"They can be girly and athletic. Artsy and smart. Whatever they dream they can achieve," said Heather Mitchell
The stereotypes that tell people what masculinity and feminity are and what girls and boys are supposed to be like have not yet been dealt with. There still are people who believe in these stereotypes even in 2019 when the entire world is trying to be open-minded. Since people need to stop segregating things based on the gender of the child and start accepting that habits, fashion, occupations, etc. this one mother/photographer decided to let the world know that athletic girls can be "girly" too. It was in the middle of a conversation with the other moms at her eight-year-old daughter's softball practice that Heather Mitchell was hit by an amazing idea. She decided to make a photo series that showed eight-year-old girls all dressed up as princesses and athletes simultaneously. This mother from Alabama is trying to spread awareness about how girls can be whatever they want to be and dress as they please. “Our daughters do not have to choose" is the message she's trying to convey.
In an interview with CBS News, Mitchell said that she was just having a casual conversation with another mother during the practice when she said, "Paislee learned to love the game because she's athletic." The other mother's reaction was very surprising. She said that Paislee is "not athletic, she's a girly girl." This statement bothered Mitchell a lot. she couldn't sleep all night because she knew had to do something to tackle this old-fashioned idea that girls and boys need to be a certain way and can only like certain things.
"I was thinking why does she have to choose between being girly and athletic," said the photographer. "Why can't she just be both without the judgment of it?"
The very next morning, Mitchell spoke to her husband about what had happened and told him that she would be taking their daughter to their photography studio, HMP Couture Imagery. According to CBS News, Mitchell at first took 10 photos of Paislee posing with softballs in a pink "princess" dress to show her daughter could be interested in both sports and what people consider to be stereotypically feminine things; to show that femininity is not defined by one or the other.
Mitchell posted a few of these pictures on her personal Facebook profile with a quote by Babe Ruth and left it at that. She later saw the response the pictures got and was overwhelmed with how much of an impact a few pictures can have on the ideologies of people and how well these pictures can tackle those ideologies. The photos went viral. "It was crazy," said Mitchell. "We had just tons of friends, teammates asking them to do that for their little girls." Mitchell came up with a new idea and posted availability for 16 photo sessions in the style.
The slots were all filled up within just an hour. "We didn't do any advertising about it or anything, it was immediate," said Mitchell. She then posted the availability of 16 more slots which filled up almost as quickly as the first one did. According to Mitchell, the sessions were amazing and she loved to see the girls be given the freedom to express themselves completely. The girls were excited about the sessions and were glad that they could be who they truly were while they were in the studio with Mitchell.
Mitchell mentioned that the girls were happy that they weren't forced to pick between the outfits and wear asked to wear both instead. "A lot of the little girls that we photographed are just so proud that they can show off both," said Mitchell. "They get to pick a pretty dress from my studio and put on dirty cleats and wear a princess crown." Mitchell posed the little girls with softballs, basketballs, and plans to incorporate soccer balls into further shoots. The girls were also given the freedom to dress up as princesses.
"I hope that it makes everyone think what we teach the girls," she said. "Growing up my parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be. And I didn't realize that other people weren't told that." She posted the images from the rest of the shoots on her photography studio's Facebook page. These pictures went viral. They were all captioned, "Because you can do it all." After the first session, Mitchell decided to hold the next one with a more diverse set of girls, all of whom were from very different backgrounds.
Her last session featured a young girl who was is undergoing treatment for cancer. The girl loves to play softball. Another girl featured in the session was adopted from the foster care system while another who was born with a partial arm. The aim of the project was to make a statement to the world, to send the message that people can choose to be who and what they want to be. There is nothing called girly or masculine. Whatever a girl does, be it dress like a princess, be a makeup artist or work as a plumber or at a construction site, is feminine simply because the person doing the job identifies as a female. The same thing applies to men. Basically, jobs, behavior, habits, etc. need to stop being segregated based on sex. It makes no sense, the world has come a long way from those false ideologies. Mitchell is just glad that her photos are making people think. "I hope everyone that sees them, they look at their girls and tell them can be anything they want to be," she said.