TODAY

TODAY   |  March 14, 2014

Redifining 'girly': How to ward off gender stereotypes

Melissa Atkins Wardy, author of "Redefining Girly," and family psychologist Jennifer Hartstein discuss gender stereotypes and how children are noticing body image and gender roles at earlier ages, leading to potential depression later in life.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back on this try day friday. young girls are constantly being bombarded with messages of what is supposed to be girlie. but is this pretty in pink culture really healthy for our kids.

>> melissa actens woody said she's fed up with the stereotype so she's written a book called "redefining girlie" and jennifer hartstein is a psychologist who is here a lot.

>> if you got a girl and a boy, and --

>> ages 8 and 6.

>> 8 and 6.

>> when did you first notice there was a clear way girls and boys were treated?

>> my daughter named after amelia earhart and we were going to a family wedding, i thought it would be nice to have her in a onsie, a little pilot. nothing like that existed for girls . and what i noticed very quickly is that girls were princesses, flowers, cupcakes, sweethearts, angels, things like that. boys had ships and planes and rocket ships and --

>> more fascinating things.

>> they were able to go all over the world and be big and grand and girls were supposed to be close to home and -- and that's not how i grew up. that's not what i wanted for my daughter.

>> do you think that's impactful on a child?

>> it is very impactful. girls are learning from younger and younger ages that everything is based on appearance and what any can look like and that's problematic. we're seeing girls younger and younger ages with eating disorders saying they're fat at ages 4 and 5. it affects all these things. the girls don't have it in their guts to be those people.

>> we were talking about that whole being bossy thing. one is good and the other is bad. how do you feel about that?

>> it is a very gendered conversation because when a boy and girl are demonstrating the exact same qualities, we'll call a little girl bossy, but it is substitution for another b word that would be inappropriate to call a child.

>> don't we want to raise a little girl to become the boss.

>> the boss is different than bossy.

>> explain.

>> yes, ma'am. the difference is someone who is a leader is the boss and knows how to delegate, your game, then my game, then melissa's game and then runs the show. but is involves everybody. bossy is a negative judgment and doesn't allow for growth, inclusion and other thins. i don't know which one you guys fall into.

>> you wanted to unring the bell with your kid. what can a parent do in their own home to change things.

>> so we started with our daughter, we focused on what skills she needed to develop and so if she was crawling, we got her balls and cars because they would move around on the ground and she would follow after them. it developed that gross motor skill . she got old, she had a toy kitchen, but also a toy tool bench. it wasn't about her gender, it was about the developmental milestones she needed to reach.

>> fix the refrigerator when it goes bad.

>> all themes, all colors.

>> the boy came first and the daughter came later?

>> my daughter came first.

>> did you also give your son barbies to play with? were you equal opportunity .

>> he didn't have barbies because he wasn't interested in that but he has stuffed kittens that he acts like a daddy to. i talk about giving your daughter the space to -- so she can show you who she wants to be.

>> give her a stethoscope.

>> right.

>> let her have a --

>> we're not saying princesses are bad. it is not that they shouldn't be in a tutu, but why not get dirty in your tutu or play with tools in your tutu. let them have every opportunity.

>> don't limit the possibilities in your life.

>> thank you.

>> i love your hair.