Q: What qualities do you want others to remember you for, in both your personal and professional life?
A: Integrity, kindness, a strong voice, being unafraid to go against the grain, and being a change-maker.
Q: What gets you out of the bed each day?
A: Getting an email from a parent that says, “I really get what you are saying and have changed the way I parent my kids.” Parents telling me that, because of following PPBB and our mission, they now have the courage to stand up to gender stereotypes and sexualization: “Because of you, I had the courage to stand up/write in/call XYZ company/teacher/other parent and say…”
Q: Why do you advocate so strongly for girls and boys?
A: As a mother, I want my kids to have a fair shot at childhood. What is being marketed to them because of their gender is harmful and limiting to the amazing, creative, wonderful little people they are. Their gender is not their most salient quality. I’ve worked with hundreds of kids for over twenty years. My kids are no different than anyone else’s kids. All kids deserve a childhood free of limitations, gender stereotypes, and sexualization. My daughter was almost one year old when I realized that no one was having this conversation with parents of young children. So I decided to have it, for all the little girls out there who were being short changed. My son was about two years old when I realized things were just as detrimental for boys, and I immediately rebranded my company to include boys in my advocacy and designs.
As an author, I want parents who were like me seven years ago to learn from what I have learned and from what my community has to share.
These issues are really upsetting to many parents, and there is no reason they should go it alone. It is difficult to push back against the media and media-saturated culture. I wanted to share stories and lessons from my family in order to help other families. If we follow a PPBB path to childhood when these kids are really young, families stand a better chance of avoiding the bigger problems that come as kids get older as a result of the really sexist, sexualizing, and violent media so many kids grow up with.
Q: What keeps you going?
A: Things like a parent writing in to share how she handles the everyday sexism her daughter encounters. Here is an example of an email I recently received:
Last Friday, we were at a restaurant, and a balloon-making clown approached our table. He actually had a lovely vibe about him, and so we chatted with him. He had us cracking up as he mysteriously pulled bunnies out of our daughter’s hair. He then asked her if she wanted a balloon animal, and she asked him what he could make. He responded, “A butterfly, a princess crown, a flower or a dragonfly.” Buoyed by all of my reading on the PPBB blog, I said, “Wait a second! What would you have offered to make if she was a boy?” He paused and said, “A sword or a lightsaber.” She immediately said, “Lightsaber!” and I said, kindly but sincerely, “See? Don’t put limits on girls.” And he said, kindly and sincerely, “You are absolutely right.”
Q: At the end of the day, what are you hoping to accomplish?
A: Stories like the one above about the clown. I want people to speak up against these sexist attitudes aimed toward our kids and work for gender equality. I’m trying to teach them to do it in a way that is kind and creates meaningful change, using social media as the vehicle for sharing our stories. Simple questions like one mom questioning a clown matter. I know it sounds silly, but that clown interacts with how many kids a week? So tomorrow, maybe he’ll offer a girl a full range of choices and colors instead of boxing her in because of her gender, and the mom of that girl will proudly post a picture of her little girl holding a lightsaber to Facebook, and all of her friends will comment about how cool the clown was to do that. And then those friends will think about it then next time they are out. It is like hitting an octopus on the head–eight arms reach out to make eight sets of ripples.