I tend to start my day checking my social media on my phone before I’ve barely drawn two breaths or gone for a pee.
What can I say? Blogger. A couple of weeks ago I saw something in my Facebook feed that caught my attention…and not in a good way. This:
Yep my day had started with me feeling a bit riled.
I shared it on my Facebook page (link) and filed it away in my brain in the ‘pending’ compartment rather than shoving it right to the back of my mind as I had a funny feeling I’d end up writing about it. Fast forward to this morning: cursory check of social media and I see something in my feed about some sort of World Day and almost ignore it as every day marks something or other (well with 365 days in the year, every day marks more than one thing). I don’t know what caught my eye and made me hover instead of just scrolling past but I’m glad I lingered as it was a World Day that I could actually appreciate. International Day of the Girl to be precise. You may have seen the frames you could place temporarily on your Facebook profile picture in honour of it and to show your support for girls. ‘Support for girls’…I can’t help wondering if this is a sad regrettable turn of phrase to have to use…
It’s accurate to say I’m usually late to the party, always the last to know etc so I’d never even heard of this day until today. (Incidentally, blogger extraordinaire Motherhood the Real Deal who had heard of this day published a fantastic article with regards to raising girls; I really do think it’s a must read.) I actually wasn’t going to write anything as I’d sort of ‘missed the boat’ with timing and I’m not a fan of hurriedly bashing posts for publication the same day as I usually regret it. And I would love to write something positive and uplifting. Instead I’m giving you this!
Something happened. My eldest said something that was so very telling that I knew I had to write something.
I had asked her about her day – as you do while chopping the onions for dinner, answering questions from the other two at the same time and trying to drink that cold cup of tea – and she mentioned a learning assistant who is fairly new amongst the teaching staff. She gushed about how lovely she is and I asked what she liked about her. The first thing she mentioned? Not the assistant’s teaching ability/professionalism/friendliness/nationality or even which class she assists. No. It was her looks. I nearly cut my finger. This is becoming more frequent; her talking about people…females…firstly from a physical perspective.
It’s not unknown for her to meet someone for five minutes and decide they are the nicest human she’s ever met being purely because she thought were physically attractive.
But who can blame her? The media and entertainment industries endlessly pushes its version of the perfect female and what girls are ‘good for’ at us so you can’t blame past, current and future generations of females to buy into it and believe they are meant to be that version. Hell, hardly any of us have been able to avoid the self-doubt, the desire to be thinner, taller, have perfect hair and skin and so on. I honestly can’t blame my 12 year old daughter for judging other females first and foremost by their looks, hate it as I might, because she really is just a product of the society she’s growing up in. The thing is, we’ve all done it and it’s a vicious circle. How can we hope to be taken seriously by males when actually we ourselves judge one another on entirely the wrong criteria?
Our everyday language referring to females is full of references to beauty, princesses, booty, finding Mr Right (as if that’s the ideal). Shouldn’t it Be More About Ambition Achievement, Humanity and Intelligence?
I think of those magazine covers that had annoyed me so much and the many magazines that have been published over the decades with nothing but beauty and fashion for girls, those damned tabloid newspapers that only manage to describe women in terms of hair colour and relationship status, beauty pageants, porn sites and those bloody Kardsashians who’ve done such a great job of making intelligence old fashioned.
Ultimately, however, I know no matter how well I teach my girls, no matter how many opportunities my husband and I try to give them in life, they are living in a society that still has far to go in improving its attitudes towards females…
Are our girls’ very own attitudes part of the problem, especially if they are growing up in environments that don’t empower females or recognise they can do pretty much anything they set their mind to?
I’m not suggesting those brave suffragettes at the turn of the last century and the feminists of later decades suffered and struggled and raised hell in vain. Not at all. Women are better educated, wealthier, healthier, more independent and more accomplished than those suffragettes could ever have hoped for. We have amazing athletes, people of science, artists, entertainers, heads of government, revered academics and so on. But we also know there is still that glass ceiling. We know that negative body obsession and failing mental health is on the increase. We also know there are far too many countries where females receive no education, too many cultures that have horrendously little respect for females and too many incidents of physical torture and sexual assault and then right here on our Western doorstep…those damned magazine covers! Let’s face it, you don’t have to go East to India or the Middle East or down to Africa to encounter disparaging attitudes towards women designed to keep them down.
Thanks to the toupéed one who goes by the name of Donald, we know that the West will also never be rid of men with an ingrained disrespect for females…monsters who are making sure the ‘female struggle’ continues.
As a mother I can’t help worry about this. The obvious question of what world I brought my kids into comes to mind and I do feel that the struggle to raise females is real (don’t forget to read that post by Talya mentioned above once you’ve finished this).
I guess that’s where i’m going with this. When it comes down to it, I have to ask how far have we actually come raising our daughters? We want so much for them…
Will we ever get there?
DO YOU HAVE GIRLS? DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH THESE VIEWS?
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