A reader writes in:
You posted a question today about appropriate reading material to help an eight-year-old better understand gender expression, and I guess my question kind of piggybacks off of that: How do you prepare a little girl for the world’s reaction to her understanding of gender expression?
I have a very young niece whom I’m trying to guide (rather to her mother’s chagrin) through the pretty-pretty-princess stage into a place where she can feel comfortable expressing herself as she wants. The problem is that I know what frequently happens when a kid who bucks tradition and peer pressure: She gets targeted by her classmates for being a weirdo and ends up unhappy. At that age, the after-school special where her confidence and strength of spirit influence those around her and teach everyone a Very Valuable Lesson About Acceptance is pretty much a fantasy.
I don’t want to discourage this kid by saying, “You should always be true to yourself. The other kids will probably laugh at you, because they haven’t been encouraged to be true to themselves. But if you can endure the teasing, shunning, and physical assault for just 15 years or so, you’ll find self-actualization and satisfaction in life.” But I also don’t want to say, “Be yourself! The other kids will like you for who you are,” because anyone who’s been to a public elementary school knows that’s not the case. How do I prepare her for the real world without scaring her away from being herself?
Any advice, Feministas?
And remember that you can submit questions for Feministe Feedback to feministe-at-gmail-dot-com.
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