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Jewesses with Attitude

Gowns for My Daughter

My daughter Risa is turning two next week. When my mother, a Jewish feminist who went to law school at age 40, asked me to accompany her to a toy store to pick a gift, I agreed. She asked me what Risa enjoyed most these days, and I admitted “dress-up.”

In spite of (or maybe because of?) the fact that my husband and I have given Risa an androgynous wardrobe, puzzles instead of dolls, and books about interesting girls, she likes to dress up in princess costumes. As my mom stood in the toy store, sifting through hyper-frilly gowns with purple and pink flowers, we wondered if this was okay. By giving her dresses, were we encouraging looks over substance? And then my mother, who taught me to have my own bank account and voice my opinion, said: “This is what will make my granddaughter happy, so I’m going to buy them.” She didn’t look altogether certain, I found it hard to argue, and we paid for the dresses a wee bit bewildered.

This week Sesame Workshop (the nonprofit organization behind “Sesame Street”) announced they were adding a new character to their line of muppets. It’s a fairy-girl named “Abby Caddaby,” who unapologetically wears pretty dresses. Liz Nealon, executive vice president and creative director of Sesame Workshop, described the character like this: “Abby Cadabby owns her own point of view, but she’s also comfortable with the fact that she likes wearing a dress, and as we’d tried to model strong female models, we neglected that piece of being a girl.”

Ms. Nealson goes on to claim: “My daughter is comfortable with clothes and hair and makeup and totally embraces her femininity, but can still be strong and completely competitive in a world populated by men and women.” Are we at a stage now where feminism accepts that girls can play with Barbies and wear princess gowns and still love math and spiking a volleyball? Certainly, balance plays a huge key in happiness, and maybe it’s time we allow for a more “well-rounded” girl? What do you think? Is this a step forward or a step back?

How to cite this page

Cove, Michelle. "Gowns for My Daughter." 8 August 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 26, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/gowns>.

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