When I first found out I was having a son—I was disappointed.

After coming to terms with being pregnant, I immediately began thinking of what I’d name my daughter. Even though I hate pink, for weeks I’d stroll the girl’s baby section whenever I was in a department store, and resist the urge to buy a whole slew of “princess” onsies. The only thing that gave me pause about having a daughter—doing her hair. Unlike many other Black women, I can’t cornrow to save my life, but I figured, even this would get better because I’d practice on my daughter.

So when my partner and I went for our sonogram and found out that our baby was a boy, he was (predictably) ecstatic, while I was let down. However, five years later, I’m thankful that my son is here, not only because I love him and can’t imagine my life without him, but also because raising girls seems to be so much more difficult and complicated than raising boys.

Let’s be clear, parenting—period—is tough. Raising a confident, respectful, intelligent, happy child is definitely not easy and we all know the challenges young Black boys face in America. Black boys are overwhelming pushed into Special Education classes whenever they show the first signs of hyperactivity, they are not always given the space to be emotional and express themselves, and they are often held to hyper-masculine standards of manhood. While the challenges of raising Black boys are many, raising girls, especially Black girls, requires a different set of skills and the ability to not only guard against racism, but also brace against a society that is working overtime to sexualize little girls.

These days, when I’m shopping for my son, I’m reminded, again, of why I’m thankful my child is a boy. The girl’s clothing section is still filled with frilly pink dresses, but over the years I’ve noticed that most of the clothes have become far more sexual. From pink miniskirts to flowered halter-tops, the girl’s clothing sections looks like most of its outfits are just miniature versions of the junior’s sections.

Recently, several retailers have been garnering negative press for selling clothing more suitable for adults to children. A few months ago, Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire for advertising padded bikini tops for its line targeting girls ages 7-14. Many were rightly upset that Abercrombie & Fitch would market such an overtly sexy item to small children. Parenting blog Babble, wondered:

“The push up bra is, effectively, a sex tool, designed to push the breasts up and out, putting them front and center where they’re more accessible to the eye (and everything else). How is this okay for a second-grader? “

Another egregious example of over-sexualizing children occurred a few weeks ago when news broke that a California woman was allegedly giving her eight-year-old daughter Botox injections. Although the woman has since claimed that she was paid to fabricate the story, initially the mom, Sheena Upton, said she gave her daughter the injections to prevent her third grader from getting wrinkles.

ABC News reported:

“Upton said her daughter, Britney, had complained about wrinkles and her daughter explained how she first noticed wrinkles when she looked at her face in the mirror and ‘just didn’t like it.’

“’I just, like, don’t think wrinkles are nice on little girls,” the 8-year-old said in the May 12 “GMA” report.’”

These examples are just more in a long line in which girls have been sexualized over the years. From popular musical artists whose fan base consists mostly of teenagers and young girls, to clothing lines that promote hypersexual styles, young women have consistently been sent the message that they should adhere to a certain standard of beauty in order to be seen as attractive.

These days it seems like playing with dolls, braiding each other’s hair, and jumping double-dutch has been replaced with putting on make-up, dressing up in body skimming clothes, and practicing the moves to the latest Ciara video.

But what happened to girlhood?

What happened to the precious period when we were less concerned with looking good and more concerned with beating all the boys in our neighborhood in a relay race?

As our culture becomes more and more interested with turning children into mini adults, young girls have lost much of what innocence they may have had left. While some of us lament the actions of some young girls, labeling them “fast,” their supposed manish ways are not completely their fault.

Although we are all somewhat complicit in the loss of innocence of our girls, being aware of this gives us the opportunity to make it right. By setting positive examples for young girls and giving them opportunities to see women being powerful and positive in a non-sexual way, we can help them see that the a woman’s worth lies in more than just how she looks or what she can do for the opposite sex.

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  • terra nadir

    I agree that parents have to parent though I am a taken aback by the homophobic undertone of Just saying’s” comment. Are heterosexual couples inherently more moral than anyone else? Hmmm…. I know of more than one fabulous “partnered” couple and we all have witnessed toxic heterosexual marriages. The loss of girlhood is reflective of the more general problem of the increasing tendancy in American culture to value women and girls almost exclusively for their bodies and sexulatity. This narrow, hyper-preoccupation with owning and exploiting the female body is equally evidenced by the ascendence of “booty shaking,” “cake” culture (talking to you Bossip) and by the creepy Christian Right father-daughter “purity ring” ceremony (i.e. my goodies belong to daddy until they belong to my husband). Gag. We need strong mothers who are willing to guide their daughters through all of this nonsense and teach them that a “vajayjay” belongs only its owner and that sexuality is wonderful thing that is best enjoyed with a healthy dose of personal responsibility.

    • JustSaying…

      My comment wasn’t intended to be homophobic. I was just stating the obvious. It’s odd to hear heterosexuals refer to themselves as partners.

    • JustSaying…

      Furthermore I think if homosexuals could marry they would gladly give up the title “partners” which makes heterosexuals referring to themselves as that all the more damning in my book. They have the ability to get legally married but many of them devalue it.

    • terra nadir

      Just Saying, “Damning”? Really? That’s pretty silly. Who cares how loving committed parents refer to their relationship? Children will mirror the love and respect they see. Couples can call themselves “twin spirits” if they want. Matters not a wit. Yes, gay people should be allowed to adopt to marry if they wish but let’s not get caught up on titles at the expense of focusing on committment.

    • JustSaying…

      Children will also mirror the bad, counter-productive, and dysfunction they see. Why do you think so many black kids now walk around thinking marriage is for white people??? They didn’t get that idea from the sky.

      It’s a situation where you have to take the bitter with the sweet…and the cycle will continue. If you think heterosexual non-traditional families are “okay” I suggest you take a hard look at the state of the African American community. Clearly that’s a LARGE piece of the problem. “Let’s just forget titles and marriage…” Um I think not…especially when bringing kids into this world.

    • Truth No Matter What

      As much as people may not like Just Saying’s delivery. We have to admit that there is an obvious breakdown in the black family structure, which can be attributed to a number of ills i.e. oversexualized daughers AND sons, teen violence, etc. I have had people joke (but some serious) with me that because I am waiting to have children until after I’m married to my fiance that I am doing it like “white folks”. Although, people try to call marriage merely a title, there are many studies that attest to the fact that children that come from a home where the parents are married, fare better in school, are more well adjusted in certain regards, etc. Not to mention the economic benefits of marriage. Socioeconomics definitely plays a factor in the girls who become teen moms. Girls who started out young and over-sexualized and started having sex at an early age may become teen mothers. Black people…we have to recognize this. I feel like we’re like a Seleigman and Maier experiment (learned helplessness) gone VERY wrong. We feel that we can’t get married and that a fracutrued family structure is not just okay, but it’s fine and it’s the norm. I, myself, am the product of a single parent home and turned out quite well (no babies, went to a Top 10 University, currently working), but I do also realize I’m the exception and not the norm, just like there are effed up kids who come from married parents.

    • terra nadir

      Don’t misunderstand me, I think marriage is great. But ultimately, marriage is a public expression of a personal commitment. Without the commitment, you’ve got absolutely nothing, the reverse however, is not necessarily true. The focus of my comments relate not to “broken homes” but mature, responsible adults who choose to structure their family a different way. I agree that we have too many homes with absentee dads (or increasingly absentee moms) where children are not getting what they need to thrive. Clearly, however, if someone is absent in a relationship there is no commitment.

      Yes, I agree two incomes are better than one and yes I agree that having someone in the home to assist with childcare is better for everyone but you can have all of that without being married. There are so many ways to be a family. To the extent we generate disfunction in our community, its source can be found often in a lack of personal responsibility, a lack of community and grinding ignorance. Marriage alone is not a panacea for any of these things. I welcome more marriages in our community but only between couples commited to one another and who are choosing marriage because they personally value the institution (as much as Just Saying does) for their own reasons and not because they are being “shamed” and “damned” by outsiders to the relationship.

  • Cherry

    When I was a little girl, all we did was fear our parents, play double dutch, and wear numerous ponytails in our hair. Never have I experienced all this raunchiness in my childhood, but the children of today are far worse than those of yesterday. They admire people who are not immaculate, if you get my drift. Whenever I see the stupid Toddlers and Tiaras, I shake my head. These homely, ‘hit’ mothers project their hopes and their dreams onto their daughters. In turn, they turn these little girls into self-centered, ditsy, air-head brats!!! Sometimes I just want to slap the mothers in the face for allowing this! If my daughter ask me to participate in one of those pageants, I’ll reply with, “You better play with dirt,” because I will not allow to let her partake in acting like a sexed up adult! It is very hard to be cautious for little girls, since there is so expectation and hardships in this world.

    • beekaypopn

      This is really at TERRA NADIR
      It is easier to raise a child when there are TWO incomes, however, you are penalized come April 15 when you file married vs. single. With that said, it is not easier to raise a child just because the word married is involved. I am all for marriage and people realizing that children are a much bigger committment than marriage, but there is a bigger picture here that we are not acknowledging. This word, is in fact, just a label. The word holds value, but it’s the people, not the word, that make it work. Tiger and his wife, dysfunctional. Arnold and his wife, dysfunctional. I can keep going if you’d like. Un-married, my mom made sure my father was close. very close, whether together or not. Whether they could stand each other or not. They split up, but my dad moved in the upstairs apartment in the home THEY owned. I couldn’t walk, talk, or wear anything negative without my dad noticing. He cared about my behavior and every other child in the neighborhood. These days, if I was to scold a child for foul language or their attire, there ignorant MAMMY wants to fight me instead of repremanding that child so… Save it

  • beekaypopn

    @ terra, now I can agree with what you say

  • Clnmike

    “but also because raising girls seems to be so much more difficult and complicated than raising boys.” Statistics say otherwise……..hell half the articles on Clutch make a case against this.

  • Cece

    @JustSaying: Although I can appreciate where you are coming from, assuming that the author is not married because she refers to her child’s father as her partner is a bit much. Just for the record, I am happily married and often refer to my spouse as my partner. Just thought I should put that out there…