Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hurting Our Daughter's Future-- My Opinions on a Recent Forbes Article

I linked to this article on ways we are hurting our daughters' future in my Weekly Smorgasbord post last week and mentioned that I wanted to write a full blog post about it.  I'm sure a lot of y'all could care less, but I loved Sociology and find topics like this fascinating.   Anyway, I'm going point by point and addressing each item on the list:

1. You teach her to be polite and quiet.
I agree that this can cause issues if by "polite and quiet" you mean a doormat (which I don't think is a common way to raise girls anymore).  I disagree if it means teaching her good manners and trying to help her cultivate a kind, generous spirit. I think it's really important to teach girls to share their opinions, but always to do so in a respectful way. 
2. You buy her gender-specific toys. 
Okay, in my experience, this has been bogus.  We've had pretty much the same toys with both kids and AP has always gravitated toward imaginative things like dolls and dress up clothes, while Graves love balls and "engineer toys" like puzzles and other things he can manipulate and put together.  He also likes to climb and is so much more active than she was/is.  They both like books and both love the toys kitchen.  I think little boys and little girls are made differently and have natural dispositions toward things.  That said, I love watching a little girl toss a ball with her daddy and I love (maybe even more) watching a little boy push a baby stroller with a doll in it.
3. You tell her she’s pretty … to the exclusion of everything else.
This one is a huge deal, in my opinion.  We tell her how cute she is a lot, but more often we try to tell her how smart and sweet she is.  Actually, I really prefer to say "You are a kind person", but I know I'm starting to sound like The Help.
4. You indoctrinate her into the princess cult.
 I have even more thoughts on this since we've gotten so into it lately and I think I'm going to do a whole separate post on it. For now I will say it's probably the LEAST concerning item on the list.
5. You give Dad all the physical tasks around the house.
I do try not to do this.  Peyton mows and I used to make him vacuum because well, I'm tiny, and doing those things hurt my back.  But I pull weeds and take out the trash and I sure enough climbed up in the attic the day before I gave birth to Graves.
6. You only let her spend time with other girls.
Ann  Peyton's class next year at school will likely be all girls and I think for learning, this can be really beneficial.  I will make sure she gets interaction with little boys at church and other places. 
7. You criticize your own body, and/or other women’s bodies.
Agree a million times with this one and it's so hard.  It's so easy to make disparaging comments about how we look and I truly think this is probably the most detrimental item on the list as far as our daughters are concerned. 

The other thing I thought about as I read this list is that each of these problems has a male counterpart common in our society that is a disservice to our sons:
1. We teach them to be aggressive jerks, rather than assertive men of character.
2. We act like they're sissies when they push a stroller or cradle a doll (hold me back if I see a momma doing this).
3. We focus on physical appearance (height, muscles, ect.) and teach them to value the same in girls/women.
4. We allow them to indulge in absurdly violent stories via movies and video games and tell them "it's a guy thing".
5. We act like childcare responsibilities and housework are "women's work".
6. [This is a big deal to me because of my background.] We let little boys slip through the cracks in the education system because they don't learn the "right" way (read: the way traditionally little girls do).
7. This one holds true regardless of gender.  When my daughter or son sees me or my husband make negative comments about my appearance or that of other women it not only hurts their self image, but it gnaws away their character because I'm teaching them wrong priorities.

Overall, I think a lot of this could be boiled down to three things- being positive in general, helping to instill a sense of self worth, and being intentional and involved in our children's lives. All things we should already be doing!


Sarah said...

I love how you worded the counterpart points for boys. I thought the same thing when I read the article, that there should be a list for boys to go along with it.

Mary Louis Quinn said...

I'll be interested to read your post about the princess thing. I do not get what the big deal is about that. I was totally not into that sort of thing as a child, so I think it's so cute that C loves all things princess. I think people tend to over-react about the how princess cult thing.

And I like what you said about boys playing with dolls. I think people get into trouble when they make their sons feel likes it's wrong to play with dolls, like pink, etc. We had some of C's friends over one night (4 girls and 1 boy) and all the girls were pushing strollers, so of course the boy wanted to join in. I was telling the girls they needed to share when the boy mom interrupted and said he didn't need to play with the dolls. I LOVE these parents, but that made me sad to hear.