Girls and Confidence

I think I’m a feminist. In some circles, that’s worse than a 4 letter cuss word, so I’ve never really labeled myself as such. But I figured out recently there’s no denying it. I’m a feminist, and really, anyone who believes in gender equality is technically a feminist. So if you think men and women should be have equal legal rights, wages, opportunities, you’re a feminist. Sorry to break it to you.

Empowering Message

I believe in equality in the above arenas and more. In ways that even some of my female friends, who do believe in the above, would still raise an eyebrow at. From the mundane things like being very biased towards TV shows with strong female characters, being aware of which shows have strong female presence in the writing and producing room, to refusing to change my last name (I love hubs’ last name, but I love my original one too). From avoiding telling my daughter that she’s pretty, and teaching her that “Mommy doesn’t care about pretty”, to teaching her what I do care about: kindness, being a good listener, hard worker, funny. I also make sure to insert words that I am not sure many moms use as adjectives to describe their little girls: strong and tough.

The Princess Dilemma

I also avoid “princess” shows, including Disney classics. I feel conflicted in this resolve at times. I don’t have this figured out. I mean, where does one draw the line? I myself enjoyed The Little Mermaid, but if you look deeper at the message of that movie, and ignore the great musical numbers, it all boils down to doing everything possible to get a boy. Cringe-worthy message. What makes me feel even more conflicted is that my daughter is so girly, and she LOVES princessy/girly things.

My husband is dismayed but I can see it’s her personality, and there’s no reason she can’t be strong and tough without liking girly things too. But still…I”m careful with what I let her see. Although I know I can’t protect her forever. For example, one particular weekend (she’s only allowed TV on weekends), she begged to watch a princessy show. I let her watch this old-fashioned Thumbelina movie on Netflix while I cooked dinner. It was horrible.

The girl literally couldn’t do a thing to save herself. Everyone was the savior, and she was a hopeless damsel in distress. I am not even exaggerating. She was all sorts of creatures’ object of desire, and they were passing her around to please themselves, only to discard her when she was no longer useful. Hopeless, useless creature.

So what should I have done? Shut it off? I decided I would take that moment to bring to her attention how sad Thumbelina’s actions were. I brought up questions like, how come she couldn’t find a solution to her own problems? Why wasn’t she stronger and tougher…I have to admit all this looked like it was going over my 4 year-old daughter’s head, so I ended up heckling Thumbelina. Hey, like I said, I am not perfect and don’t have this all figured out. I was also still trying to cook dinner at the same time.

Little Girls Can Grow Into Insecure Women

I know that what I say matters. How I view the world matters. How I treat her matters. The same goes for her Dad. We hope to give her empowering messages. I don’t want her dieting at 5 years old (we’ve heard this happening!), or think she’s not thin enough, tall enough, or think she needs a man to be happy. I know plenty of grown women who have these issues. I”m not gonna put the blame squarely on their ubringing. At some point, once you’re an adult, you get be responsible for yourself. But I know that it’s better to implant these empowering messages now, rather than later.

I have tons of issues with my body. I avoid letting that filter down to my daughter. I have grabbed my naked belly in front of her and said nice, positive, funny things about how it jiggled, and how it carries babies…and whatever wacky things came into my head. I never express my negative thoughts about my body to her, and I do my best to praise myself sometimes (I don’t over-do it, I”m not a narcissistic cow). I also try to foster a good relationship with food. I try to highlight fruits and vegetables, water and protein and do my best not to villify carbs. I caution her against too much sugar and junk food, but I don’t ban it with the zeal of a fanatic. I ask her to “listen to her tummy” and stop eating when she’s full.

Will this solve all the future problems of insecurity? I’m not sure. So many more messages will reach her, not all of them nice. Some of them are designed to make her feel bad about herself. But I try.

Advertisements

9 comments

  1. I don’t worry so much about princess movies and the message they have on our daughters – after all they are cartoons and animated fairy tales. I know my daughters are smart enough to distinguish outlandish fantasy from reality. But still, they like escapism entertainment just as much as I do so I don’t see the harm in letting them watch movies like this. If they subsequently watch it over and over and start emulating it then, I might have to worry but I’ve never seen that happen.

    I worry more about TV shows that we watch and love which resort to showing that no matter how strong a female character is, she has to resort to wearing lingerie to get what she wants from her man. The fact that Hollywood and many of today’s viewers still want television like this is more upsetting to me as this is not a cartoon and is closer to real life than any princesses and frogs.

    • Once she gets to the point that she is being exposed to real-life girls in lingerie, I hope we’d have established a good basis of character strength not to be swayed by that. But right now, she’s 4, so she’s going to get exposed to the animated stuff first.

      As for the the image you painted, I believe I know what you’re referring to. The infamous scene of Sarah trying to seduce Chuck! Like Jeanette below commented, we will have our forms of escapism. Chuck is so far from reality that I doubt anybody is taking relationship advice from there. If they are, they really have bigger problems.

      p.s. you know she can get the info other ways. but i think this way is more fun for both of them šŸ˜€

  2. We’ve always tried not to put emphasis on our girls’ looks and made an effort to praise their accomplishments rather than their appearance. They are still girl girls though, I don’t think you can take that out of our genes. lol! But the important thing is that they are girly to please themselves and not for others. At least I hope šŸ™‚ There’s never any guarantees with us girls.

    • I really like your message about forms of escapism. Yep, she’s a girly-girl and there’s no getting around it! We just need to balance.

  3. First off, love that photo of Mina. It captures her strength while having fun at the same time. I commend your efforts of empowering her, it shows what a good parent you are. Here are some of my thoughts. I see nothing wrong with telling your child she is pretty. Even numerous times a day. When I reached that awkward stage when I was 50 pounds overweight and had terrible acne all over my face for many years – it was my mother’s voice in my head telling me that I was beautiful that saved me. I never lost that confidence in myself because when I was growing up also had skills that I know other kids don’t have – skills that my mom initially taught or invested in (drawing, piano lessons, writing, dance etc). Those were my adolescent/young adult life confidence savers.

    I have a friend who like you avoided telling her gorgeous daughter she was pretty because pretty much other people told her that she was, and “she knows it”, as my friend said. Then one day while she was 10-11 years old, while auditioning for a modeling agency my friend’s daughter turned to her mom and asked, “am I pretty?” Which I thought was sad. A daughter should have the confidence to know, that before everyone else, her mother thinks she is beautiful.

    I do appreciate why you want to de-emphasize outer beauty, there is nothing sadder about grown women still hung up on their youth and fading beauty because that is all what they had in their younger years.

    As for the Disney Princesses, I really wouldn’t worry about it too much. I grew up and loved them too (without all the merchandising and clothing line they have now though) but never thought of myself of having have to have a Prince Charming to make me happy. While I feel blessed to have a family of my own, I believe I would still feel fulfilled if I were single and pursuing my passion.

  4. Here’s a card I gave my oldest daughter that we keep taped to her mirror:

    “From Mother to Daughter

    In your life if I could give you a very special gift it would be this: when you look in the mirror in the days ahead may you smile a hundred times more than frowning at what you see. Smile because you know that a loving, capable, sensible, strong, precious person is reflected there.

    And when you look at me, may you remember how very much I love you and how much I’ll always care. ”

    The card credits Laurel Atherton

    As with any teen girl, my daughter has days when nothing she does with her hair or clothing pleases her. These are such tough days for me because to me, my daughter is beautiful and yes I do tell her that many times. I tell her “you look nice” or “you look pretty” often – just as often as I tell her “you did great on that homework” or “you did great on that test” or “I’m so proud of you.” I don’t know how much my words matter but I do know the one thing that matters is that she knows she is loved and I hope that can help her through any days of doubt.

    As for the Chuck scene, I am sorry, but my daughters are old enough to watch it and I’m not sure how I’m going to explain it. If it were a sex scene I actually think it would be easier to explain but from what I can see this scene is just a gratuitous scene. How do I explain to my girls why a character who used to be strong and independent has to resort to this kind of behavior just to talk to her husband? The best explanation I have is that the dirty men in Hollywood want to see Yvonne dressed like that as well as many of the viewers and to me, that objectification of women is much much worse than letting little girls believe in princesses. Guess that makes me a feminist too šŸ˜‰


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s