Girls bully, too: A comment on princesses and how we treat women that “can”

Ok – just read this post by Peggy Orenstein. It’s not new, it was originally published in November. “princess” connection is fascinating to me. One of my daughters was very into princesses, etc. so to me its not the “evil” empire that some people feel that it is. But then when my daughter was invited to a princess party with other 6 year olds, she went as a pirate. Not a pirate princess, a pirate.  I guess I just had a different princess-parenting experience.I see the do-it-all-perfectly-and-effortlessly thing differently, I suppose. I don’t associate that with princesses at all. I associate it with the way women talk and the way they judge each other.

I think the limiting factor here is the very real possibility that you will be publicly shamed for leaving your house without perfect make-up, making the slightest mistake or showing any effort whatsoever.

Look at the number of articles related to Hilary Clinton’s hairstyle vs. Madeleine Albright! (FYI – 1.1 million in .25 seconds vs 180k in .53 seconds)

It is sad but true.

My 16 yo is presenting a seminar to teenagers this weekend at a local 4H leadership conference. The topic is bullying, with an emphasis on how to support the victim. She has done a lot of research to prepare and one of the stats she pulled was about the shocking percentages of girls that experience emotional bullying through negative comments DAILY. The comments might be about their hairstyle, their clothes, their grades, etc. but very often girls EXPECT to hear negative comments from their peers with any sort of achievement. In contrast, boys could expect bullying to be more physical and tended to be doled out to those who “can’t” rather than those that “can.” **

The message is clear – do well, girls, and there is an army waiting to tear you down.

This is what we have to fight, people.


Peggy Orenstein is an award-winning writer, editor and speaker about issues affecting girls and women.
** Please note – NEITHER form of bullying is ok. I bring it up because the contrast was interesting to me.

Planning a Sweet Sixteen

My daughter will be sixteen in less than two weeks.

Let’s pause for a moment of silence.

We have talked about the big day on and off for weeks, but with the date looming over our heads now – it is decision time. For me, this decision process brings up memories of not-so-great birthdays in the past and how she has triumphed over some very dark times.

So what made the short list for her big day? Here’s her party planning ideas (all options would occur under parent supervision because we are THOSE parents):

  1. Go to San Francisco with friends –This day would involve hitting Pier 39, an art museum, shopping in Union Square and dinner. (SF is about 45 minutes from our house.)
  2. Go to SF and see a band – good possibility with this one, but she’s having trouble finding a show that would be awesome AND allows 16 year olds to attend. Oh, the burden of youth.
  3. Catered party at home with all friends – this is different than the “party at home with all friends” she has had the last couple of years in that the food would come from a restaurant rather than our local pizza place.
  4. Movie night – we might possibly be mildly addicted to Amazon Instant Video.

As I mentioned above, the last couple of years have been about having big parties at home. This was born out of many years of not having friends at all. She was the target of playground bullies – girls that called her names and made a “rule” that anyone who played with Lizzi was a freak. (Yes, I spoke with her teachers during this time. They told me those girls were not mean, cruel monsters because they drew the happy pictures currently taped to the teacher’s desk. That is a rant for another post.)  In 3rd-5th grade, I think she was invited to a total of 2 birthday parties and maybe had 3 after school play dates. In middle school, the loneliness took a turn to the dark side that involved depression and self harm.

It was a very difficult time for all of us.

Birthdays in this period were stressful for her because she couldn’t think of anyone to invite to her party. Of course, there was an option to not have one at all – but that was even more depressing.

We sought help, and found a number of resources that made a huge difference in her life. I will write about those another time, but just know that we have come out the other side stronger than I could have imagined.

In those dark days, I wondered if there would ever be light in her life again. 

But here we are, planning a Sweet Sixteen. She has so many friends now that the thought of inviting them all over for a “blow out” party seems like it might be too much noise and mess. She is leaning toward a fun day with friends that mean the most.

Whatever she decides, her dad and I will be there to celebrate this milestone and savor the smile on her face.

 This post was originally published on on November 28, 2011.