Monday, February 06, 2006

Little Girl Dresses

I loved dresses when I was little – especially the princess style dresses with poufy skirts. For some reason, whenever I’d think about that time, I used to imagine myself liking them only because of how they look; that I adored them so because they were pink and I was a girly girl – according to my mom and sister.

It’s amazing how much crap I’ve simply accepted as true because it’s conventional wisdom, despite considering myself a feminist from practically grade school on.

I did indeed like dresses because of how they looked, and in turn how they made me look, but when I actually stopped and thought about it the other day, I realized that I also loved dresses because of how they felt. Ankle length dresses may not have been made for doing cartwheels in (as I found out when my mother relented and let me wear one to school in third grade) but little girl dresses with princess skirts are not made for sitting sedately either. They are made for skipping, spinning, twirling, and prancing about the room – all of which may look cute, but just as importantly feel different in a poufy skirt than they do without. The weight and movement of the skirt emphasizes your own actions and makes it that little bit more fun. Like the difference between good food that’s hot and good food that’s no longer warm.

But when little girls like the poufy pink skirts we buy for them, we assume they like them for the same reasons we buy them – because we think they are cute. That’s a pretty arrogant assumption, but one that society often makes when it comes to kids and women - so girls get it the worst.

Parental attention does have a lot to do with it – that was easy enough to see with my younger cousin. Her father would have thrown a fit if his son had played with her dolls but loudly found her adorable and perfect whenever she was dolled up in her party dresses. Kids aren’t stupid – even at three and four – and so, of course, she loved her dresses.

But whether or not one is a kinesthetic learner has something to do with it as well – in my case, at least. And yet we are so inundated with messages about what girls and boys like – and why they like them – that even as feminists it’s hard to cut through the bullshit and consider the question from the little girls point of view.

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