends, students: almost exclusively boys. So when I found out that I'm having a daughter, I had to let it sink in.  I was forced to reflect on how hard it is to be a girl, and why it's so hard.

And then I thought about what I don't want for my baby girl.

I don't want her to feel inadequate.

I don't want her to feel judged for being who she is.

I don't want her to find her self-worth in others.

I don't want her to be spoiled.

I don't want her praised exclusively (or even mostly) for how pretty she is.

I don't want to dress her in crazy sparkles, hot pink short skirts, and princess dresses. Not because it's not my style (it isn't), but because of the message that sends her from the very beginning of her life. A message that what's most important about you is how you look--or, more accurately, what other people think about how you look.

I don't want my daughter to be a princess. In fact, I don't understand why anyone wants that for their child. Why would you want your child defined by her looks, her clothes, her stuff?

I don't want my daughter to idolize princesses, whose only claims to that title are their pretty faces, impossible physiques and beautiful dresses.

I don't want her inundated with a culture that seeks to idealize her beauty and trivialize the rest of her.

I don't want her sexualized as she grows up. If you take a look at almost any girl product line, you find extreme amounts of makeup, sexy costumes, bright pink letters proclaiming "spoiled" or "princess" or "boy crazy" for 4-year-olds. Almost everything is made to accentuate how a woman looks, but on a tiny little girl. It's sexualizing in a way that is not only unnecessary, but harmful. Harmful because it sends the message that the reason you have any value, little girl, is because of how you look.

In addition to sending an increasingly clear (and frankly, disturbing) message about the value of looks, the premature sexualizing of girls in the princess culture (and our culture in general) makes an eventual, developmentally appropriate, healthy, authentic sexuality nearly impossible. Impossible because little girls are learning that sexuality is something that you perform, instead of something that you feel or something you are or a beautiful gift from God.

Some of it isn't as heavy-handed as all of that, not seeking to sexualize young girls...but even then, the emphasis is on narcissism and consumerism to a level that makes me uncomfortable buying many of the things marketed to little girls for my daughter and nieces.

As a youth minister, I see a lot of eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and promiscuity in my teenagers. I see a lot of girls defining their self-worth by how many boys comment on their Instagram photos or how skinny they can get or what clothes they can buy...but obviously these things don't just appear on a girl's 13th birthday. Happy birthday, here's an extra helping of self-doubt and loathing! No, it starts young; and looking at clothes for my baby girl this week, it became clear to me that it starts at the very beginning. A onesie about how many boys you want to kiss, really? There's a market for that?

So after I worked myself up thinking about all of the things my daughter will have to face that I don't want for her, I started asking myself: what do I want for her?

I want her fulfill her potential, as a whole person.

I want her to be compassionate, kind, and just plain old nice.

I want her to know that love is a verb, not just a feeling.

I want her to know that her actions have consequences: positive or negative; to know that eventually what you do and how you treat people becomes who you are.

I want her to be a hard worker.

I want her to know God and love her faith.

I want her to be enthusiastic about life.

I want her to grow up to be a person who values people simply because they are people, not because of their possessions or appearance or what they can do for her.

And yes, I want her to feel beautiful, but in a myriad of ways and not only in one one narrowly defined way. I want her to feel beautiful because she is beautiful, simply because she exists. I want the standards of beauty to be huge and broad...and also not the most important thing about her. Not even close.

Hold the glitter, please.

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