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Smart Girls At The Party - Three websites I’d tell my daughter about*

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Samantha Lee
Samantha Lee

*I don’t actually have a kid.

Let me tell you why I wrote this. I went to go get a birthday present for my friend’s kid, who I am an honorary Aunt to and as such really don’t want to stuff up the present-getting.

There was a toy in Kmart which was obviously tailored for a little girl – the theme of which was pretending to be a Nurse. All well and good, until I looked at the boys’ one – Doctor. This wasn’t uncommon – girls’ toys are pink, boys' are blue. Girls' ones are around making cups of tea and playing with baby dolls, boys' ones are about fighting with swords and playing with cars. The one I disliked the most was a toy, again clearly made with girls in mind, about “ learning manners.” There was no equivalent in the boy’s department.

There are several examples of sexism in children’s toy manufacturing, from Lego introducing sets solely aimed at girls in 2012, to Disney selling Avengers tee-shirts – the boy’s ones stated “Be a Hero”, girls – "I Need a Hero." Disney also got in trouble recently with its decision to prettify Brave character Merida.

There are positive decisions being made. Hasbro recently decided in response to a 2012 petition to start selling gender-neutral Easy-Bake Ovens, instead of ones solely marketed at girls.  Seventeen magazine recently declared a no digital-altering policy for its pages.

There’s still work to be done. Facebook recently came under fire for turning a blind eye to hate speech, which eventually resulted in a landmark pledge to work harder at identifying and removing pages which advocate, among other things, domestic violence and rape. The Everyday Sexism Project daily posts examples of sexism from around the world, which highlights how much a part of our culture things like this have become:

“Just appeared on the sponsored ads on my Facebook page - 12 week course for business women 'so you'll have more money for shoes'. Well, yes, as a business woman, that is indeed the only reason I do it.”

This is the world my favourite kid is growing up in – and while she’d never intentionally be exposed to attitudes that will harm her sense of value, her place in the world and her sense of who she is as a person, the point is it will happen. At some stage, she’s going to read something or watch something, or someone will say something to her that makes her feel less than accepted.

The sad thing is, it doesn’t need to be “part of growing up.” She doesn’t need to be made to feel her only positive contribution to the world is how many shoes she buys, how pretty she looks, how “girly” she is. Just like little boys don’t need to be defined by how manly they are.

So I came home from toy shopping for Mia, and I found a couple of sites that made me happy. These made me think a lot of other people out there are concerned, too, and are doing something about it.

A Mighty Girl: This website sells books, toys and movies and has a fantastic philosophy: “The site was founded on the belief that all children should have the opportunity to read books, play with toys, listen to music, and watch movies that offer positive messages about girls and honor their diverse capabilities.”

They go on to state: “Girls do not have to be relegated to the role of sidekick or damsel in distress; they can be the leaders, the heroes, the champions that save the day, find the cure, and go on the adventure.” A pretty fine message, if you ask me.

Little Girls Are Better At Designing Superheroes Than You Are: This is a mini-art project by Alex Law, who draws superheroes based on costumes that little girls wear in real life. If you’re a parent that’s sick of inappropriate costumes for kids or just someone who’s over gender stereotyping, this one’s for you.

Statistic of the day from : 'Female characters account for only 16% of all character in movies for kids. Across the board in all professions, women at the top don’t make it past 16%.' We are what we see. We mimic what’s in front of us, we follow the crowd, we find our sense of self, in part, from what others accept as the norm.

That’s why I love this last site. It’s founded on the principal that you don’t need to be anybody but yourself, and is run by Amy Poehler (yes, that Amy Poehler), producer Meredith Walker and musician Amy Miles. Smart Girls at the Party’s aim is ‘to help young women and the young at heart with the process of cultivating their authentic selves. We change the world by being ourselves, and being ourselves is a life long quest. Smart Girls hopes to provide some fun reference materials along the way.’

Role models, sound advice (by a sage and on-your-kid’s-level Poehler) and videos from girls of the world abound. I am looking forward to seeing how this site develops and grows as it’s already advocating a change in mindset – or perhaps a return to a mindset that we should never let go of – it’s okay to be who we are.

 I’m not a parent. But when I am, I’ll be showing my daughter sites like these, and hoping one day she won’t have to think twice about buying her own kids a present.

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