You know, I try my best to actively encourage my girls to see themselves as strong and independent – equal to boys in every way. We talk about being smart, working hard, being kind, and standing up for yourself.
We don’t talk about weight loss. In fact, even though I have struggled with weight issues since my teens, I have never said the word “diet” in front of my children. We talk about making healthy food choices, trying to eat more foods that are good choices, and being active.
We have looked at advertisements together, and talked about the persuasive techniques companies use to get you to believe something that is not true. We have discussed models, and airbrushing. We have talked about fashion, and dressing in a way that reflects the respect you have for yourself.
Of course, we are not perfect, and as I have told my girls on several occasions, this is my first crack at being a mother of teenagers, and I’m a work in progress;-). I am making mistakes – some that I recognize, and can try to fix, or at least apologize for, and many I am yet dangerously unaware of (that will, no doubt, be identified in the future).
But lately, I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. They are all tweens and teens now, so the influences of school, friends, and media are becoming stronger. I have less control, and they are trying to navigate their growing independence. And I am trying – often unsuccessfully – to back off a bit. Not easy for a person who likes to be in control. I worry.
Here’s the thing – I always thought that by the time my girls reached adulthood, they would have it easier than we did as young women. I thought there might be less pressure to look perfect, and more emphasis on accomplishments. I thought there would be less of a sexual double-standard, and more societal respect for women. I thought this generation of boys would be raised differently. I thought the world would be safer for my teenage daughters.
I thought there would be more emphasis on women’s strength and savvy through popular culture, that they would be inspired by the adventurous spirit of girl “heroes”. And I guess they are, in many ways, more exposed to those ideas than I would have been at their age. I’m just disappointed that things haven’t changed quickly or enough…
To illustrate my point, a few months ago, my middle daughter asked me to listen to a song she really liked – a country song one of her friends had told her about. The video started with a girl, outdoors, so I thought it was going to be some kind of adventurous cowgirl kind of thing. Not so much – this is what it was instead:
Somebody’s gotta wear a pretty skirt,
Somebody’s gotta be the one to flirt,
Somebody’s gotta wanna hold his hand so God Made Girls
Somebody’s gotta make him get dressed up,
Give him a reason to wash that truck,
Somebody’s gotta teach him how to dance,
So God made girls.
He needed something soft and loud and sweet and proud
But tough enough to break a heart
Something beautiful, unbreakable, that lights up in the dark
Somebody’s gotta be the one to cry
Somebody’s gotta let him drive
Give him a reason to hold that door so God made girls
Somebody’s gotta put up a fight,
Make him wait on a Saturday night
To walk downstairs and blow his mind,
So God made girls.
Something that can wake him up and call his bluff and drag his butt to church
Something that is hard to handle
Somethin’ fragile to hold him when he hurts