Saying “No” to Girls Gone Wild

Shauna Niequist

My best friend Annette and I laid on our towels until we realized that someone was standing in our sun. We squinted up at a big man with a big camera wearing a Girls Gone Wild hat.

He told us that if we went out in the water and kissed and took off our bikini tops, he’d give us each a hat. We stared up at him. Where to start, really?

We sputtered out unrelated phrases like, “Um, those are our husbands, right there in the water…” and, “You know, that’s not really our deal…” and, “Uh, we’re like a lot older than you think we are…” Finally, we gave up explaining and said, “No, thank you. No. No, thank you.”

He shuffled away, and a few minutes later, there were lots of girls in the water, kissing and taking their tops off.

Huh. Questions abound. Our first question: “Wait—did he really think we were that young?” But then our second question: “Wait—​did he really think we were that stupid?” We were dumbfounded, and then a little angry. Just for conversation’s sake, where am I going to wear that hat? On a job interview? To my grandma’s house?

My friends Brannon and Chris have a little girl named Emme, and before she was born, Brannon and Chris declared their house a princess-free zone. There could be pink, there could be dresses and lace and babies galore, but no tiaras, no wands, and no princes coming to rescue any little princesses.

I love this. I think maybe we should all live in a princess-free zone. I think the current cultural messaging that tells women it’s attractive to play dumb and fragile and hope that they’re saved by their beauty is incredibly destructive.

*Photo by edenpictures, Creative Commons

I’m not anti-feminine. I operate, in many ways, within squarely traditional gender roles. I love to cook, I hate to drive, and I’m terrible with technology of all kinds. I fit squarely within the stereotypes, and then also not, largely because I was raised by a strong leader who recognized aspects of himself in me. I wasn’t raised to play dumb, or play cute, or play princess. I learned to work hard, to develop my skills, to contribute on a team and in society, and it drives me bonkers when women depend instead on their sexuality or their fragility. I think there’s a better way.

If you’re a woman, and you get what you want by batting your eyelashes or faking fragility, and then you wonder why you’re not taken seriously in your career or given responsibility in your church, I think you may have believed the reigning cultural lie about what makes us attractive. And if you’re a man, and you celebrate femininity only as it presents itself in beauty and tenderness, please consider widening your view of what it means to value women. Consider strength, intelligence, passion, and compassion.

I want businesses and government systems and certainly churches to be led more and more often by women. I believe that men and women would both benefit from it in dozens of ways. But if that’s going to happen, I think we have to declare a princess-free zone. No tiaras, no Girls Gone Wild, no pretending we can’t carry things. No fairytales, no waiting around to be rescued, and absolutely no playing dumb.

• • •

*Excerpted from Bittersweet
*this is a re-post from the archives

Shauna Niequist

Shauna Niequist

This is a post by Shauna Niequist, one of the Storyline Contributors. Pick up a copy of her latest book, Bread & Wine on her website and make sure to follow along on Twitter (@sniequist) for regular updates. To read more of her posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.