What Do Feminist Preschoolers Wear? The Lip Gloss as Eye Shadow Installment

My preschooler’s favorite gifts from the holidays include a mini-Imelda case full of plastic high heeled shoes, Barbie—and her pink unicorn, lest she just stand there being pretty (my husband’s addition, the unicorn, for this very reason)—a coloring book with princesses and high heeled shoes and other beauty to create and a wee Disney Princesses make-up case (she knew them all) with nail polish, lip balm and lip gloss.

Believe me, lip gloss represents a BIG step up from lip balm of yore.

We took some trains out for a visiting nephew on Christmas day, and she’s often got a train car in hand, too.

Balance, people, balance is the key to life.

But it really is.

Had she been my first, I think I would not have taken her “pretty” ardor in stride. I’d have gone straight to fear of anorexia and slutty Halloween costumes and tussles over real make up. It’s not like by being relaxed we’ve been giving a pass in future on any of that stuff, not necessarily. But what I am able to see, since I am not sweating the Barbie is that she’s not playing with the Barbie every day and that she’s also dancing (she’s singing the songs from the Nashville soundtrack even when it’s not on, which admittedly is pretty much constantly) and that she’s practicing cartwheels and headstands and yelling “Butt!” a lot and coloring with meticulous precision (great pencil grip) and quote-unquote reading books to herself.

She’s busy. She loves looking at herself in the mirror. She’s got headbands galore and wears them often but not always. Ditto, dresses. She moves between her glittery boots and her blue snow boots. She’s just… herself, her feisty, funny, sassy, snuggly self.

My job, I think is to help her feel great about herself, to dissuade her from the notion that dolls and pink and pretty are girls-only domains and that the same is true for stuff people ascribe to boys alone.

The other truth is this: she will run out of lip gloss at the rate she’s going; she likes to apply it to her eyelids like eye shadow. It’s possible a babysitter demonstrated eye shadow; it’s possible that she’s picked up the practice elsewhere, I have no idea. When you use your product for lips and eyelids, it lasts exactly half as long.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

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