Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Dear Abby Gets It Wrong
I confess that I regularly read the Dear Abby advice column in the papers (I mean it's right there next to the comics!) The other day I was shocked to see her response to a young girl who was worried that she couldn't attract a boyfriend. This is what the girl wrote:

DEAR ABBY: I haven't had a boyfriend for a while now, and I'm not sure why. Everyone says I'm cool, funny and outgoing. I play video games, sports, and do things that boys think girls would never do (like paintballing in the woods or bungee jumping over and over again).

All my guy friends think I'm awesome, and I do get compliments on my looks as well. I'm not a tomboy, I wear nice clothes and some makeup, but for some reason, whenever I get a crush on a guy, he says it would be "weird" because I'm a "really good friend."

What am I doing wrong? I love who I am and so do boys. So why don't they think I could be "girlfriend material"? -- BOYFRIENDLESS IN CONNECTICUT
Abby's advice to her totally surprised and really bothered me. She wrote:

DEAR BOYFRIENDLESS: It may be that "guys" see you as one of them. And because of it, they don't consider you in a romantic way. Therefore, it's time to emphasize your feminine side and present yourself in a different light. This may mean temporarily downplaying your involvement in boys' sports and paintball games, and amping up your "girlishness." Give it a try and see what happens.
Julie has also already ranted about this at the Emerging Women blog, but I just wanted to add my voice to the complaint. I mean, WTF? This girl should change who she is and act like someone she is not, just so she can attract a boy? This seems like some of the worst advice I can imagine giving a young girl who is struggling with her identity. I would be pissed if someone told my daughter this. I was actually angry enough to write to Abby myself in hopes that they might print my response (as they sometimes do). Here's what I said.

DEAR ABBY: I was surprised and dismayed by your advice to "Boyfriendless in Connecticut". You told her to "downplay" her interest in "guy" things (like sports and paintball) and act more "girlish". First off, who says that activities like sports and paintball are only for guys? Second, and more importantly, I can't believe that you told this young lady to hide who she really is just to attract a boy. Far better advice, in my opinion, is for her to be true to herself, continue pursuing the things she enjoys, and be patient enough to wait for a boy who will truly value her for who she is, and not for some act that she puts on. As a father of a little girl myself, that's the advice I would want her to follow. -- RAISING A STRONG DAUGHTER IN CHICAGO
Usually these advice columns are pretty sensitive to these sorts of gender issues, but I guess this column shows just how far our society still has to go in valuing people for who they are and not for how well they conform to rigid gender stereotypes.


posted by Mike Clawson at 10:34 AM | Permalink |


At 11/28/2007 12:47:00 PM, Blogger C. L. Hanson


Good for you, I hope she prints your letter.

In addition to the feminism question, there's a question of honesty. Pretending you're someone you're not just to get a relationship is a fantastic way to wind up in a relationship with someone who doesn't love the person that you are...


At 11/28/2007 03:24:00 PM, Anonymous Karl

As a father of 3 girls, I couldn't agree with you more. What terrible advice. The first commenter makes a good point as well.


At 11/28/2007 04:11:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Yes, excellent point C.L.


At 12/06/2007 09:54:00 AM, Blogger Mike

Well written Mike!


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