It’s hard to be a woman…or a girl. Not to discount the challenges of manhood. I have never been a man, but I imagine there are pretty significant challenges there as well. However, in the last few days, the universe seems to be inundating me with the complexities of being a woman, raising a girl, being a girl, etc. And, to be honest, I keep coming back to the thought that we (and by ‘we’ I mean girls and women) are just making it harder on ourselves and each other.
My daughter came home from preschool last week and told me her best friend at preschool had told her she wanted to play with a different girl that day because she “is prettier than you.” By ages 4 and 5 these little ones have already learned that beauty is a commodity for women. In my head, I fumed a little and concealed my heart breaking for her before assuring her that they are all beautiful girls. We then discussed her disappointment that the other child didn’t want to play with her and who, I believe, just didn’t know how to tell her nicely. Our conversation ended quickly, she moved on to whatever 4-year-old activity she dove into next, and that was that.
Except, that isn’t that. She has just started on that lifelong path of how to parse out who she is in this world that values a woman’s looks over her brains, abilities, and heart. That experience was her first devaluing from the mouth of another girl and, unfortunately, it won’t be her last one at the hands of another girl. Move on to this week when more than one woman I know complained of a female colleague demeaning her in the workplace. I have had this experience as well. I call my colleague a “bully” because at the core of her behavior was her jealousy of my success at work resulting in her desire to put me down. She was mean to my face, talked behind my back, and luckily, in the end, was able to come to me and admit her jealousy and apologize (wow!).
After the incident with my daughter I, the dutiful therapist/mom, rushed onto Amazon to find books about self-esteem and loving yourself. I found one book, only one book, that I was happy with purchasing. The rest of the books all referred to princesses in some way, ie “Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?” and “Princesses Don’t Always Like Pink.” Different authors, but the same conceptualization of little girls as princesses – girls who are valued due to their looks, status, money, dresses….NOT their hearts, brains, abilities. The last thing I want to do is buy my daughter a book that promotes the unrealistic and unattainable status of princess!
What are we doing to ourselves, ladies? We are hard enough on ourselves as it is but then we proceed to be hard on each other? If only we could complement each other on our beauty and brains and heart. If only we could be happy for one another for our successes despite the success being something we might be striving for as well. If only we could come up with real role models for our daughters besides princesses. I, for one, am determined to instill a sense of value in my daughter that does not stem from her outward appearance, but I need your help. I need each woman out there to promise to not scar her and other little girls further by instilling these values in their own children and fighting against the culture that says your face and body make you who you are.
P.S. I know cheerleaders can be quite athletic but quit standing on the sidelines in revealing clothes and cheering for boys – put on a shirt and play the game. Throw like a girl!