Growing up, I was not a girly girl – much to my mother’s dismay, I’m sure. I wasn’t into dresses, lace, stockings, or any clothes that in any way, shape or form wasn’t geared for comfort, and don’t even get me started on turtlenecks.
Like most girls though, I did have dolls. I had quite the Cabbage Patch doll collection. So while we weren’t an American Girl doll family, I was aware of the brand which busted onto the scene in the late ’80s.
This classic doll brand was geared at combining historical fiction with female empowerment, teaching little girls that they can embrace who they are as girls and become anything they want to be when they grow up.
That was then.
Here in our current age, the brand has recently come out with a new book for girls that has an interesting and disturbing message, especially from a brand that used to celebrate all that it means to be a girl.
The book is titled A Smart Girl’s Guide: Body Image Book, and depending on what website you check out, it’s geared to girls between the ages of 3 and 12 or 10 and older. I have a daughter, and I took a look at this book.
While the reading level is probably for girls ages ten and older, the content isn’t appropriate for any age, in this humble mother’s opinion.
The title is my favorite part of this catastrophe of a children’s book. In the book, it says:
“Parts of your body may make you feel uncomfortable, and you may want to change the way you look. That’s totally ok!”
In and of itself, this statement doesn’t bother me all that much. Growing up, I was awkward looking; I was pudgy, short, had braces and acne, and curves in all the wrong spots.
I would’ve preferred to be tall and beautiful. But, alas, I was cursed with a sparkling personality versus show-stopping good looks. Even as an adult, I wish certain things about my body, like I wish I had a chin; instead, my face just sort of melts into my torso.
It’s this next part that makes my head explode:
“If you haven’t gone through puberty yet, the doctor might offer medicine to delay your body’s changes, giving you more time to think about your gender identity.”
There it is, the actual message. Do you dislike puberty, kid? Just stop being a girl because being a girl is stupid and brutal, and lame.
Oh, how far American Girl has fallen.
You have to deal with many uncomfortable questions and conversations as a parent. I have little ones, so we haven’t hit puberty years yet, but I’ve had my fair share of awkward moments with my kids.
I’ve had to field everything from why God would make the forbidden fruit something tasty like an apple and not something gross like cauliflower to why one kid has different body parts than the other kid. And these questions generally arise in public settings like a restaurant or grocery store, adding to the excitement of parenting.
While these questions aren’t always my favorite to answer, it is my job to answer them because I am my kid’s protector and primary teacher through my example and through sharing my wisdom, whatever I happen to have. This new book tells little girls that maybe their parents aren’t the best option to go to when they have puberty questions:
“If you don’t have an adult you trust, there are organizations across the country that can help you.”
They even provide a resources section specifically geared to helping girls circumvent their parents. Are you feeling uncomfortable about the bizarre and, at times, gross bodily changes that are entirely natural and normal?
Don’t talk to your parents about it; instead, go to these organizations with no vested interest in you other than exploitation.
I am all about finding your own style and loving who you are in the body you were born in and the mind that you nourish. I am a bizarre mix of a punk rock mohawk sporting t-shirt-wearing woman who also adores pink and sparkles.
Whatever happened to telling girls that their bodies are a wonder and part of what makes their bodies so magnificent is their resilience to changes like puberty and childbirth?
Detransitioner Cat Cattinson, whose own experience with transitioning caused irreversible body changes, highlights my point in explaining the book’s message:
“…that a girl can be born into the wrong body and need drugs or surgery to be herself contradicts the message of the body acceptance movement.”
Puberty is natural, and it’s not supposed to be easy; there is a reason why it is difficult and uncomfortable. Your body, whether a boy or a girl, is morphing from the child you were into the adult man or woman you are to become.
Yeah, it’s less than ideal with hair in new places, odors that escape explanation, and feelings of attraction that are embarrassing and chaotic. However, the answer should be to talk to your parents and trust in the process, not chemically or surgically alter your perfectly healthy body.
This push to tell girls that they should want to change their bodies because they don’t like the way they look or they should suspend puberty because it is uncomfortable is an assault on the feminist movement.
The book tries to mask its motives by saying:
“Every girl needs to learn to live comfortably in her own skin, and this book will show the way! In these pages, a girl will find everything she needs to know about loving her unique self, staying confident through her body’s many changes, and appreciating her body for the life it lets her live.”
But that is not what this book tells girls to do; this book tells girls that the answer to finding comfort and love for who they are is to change their bodies and who they are:
“At first, you and the doctor might talk about wearing the clothes and using the pronouns (like he, she, or they) that make you feel most like the true you.”
I can’t stand phrases like ‘true you’; what does that even mean? Your ‘true you’ is you, who you were when you were born, and who you become as the seasons change.
We must stop pushing this narrative on girls and boys, for that matter, that natural biological discomforts mean that something is wrong with them and that they should pretend to be something they aren’t by doing permanent damage to their bodies and psyche. For all the girls struggling with puberty, I get it; it wasn’t fun for me, either.
But I got news for you; it’s not fun for any of us, and life will have more seasons for you to change, such as my current season of menopause, a whole new fresh hell for me to go through. But that’s what life is about, changing seasons.
Embrace it, don’t run from it. And parents, pay attention to what is being fed to your kids’ minds and hearts.
If you aren’t doing the feeding, there is a problem.
Now is the time to support and share the sources you trust.
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