Author: Melissa Atkins Wardy
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Complimentary copy provided via NetGalley
“Sexualization affects all races, economic classes, and geographies. It robs children of their right o childhood and to reach psychological developmental milestones fairly, and it affects their self-esteem, body image, and performance in school. Sexualization interferes with kids’ right to develop a healthy sexuality and understanding of intimacy. It can rush them into sexual experimentation and cause problems in future relationships. It causes girls to seek validation from external sources, largely based on their sex appeal and measuring up to a narrowly defined version of beauty known as “the beauty myth.”
“I’m not anti-pink. I’m not anti-princess (although I really do not dig the Disney version). I’m not anti-girly. I’M ANTI-LIMITATION. I want my daughter to be bold. I want her to be unafraid to be intelligent. I want her to be respected for her accomplishments. She will not be raised to think that the world belongs only to boys and that she is merely a pretty thing in it.”
Containing practical, specific parenting advice; strategies for effecting change with educators, store managers, corporations, and more; and tips for challenging and changing the media, this essential guide gives parents the tools they need to fight back against the modern stereotyping and sexualization of young girls. Activist Melissa Wardy shares tangible advice for getting young girls to start thinking critically about sexed-up toys and clothes while also talking to girls about body image issues. She provides tips for creating a home full of diverse, inspiring toys and media free of gender stereotypes, using consumer power to fight companies that make such major missteps, and taking the reins to limit, challenge, and change the harmful media and products bombarding girls. Redefining Girly provides specific parenting strategies, templates, and sample conversations and includes letters from some of the leading experts in education, psychology, child development, and girls’ advocacy.
All praise resounds from this reviewer of Redefining Girly with a hearty, “Right on!” Spend any amount of time with me and you realize my passion for combating stereotypes, advancing gender equality, and addressing human trafficking. Like the sticky radials of a spider’s web, the issues are interrelated; education, engagement, and activism of one travels the continuum affecting the others.
What we find in Ms. Wardy’s work Redefining Girly is a well crafted reference guide to navigate the cultural, social, and commercial pressures thrust upon girls today, shaping them to conform to hyper-sexualized roles.
Incorporating compelling scientific research and supporting evidence from many leading industry experts in education, marketing, counseling, etc., Ms. Wardy builds a strong foundation for respectfully challenging gender norms, providing simple avenues of advocacy based on critical thinking and conviction. A notable strength in the author’s delivery is the underlying emphasis on respect, honesty, rationality, and dialogue in the roles of advocacy and engagement.
Offering a systematic exploration of culturally dominant gender-based stereotypes and the negative impact on girls in particular, Redefining Girly walks the reader through the process of:
- Examining the underlying messages projected in the “Pinkification” and “Princess Culture” marketing campaigns and the impact on gender identity, age compression, early internal sexualization, and body image
- Discussing gender neutral decisions with family and friends
- Dialoguing with children using open-ended questions to develop age-appropriate critical thinking skills
- Challenging gender stereotypes and the commercial sexualization of girls through direct communication with marketers, corporations, and the media
- Understanding the role of a consumer and the power to produce change through consumer-based advocacy
A secondary strength of Refining Girly is the emphasis on directing the reader to engage in simple, tangible forms of activism. Each chapter includes a list of “Action Steps” to help parents explore the topic, initiate age-appropriate dialogue with children, and engage the larger systems in society perpetuating harmful stereotypes.
It’s not very often I encourage this action, but I believe Refining Girly is a “must read” for anyone working with children: parents, educators, child care workers, pastors/youth leaders, and youth mentors in particular.
About the Author
Melissa Atkins Wardy is the founder of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that sells empowering and inspirational children’s apparel and products, and Redefine Girly, a blog focused on the issue of the sexualization of girls. She is the cofounder of The Brave Girls Alliance, a gender equality think tank and advocacy group dedicated to communicating with and influencing media, corporations, and retailers. She has appeared on CNN, FOX News, BlogHer, and in Ms. Magazine. She lives in Janesville, Wisconsin. Jennifer Siebel Newsom is the writer and director of the documentary film Miss Representation and the founder of MissRepresentation.org, a call-to-action movement that provides women and girls the tools to realize their full potential.
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(I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)