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Opinion: For strong daughters, stop with the sex stereotypes
Decades after the feminist movement, our culture still emphasizes girls' appearances, David M. Perry says.
May 28th, 2013
11:55 AM ET

Opinion: For strong daughters, stop with the sex stereotypes

Editor's note: David M. Perry is an associate professor of history at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. His blog is How Did We Get Into This Mess. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) - When the rocket scientist Yvonne Brill died in March, The New York Times celebrated her as the maker of a "mean beef stroganoff" and "the world's best mother." When my 4-year-old daughter, Ellie, a wildly creative and interesting girl, finished a year of preschool last week, her teachers gave her an award for being the best dressed.

A few years ago at my son's preschool camp award ceremony, I sat silently as well-meaning counselors called each child forward. Girls: best hair, best clothes, best friend, best helper and best artist. Boys: best runner, best climber, best builder and best thrower. My son won best soccer player. In general, girls received awards for their personalities and appearance and boys for their actions and physical attributes.

It was similar at my daughter's ceremony, where the teacher told us that all the children were so excited to see what award they would receive; it had obviously been built up as a big deal. The gender disparity was subtle but present.

Read David M. Perry's full column
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Farrok

    When you see your daughters become outstanding young women it makes your life worthwhile.

    June 11, 2013 at 5:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. Sue

    Sorry, but it's a pet peeve. Promoting little girls to be a 'princess' makes me want to scream. The girl becomes an obnoxious spoiled brat, that everything should be handed to her because she's the princess. Far too many don't ever outgrow this and such a mindset can wind up impacting jobs, friendships and marriages. Fairy tales are fine to point but should always be countered with that's an imaginary character in a make-believe story.

    May 31, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sue

    Agreed. It's these subtle, and not so subtle, incidences that keep girls from participating in physical activities, math, and sciences. That programming is very difficult to avoid and counter. Girls are told that they won't get a husband if they are too smart. Girls start off stronger than boys in math, but wind up doing poorly because of this programming.

    Look at the commercials played on children's networks - far too often, boys are outside doing something physical (and interesting) while the girls are inside playing with dolls. Little girls are told when wanting to play sports that they are not lady-like and that girls don't do things like that. Drove my mother crazy that I was a tomboy and gave me nasty looks and comments for doing so. (Then again, nothing I did ever made her happy.) People then wonder why girls/women are overweight after programming them that physical activities should be reserved for males. Even now, when overweight women try to work out, etc., they hear nasty comments for doing so.

    It's a lttle better than it used to be, but we still have a very long way to go.

    May 31, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • shawn011

      Come on, I really don't think I've ever seen a woman on a treadmill or going for a jog receive a nasty comment.

      June 4, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |