P&G created a video campaign called "Like a girl" that is hoping to eradicate the demeaning phrase "like a girl" as in "you throw like a girl" or "you run like a girl". The company created this campaign to address its own research findings that girls' self esteem and confidence drop as they go through puberty, begin menstruating and yes, become women.
Clearly girls' gender and equality issues are still at the fore of parental concern. As a mother of two daughters and being a lipstick wearing feminist myself, I ushered my girls through puberty. I watched as they progressively feminized themselves in ways that may have seemed on first flush to be a crisis of confidence.
"Do I look good in this? and "I hate my thick eyebrows" became fresh concerns that worried me initially. But were they really losing their earlier confidence? Was it a growing sense of inferiority about themselves?
I actually think they were simply struggling to become women, but women who were going to be as powerful as men. Women who had curved lines and feminine features. Their desire for the feminine was not superficial or sexist. Let's look at this a different way.
In the pursuit of reaching equality with men, women tried adopting male attributes, as if girl-related things were bad and boy-related things were good. That's the seed of the problem to be addressed.
The phrase "like a girl," as P&G suggests, should not be derogatory. Girl-like should also not be interchangeable with lacking skills or being generally inferior to boy-like. We have to honour that feminine traits are worthy, too, and that both sexes can have both masculine and feminine qualities in different proportions.
If emotional sensitivity is a trait ranging from high to low, more women will cluster at the higher range but some men will score high, too, just as some women will score low. If strength is a trait, more men will cluster at the high end, but some women will surpass some men.
Since we do not criticize a polar bear for being bad at flying, nor do we scoff at an eagle for being a bad swimmer, likewise we shouldn't treat the higher scoring masculine qualities as being any better or worse than the feminine qualitative. They are simply different and each has value.
Your daughter's self-esteem and self-confidence comes from forming a belief about herself over time and through experiences. She needs to encounter situations that tell her she is capable, lovable and that she has worth.
Daughters learn their ideas about social status and gender from observing their parents and family. So ask yourself, what role models of women and men are your daughters watching being enacted in your home?
She is watching you more than she is watching YouTube. Is mom given second-class status to dad when it comes to making big family decisions? Are there different rules or expectations for the boys compared to their girl sibling? Do girls get rescued and comforted finding value in being incapable? Or are skills and abilities celebrated?
If we want our girls to embrace their gender and feel positive about their feminine traits, we must prove that to them in how we conduct our own lives and relationships. I hope you become a champion for change "like a girl."
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