They say girls and boys are different, and after a few years of observing my boys and comparing them with girls I can see where they get it from. Most girls genuinely like to dress up as princesses and draw hearts into little notebooks when most boys are out play-fighting and building castles. Most girls. But what about Pippi Longstocking?
They say that Pippi Longstocking is a fictional character, but it’s not true. Pippi Longstocking exists. She is the girl who climbs the trees and makes tree houses that are much better built than the boys’ tree house. She carries a horse on her little finger and can do anything she sets her mind to. She lives in a house all by herself, since she is a big and capable girl who needs no one to protect her. She is a clever girl, Pippi Longstocking.
It is Pippi that I think of when my five-year-old boy tells me about the strong boy-girl divide in his daycare. How the girls try to kiss the boys and the boys run screaming. How the boys refuse to even play with the girls, and avoid girly things like plague. How the girls spend their days enveloped in ballet and kisses and heart-shaped hairpins, dressed in pink ruffles and imprints of cute kittens. Sometimes they put on nail polish and smile at the mirror like they were fifteen, not five. But not Pippi Longstocking.
Pippi’s out trying to create a foolproof trap for snakes, or taking bets for the fight that’s about to happen, or walking on a tightrope she set up herself. She’s dressed in something orange and has her hair tied in careless braids, without a single pink ribbon in sight. The other girls look at her through the window and say: “Oh, she’s a strange one, that Pippi Longstocking.”
And that’s why I worry about Pippi, because she will never belong with the girls who are so set on the path of princesses, and she will not be accepted by the boys, who will cut her off only because she is a girl, even if she plays their games and talks their language. Unless she is very lucky and finds another Pippi or a boy who will accept her, she is destined for loneliness. Won’t no one play with Pippi Longstocking?
Although, to be honest, the real Pippi Longstocking can look after herself, since she’s a very tough cookie, but what about the others, those who are not princesses and not princes, who don’t belong in the Kingdom of Average but who can’t lift a horse up in the air either? Those are the ones I really worry about, and the ones I think of when my boy says to me she didn’t say hello to someone simply “because she’s a girl.” And I wonder how many of the other girls amongst the princesses would occasionally enjoy playing the “boyish” games too, if only they had the courage and the permission to act less like Snow White and more like Pippi Longstocking.