A tweet by Onion scribe/artiste Maria Schneider (aka @writtennoise, auteur of Pathetic Geek Stories) pointed me to this hideous cover of a recent issue of Life and Style. As you can see, it’s a “before-and-after” shot of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s daughter, Shiloh. In the before pic, she looks like a typical little girl. In the after shot, she has short hair and is wearing a cardigan. The cover screams WHY IS ANGELINA TURNING SHILOH INTO A BOY? and laments the fact that Shiloh has “No girlie things”! “IS IT HARMING THE 3-YEAR-OLD?” ZOMG!
Despite being a magazine aimed at a largely female audience, this publication has forgotten one very important thing: You can’t force a three-year-old girl what to wear anything she doesn’t want to. Trust me. I am legally required to clothe a three-year-old girl, and I know that they have no qualms about letting you know when they’re unhappy with your choice of outfit for the day (or anything else, for that matter).
At this young age, kids simply like what they like. It has very little to do with the peer pressures that emerge later. For whatever reason, Shiloh likes dressing this way now. The chances of her wanting to dress this way for the rest of her life are about as slim as her watching Dora the Explorer when she’s in college. How many things do you do/like now that you liked/did when you were three? And if she does grow up to wear “boy” clothing, it’s because she wants to, not because Crazy Angelina Jolie “made” her that way.
When I found The Wife and I were having a daughter, one of the first things I thought (other than PANIC) was, “I’m not gonna have any of that princess crap in my house!” Because I associated the whole Princess Phenomenon with a mindless philosophy of entitlement and passivity that’s resolutely anti-feminist.
But somewhere along the line, she got exposed to Princess Stuff, and she likes it. She’s not super into it, like she wears a tiara to day care, but she does like it. So she has some princess-y toys and some princess-y outfits, and the world has continued spinning on its axis. Hopefully, if I raise her right, she won’t turn out to be a Kardashian.
She also likes some non-girly stuff, too. She often makes me play Spider-Man–of course, I always have to be Venom and get wrapped up in her webs and carted off to jail (which greatly resembles our bathroom). As I type this, she’s watching an X-Men cartoon, which she asked to see (screamed, actually). Her love of these things has nothing to do with me. I have never forced her to watch any of them. I learned very early on that when you force a kid to watch something, 99 times out of 100 they will hate it.
Even so, every now and then, she will say of something–even if it’s something she likes, like Spider-Man–“that’s for boys!” As if she shouldn’t watch/play with it. I have no idea where she gets this idea from. She certainly doesn’t get it in our house.
But she has to leave our house sometime. And when I see things like the garbage linked above, I realize she must just get it from the air, living in a world that tells her from infancy that there are certain things she can’t like or do or think or be. I could have kept every item of princess-iana out her hands and sight, and she’d still be exposed to caveman attitudes like this.