Letter to Bella, and Other Girls With Blue Shoes

Dear Bella,

Your mom told me all about your awesome blue shoes. I like blue. My little girl, Amelia, she loves blue because it is the color of the ocean. But if you asked her, she would tell you her favorite color is rainbow. Rainbows are so nice because they include all of the colors.

I heard from your mom that someone at school said your shoes were for boys. Maybe because they were blue or maybe because Buzz Lightyear was on them. At our house, we say, “Colors are for everyone.” Sometimes people get mixed up about that because they don’t think about it very hard. That makes me feel frustrated. All you have to do is look around the world and know that colors are for everyone.

But Bella, isn’t that silly! How could your blue Buzz Lightyear shoes be for boys if colors are for everyone and Buzz Lightyear is from a movie made for all kids and you are a girl standing in those shoes! I think people get confused about that, because they think something is only for boys because they never took the time to consider girls. I think people should consider girls.

Since you are four years old, you know a lot of stuff, and you know that girls can like or do anything boys can. And boys can like or do anything girls can. Things are kind of silly right now because grown ups keep getting in the way of kids, and some grown ups who are in charge of the companies that make stuff for kids like toys and clothes, they don’t have good imaginations like you and I do. These grown ups try to fit kids into little boxes that are labeled “Boy” or “Girl”, and then they only let certain colors or ideas into each box. They do that because it makes it easier for them to sell their stuff. Since boys and girls don’t grow in boxes, you can see how really goofy this is. But I have to be honest with you, there are a lot of grown ups who don’t question these pink and blue boxes, and then they teach that thinking to their kids, and then their kids lose their imaginations. Those are the kinds of kids who say stuff to you at school about your blue shoes.

Bella, your blue shoes are double scoop awesome, it is just that people have lost their imaginations. Little girls like you, with sparks in their eyes and fires in their hearts, you challenge what they think and expect from girls and they don’t know what to do. You make people think harder and that scares them.

The thing is, Little Girlfriend, that people have become so narrow-minded about what girls can do or what girls can like that real girls like you and like my Amelia don’t fit into their little pink boxes. You pop right out of them. Rip them at the corners. Knock the top right off.

And you should. There is nothing in this world that is off limits to you. There is no space nor dream nor challenge that you can’t conquer. There is no set of rules you must follow, no appropriate way to act. There is no person who holds the right to tell you what to think. You, Bella, are the great-great-granddaughter of a generation of women who fought like heroes to make sure there were no more pink boxes to stuff little girls into. Somewhere along the way, we forgot those lessons and grown ups let things get messed up.

Bella with your blue shoes, we really need girls like  you. We need you to remind people what real little girls are like. We need you to remind people that little girls can do anything. I’ll tell you a secret, and you can tell your mom, but I think if grown ups got out of the way of little girls, little girls would have the space to become so amazing and so powerful the Earth would shake right to it’s core and when the ground moves, all those people who lost their imaginations would fall right over.

So Kiddo, next time someone says something to you about something you like, or a color you are wearing or what you look like, just politely remind them they have lost their imaginations. Rude comments will come your way and you just need to brush them away like a bothersome fly. The problem is not you, the problem is them and the limitations they do not challenge.

In fact, take a look at all of these girls, just like you, proving them wrong. Take a look at these girls, because you fit right in. You fit right in.

Make the ground shake, Baby Girl.

Love, Melissa

Photo of Bella by her mother, Kelly Miller

Comments

  1. I couldn’t get through this without crying … so beautifully written. I am printing this out in preparation for the same inevitable conversation I will have with my niece someday. Thanks!

  2. Beautiful! I’ve shared and printing to bring home to my daughter and son. Thank you!

  3. Thank you so much – this is probably the best thing I’ve ever read in my life. I used to have a pair of blue shoes – they were adult shoes, but they were worn too much and I had to let them go. But I love that Bella is carrying on proudly in her blue shoes.

  4. This was definitely a tear jerker, and the type of thing every teacher and parent should be required to read. Don’t forget the magic of encouraging kids to be individuals…even if it challenges your idea of societal norms and makes you feel a little uncomfortable.

  5. I love this! Thanks so much for writing… I hope I remember to explain things this beautifully when I have kids

  6. Thank you for this. I’m in my mid-30s now, but I too had blue shoes–Spiderman if I recall correctly–and people told me they were “boy” shoes, too. I was six. Bella is awesome, Bella gets it. I hope she never forgets that, and when people tell her “you can’t because you are a girl” I hope she responds with “watch me”. Rock those blue shoes Bella, and everything you do.

  7. Bella (the little girl pictured) loved that someone wrote a letter just for her and absolutely adored seeing all the pictures of the girls enjoying this big, rainbow-colored world. Definitely share this with the little (and grown up) people in your life!

    Thanks again Melissa and Pigtail Pals!

  8. Absolutely awesome.

  9. Great article! And, the whole time I was reading it I was thinking about my son as well as my daughter. We need to keep that message going to the boys as well.

    • I think that it is even harder for boys to wear/play with/etc things that are identified as “girls”. Traditionally female activities are not valued so that the desire to have them is seen as degrading and not just inappropriate. At the moment we tell girls that they can have it all whether or not we really believe it, but still cannot get our minds around the idea that a boy could want girl’s things. This isn’t just a matter of perceived sexual orientation. It is a persistent devaluing of all things seen as female.

  10. I have a Bella with a blue, Buzz Lightyear backpack! Her favorite color is also rainbow. =]

    I teared up reading this. Beautiful.

  11. Adore this article & would absolutely love if at the start of each & every school year teachers everywhere would read this letter outloud to their classes. Bella is a beautiful warrior and i sincerely hope she re-reads this letter year after year as she grows up and goes on to share it with her own children, I know I will be with my own.

  12. Lovely article…my 3 year old granddaughter loves Toy Story and Buzz Lightyear as well as trucks and trains. I would love to know where to buy those ‘blue shoes’.

    When will we learn that it is okay to make our own choices without having to conform to advertising and business decisions made by people concerned with the ‘bottom line’. As parents we need to set the example for our little ones be they boys or girls.

  13. Great, great article! We at http://www.boysbecool.com are fighting against these stale, society imposed gender stereotypes, because the boxes are a lot smaller and more restrictive on the boys’ side! Can you, please re-write this article for all these boys who love pink, purple, silver, yellow, and red. Who love stuffed toys, floral patterns and stars the same way they love their scooters, power trucks and race cars. They face a lot of resistance and downright mockery. Trust us, “boys don’t cry mantra” wrapped in blue and brown plaid is very powerful.

    • Yes! Boys (and society) need the reassurance that they too can wear/play with all the colors of the rainbow without fear or worry of being teased, bullied or looked down upon.

      It boggles my mind when folks react so severely to young boys and girls acting/playing outside the prescribed stereotypical gender boxes. How is my son’s decision to play with a doll or my friend’s daughter’s decision to wear overalls and blue sneakers harming society? If anything, they make it more interesting and colorful!

      The recent media response to these things really affected me since I have a son who turns to the pink and purple on occasion and enjoys wearing princess dress-up clothes now and then. In fact, I ended up writing an article about it called “Pink Scare” for Bitch magazine: http://bitchmagazine.org/article/pink-scare

  14. Love the piece and love Bella’s blue shoes. We are drowning in all this pink princess stuff again. Now that most prospective parents know the baby gender ahead of time, pressure is on to use sex-role color schemes for nurseries. So much backsliding, so sad for us. And, yes, damages boys just as much. They do not emerge from the womb to be hammered into pink and blue boxes.

    My daughter will be 36 soon. She played with Matchbox cars with their own garage as well as with other toys.

    And please remember that sometimes the sex of an individual is not obvious before or at birth. How difficult it must be for those parents, already confused and trying to figure out what will be best for their child — without the added cultural/social burden of jumping on a bandwagon and cheering to the world. Shame is not a gift.

    Some battles never end and freedom is never finally won. I love that Ms. is still alive and kicking after all these years.

  15. This was double scoop awesome. Thank you for this :)

  16. From a mommy whose little girl insists on wearing every necklace she owns to go to construction sites and climb on digger trucks, I thank you! This is so beautifully written and so so true. May our girls continue to bust up those boxes (and boys too!) until they no longer exist.

  17. Marlene Talbott-Green PhD says:

    Last Sunday my grandson graduated from OSU. We were remembering that when he was just learning to walk, I bought him some Reboks (they happened to be pink ones).
    A member of the family said at that time, “Why did you get pink ones?” I started to feel I had done something wrong! The fact is, they were in his size and on sale, and I FRANKLY NEVER EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT THEM BEING PINK! I am so proud that I never even thought about that 23 years ago. Even at that time, or farther back than that, when his father was little and I bought him a Dennis the Menace “boy doll.” Even then, I didn’t think a specific gender should have anything to do with being a whole human being. I’m now 77, and I am proud to say that much of my career as a Feminist therapist and advocate has been infused with this belief I formulated about wholeness before I ever knew there was such a thing as a Feminist perspective. The fact that somebody still has to write about it is stunning. But good! Great article. I’m sending it to my grandson.

  18. Virginia Mariposa says:

    These are filthy old men using tender young women as sex objects! The life of a child prostitute is approximately seven years after entering prostitution, so these unmentionable creatures are also murderers.

  19. Hope Breeman says:

    “…just politely remind them they have lost their imaginations.” Wouldn’t it be amazing to change the mind of just one of the boy:blue/pink:girl thinkers?

  20. This is a beautiful letter! I wish someone had read that to me when I was around Bella’s age :) . I wish everyone read this letter, ’cause that could’ve prevented them from “losing their imagination”…

  21. I absolutely love this! I have a 15 month old daughter who constantly gets called a boy because she has very short hair still and I put her in all different colors and styles of clothes…yes even ‘boy’ clothes. I’m going to print this out and keep it to read to her when she’s older, I hope by the time she’s old enough to understand, people are less judgmental and more accepting of people just being people…no matter what color or clothes they choose to wear, whom they choose to love or how they choose to live their life. Keep up your amazing words, they’re inspiring! <3

  22. About 45 years ago I was a little girl with an awesome collection of Hot Wheels. (Remember the orange track that went completely upside down?) There were a two little girls on my street whose mothers told them they were NOT allowed to play with them when they were at my house. What were they afraid of? I’m glad my mother was ahead of the curve. And I still like cars. You go Bella.

  23. Sarah Fenner says:

    As the parent of a now almost 18 year old son, who at age three declared magenta to be his favorite color – this article really touched me.
    It was a painful process as a parent to see his self awareness (at about age six) gradually move his preference away from “girl colors” and shift to a color palate that was more aligned with his gender (turquoise was deemed ok by him, and still remains a favorite).

  24. My Emma experiences this all the time with her Cars obsession. I was very excited to see Cars panties in the Disney pack we recently bought.

  25. Wendy Buell says:

    Every time I am reminded how obsessed we our kids wearing things that are “appropriate” for their gender, or playing with things that are “appropriate” for their gender I’m floored. I’m 45… 35 to 40 years ago my mother let me choose to dress as Daniel Boone or Darth Vader for Halloween, wear whatever clothes I wanted (for the most part)and filled my toy box with hot wheels, building kits, chemistry and carpentry sets. My sisters had Barbie.. I had Action Jackson.

    How is it that all these years later there are still parents sneering at kids who don’t have gender obsessed parents, and who still are so unimaginative they need the aisles they shop in to be carefully labeled and COLOR CODED so they don’t make the mistake of allowing their little ones to get something meant for the other gender.

    and yet… a few years after they insist on pink toys for their daughters and blue clothes for their sons they will be horrified at the idea of anyone teaching them ABOUT gender, and sexuality, and orientation, and … well you get the idea.

  26. That little girl is adorable and has awesome shoes! I don’t remember what colors my shoes were when I was little, but two of my favorite movies were Toy Story and A Bug’s Life. I remember my brother and I would always make the coolest train track setups for our toy trains, because we would combine the tracks with wooden building blocks to make elevated sections. Also, whenever my mom would paint my nails, my brother would alway ask her to paint his nails too, and she would always paint his toenails. I don’t think I was ever a tomboy, but I loved dinosaurs and never owned any baby dolls, and sometimes I would play lightsabers with my brother. This letter was amazingly written, and I loved reading all the comments too. This letter was just so amazing, though, seriously. AMAZING.

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