Girly-girls and Princesses: Are We Really Born That Way?

June 17, 2010 at 4:30 pm , by

My three-year-old son and I recently stopped into a hardware store to buy some spackle. Scott carried the spackle and a plastic putty knife to the front of the store and put them on the counter by the register. “You’re helping Mommy,” the cashier gushed at him. “What a good boy!” Scott scowled and shot back, “I am NOT a boy. I’m a PRINCESS.”

I’m not sure who was more taken aback, the cashier or me. Scott’s pretty rough-and-tumble, for one thing, and there have literally been no princesses, no stories about princesses, no movies about princesses, not even any commercials about princesses in our house. But he does have a couple of good friends who are girls and apparently it didn’t take long for him to suss out that a princess, whatever that is, is the thing to be.

I’m always amazed when people speak confidently and sweepingly about the vast differences between boys and girls and how innate they are. How could any of us really know? Moms get excited about future mother-daughter mani-pedis the minute they get the amnio results, and 4-month fetuses are assumed to have a strong future interest in football, if they are boys. Nurture is so powerful and starts so early that it’s hard to tell what nature really intended.

That Disney princess thing is such a strong part of preschool culture that my son wants to be one, without having encountered one or even knowing what the heck it means. But I bet you in a year or two he’ll understand that he’s supposed to be into light sabers, not ball gowns, and certainly not both (which seems to be the case at the moment). Will that interest in weapons be because of his masculine nature? Probably. Will it also be because he was taught that this is what boys do? For sure.

I’m the psychology editor here at LHJ and I just worked on a fascinating upcoming article on intuition in which an expert says that based on her research, she’d pretty sure that so-called “women’s intuition” is really learned behavior. Men could have that feminine magic, too—if we encouraged them from boyhood to pay attention to relationships and other people’s feelings.

Vive la difference, I say. I’d hate it if everyone were exactly the same. And personally, I do love a nice pink tutu. But how much of that was home training? Aside from the obvious physical characteristics, how can we ever truly know how extensive the differences between boys and girls really are?

What makes you or your daughter a girly-girl? Do you think it’s all in your genes? And if so, what makes you so sure?

6 Responses to “Girly-girls and Princesses: Are We Really Born That Way?”

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  2. I used to believe it was “home or society training” until I had my daughter. I’ve always been more of a tomboy. I don’t wear make up, hate skirts, don’t like beauty parlors, HATE with a passion pricesses and barbies, etc., therefore I plan to raise a totally gender neutral daughter (ABSOLUTELY no pink, no barbies, etc). To my not so pleasant surprise my daughter since she was two years old (even before she started preschool) started to develop a unique girly fascination that until today I don’t know where it comes from. At two one day she ran to the make up section and started asking for make up….I don’t know from where because she’s never seen me putting make up on, and no matter how hard I tried to get her into other toys and a no-doll policy in the house, she developed a fascination with barbie and princess. At five years old my daughter is my complete opposite: she loves pink, is into princess, barbies, make up, skirts, fashion shows, and I’m still how the heck that happened because I can tell you that she didn’t learn that in the house. Now, I think that it is the kid’s personality itself..or maybe genetics, but certainly from my experince it is not home or society taught.

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