Allow Little Girls to Be Little Girls

Posted by Precious Jewel on

It has now been over a decade since I gallantly darted to the room, plopped on the bed, and stared wide eyed at the television as I watched the amazingly dramatic reality show “Dance Moms." In an attempt to revisit my past by obsessively binging my favorite former show, I cannot help but to notice the sweet innocence and fragility being displayed on the screen.

As for those of you who have never watched the show, in EVERY episode of the show at LEAST two girls cry in each episode (with good reason of course (the dance instructor is quite horrible)). Not only do the girls cry, but in every episode at least two of their mothers express their emotions as well. The dramatics does become a tad bit much, but you, for the most part, sympathize and understand why tears are often shed. I cannot for the life of me though, stop drawing parallels between how crying is perceived for women and children in different cultures and backgrounds.

Chloe, my favorite dancer on the show, is not only a talented dancer, but a really sweet and sensitive girl. There are a multitude of episodes where her mother, Christi, explains how she wants to “preserve Chloe’s innocence” by keeping her sensitive, vulnerable, and sweet in a (sometimes) harsh world of competitive dance.

Nia, the only black girl who maintained longevity on the show, is often typecast in ethnic dances with animal print costumes by her dance teacher: Abby Lee Miller. Her mother Holly, who’s rightfully upset, finally admits “all of the other girls get feminine beautiful whimsical costumes that aren’t typecasting them. I want that for Nia.” In several episodes Holly goes on to mention that she wants Nia to have more feminine and elegant dance numbers and Abby exclaims that she does not want to do this because Nia “has a race advantage over the other girls.” Moreover, Abby tries to cast Nia for dance roles as a bully, a drag Queen, in ethnic dances, in stereotypical 70s afros and animal prints, and other roles that do not fit Nia really well. All the while, Holly tries her best to nurture Nia’s fragility, innocence, and femininity even when Abby gets upset and screams when Nia, who’s ten years old at the time, dashes to her fathers lap to sit and cry in his arms after forgetting one of her solo dance routines.

I can’t help but to wonder how differently it would be if more little black girls had parents like Holly willing to preserve their little girls' fragility and given the spaces and opportunities to be delicate, soft, and seen as fragile, which is why I advocate for more parents to allow for their little black and brown girls to be more soft--or at least treated that way. I notice how much criticism black women receive for not being as emotionally available, sensitive, and vulnerable as other women—yet I can recall how some of the these same people, men of color too, criticize us when we do let our guard down. Only then are we told we are “too emotional”. And yet, we still are not "emotional enough". Many black women were raised to be “strong”, tough, and "not to be crybabies". This is the headspace I want many mothers to get out of. It is okay to raise your daughter to be sensitive and expressive.

Growing up a sensitive, vulnerable, expressive, and feminine little girl, I notice a twofold. I noticed how privileged I was to have the space to express my emotions in a healthy way which makes my relationships with others much stronger. However, I also notice how others who were not (or do not know how to express their emotions in this way) treat people, especially those like me, because they were not provided the space to maintain that which makes them a compassionate human and a feminine woman. Surrounding yourself individuals like this becomes a little difficult because they do not have the emotional depth, vulnerability and capacity to hold others emotions. To them you may come across as a crybaby, emotional, and overly sensitive person because they perceive emotions as "weak", particularly if they are of color. 

Ladies, please stop trying to harden your little girls. It will only hurt them in the long run. They too deserve to be soft hearted, sensitive, and able to cry. Please stop telling them they are weak or dumb for expressing their emotions. They deserve to be feminine, soft, and protected. Here are a few tips to treat them as such:

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