Recently, Forbes posted an article about the “7 Ways You’re Hurting Your Daughter’s Future”. I highly encourage anyone with a daughter to read and discuss with a spouse for an explanation on exactly what damage you do by criticizing your own body or insisting that only her father takes out the trash. In my friend groups, discussions on nature vs. nurture continue, with many parents insisting that their daughters have always liked to shop or have been wearing mommy’s shoes since they could walk because that’s just who they are. But in this fascinating article, various habits many parents fall into when raising a daughter and their impacts are examined. A previous guest poster, Ashleigh Hill, offers her thoughts…
I believe very strongly that a lot of societal gender roles and issues take root in us during childhood. This is true, as the article states, about gender, but also about race, sexuality, and class. The fact that an “us vs. them” mentality starts in preschool and weaves it’s way all the way up through adulthood has got to have some serious implications on mental, social, and spiritual development. The article centers on gendering behavior, which is both popular and hurtful. I understand the influence of patriarchy but, I’m still trying to figure out why we’re all so obsessed with behavior. I don’t believe there’s a lot of actual proof for innate gender differences, and some may fight me on that one; but, I think we can agree that the implemented differences aren’t working out too well for anyone. Even as adults we ask, “What makes a real man /woman?” And then we have to dig through all we’ve been taught to try and figure out such a question instead of defining it for ourselves.
What bothers me most are the things we teach children about themselves and then critique them for, later in life. Imagine struggling through a world as a girl who has been told to be quiet and girly, or a boy who has been told he’s not good at listening. Can we really blame anyone who then achieves the goals set for them?
We live in a world where only certain types of bodies are considered excellent. We often address that by saying we need to develop self-love and spirituality and resist negative messages. That’s true, but in some ways I think that’s like saying, “well, the water’s poisonous, but it’s the water we have so we should deal with it.” I refuse to live a life that only finds ways to deal with a poisonous environment. It’s a good start to “avoid walking exclusively down the Barbie and doll aisles at stores,” but “princess culture” is something we should also be questioning, fighting, and looking for the good in, with our children. I think this also opens up a great way to talk to kids about gender in the world. Why do we think kids don’t have thoughts about what they are immersed in at a very young age? Maybe instead of total avoidance we could ask: “This is what I’ve been seeing about what it means to be a girl, what do you think? What do you think it means to be a girl?” Or, “This is what seems popular for girls but I don’t think that’s right and here is why.” I love that this article suggests pointing out the positives in “princess culture,” as the culture tends to be feminine. Femininity is too often seen as a weakness instead of as a strength.
It’s true that grown women criticize their own bodies and the bodies of other women around small children, but we also criticize other types of bodies – men’s bodies, disabled bodies, what-we-see-as unhealthy bodies, bodies of different nationalities – the list goes on. It’s important that children not only understand health but that they understand everyone’s body is different and equally valuable. I think it’s essential not only to empower children but also to teach them to empower others and to look at the world holistically, instead of just as something for them to be powerful in.
Photo Credit: Liz Laribee, http://www.lizlaribee.com/
Previous thoughts provided by dear friend, Ashleigh Hill. Born and raised in Fairfax, VA, Ashleigh has a degree in Public Relations from Messiah College and is a Masters Candidate in the Women’s in Gender Studies Program at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. Ashleigh has a background in music business and PR, publication management, editing, and non-profit and corporate communication. She currently works for The Night Ministry’s Response-Ability Pregnant and Parenting Program, which works to alleviate poverty and emotionally supports teenage girls in Chicago, IL. She spends a lot of time reading articles on the internet and drinking milkshakes. Read more at The Continuously Fractured Life http://ashleighfhill.tumblr.com/