I know this is a strange topic for a childless lesbian to be writing about but how we raise our girls is something that I’ve found myself becoming increasingly interested in. I’m saddened and appalled by the messages being sent to young girls by popular culture. Instead of showcasing all the wonderful things our young girls can become they are told that the only things that matter is that they are beautiful, thin and have a boyfriend.
Whilst you can’t stop girls from accessing popular culture I believe you can negate its harmfulness in two ways; by what you tell girls about themselves and what messages they receive about girls/women at home.
Kids listen to what adults say and remember it far more than we realise. They take the messages they hear about themselves and others on board and it shapes the way they view themselves, others and the world around them. When girls only hear negative things about themselves like their parents wishing they dressed differently or looked prettier it has a lifelong impact on their self-esteem. Parents, especially mothers, need to limit the negative comments they make about not only their own children’s appearances but the appearance of people around them. Comments about how fat people look, the way they dress or how they wear their hair gets internalised by kids, especially girls, who then use those comments to judge their own appearances and those around them. Instead parents should be pointing out the positives like how happy someone looks rather than what they think about the clothes they are wearing. Parents also need to tell their daughters the same thing. Does it really matter if your kid is wearing mismatching clothes or that the ponytail she did herself is messy if she is proud of her achievement or clothing choice?
Girls get bombarded from an extremely young age about what society thinks girls should be like. We’ve all seen toy stores with aisles full of pink princesses, Barbies and kitchen equipment but with little else being marketed to girls. Girls need to receive a different message in the home. If your home is full of all the different ways girls can be, it can limit the damaging message of society. The best way to do this is through books and movies. A brand new site called A Mighty Girl has compiled an extremely comprehensive list of empowering books and movies for girls from ages 0 – 13+. Each book and movie featured on their site is carefully reviewed so you can make sure it contains messages that your family is comfortable with. As a devoted bookworm, I believe books can have a positive impact on the way girls view themselves.
If all of our young girls are taught that they can be anything and anyone and that nothing should stop them achieving their dreams, imagine what an amazing future we could create. We need the generations that come after us to keep fighting for true equality and to be better people than we are. I think that all of us, parents or not, should be working towards making this a reality. We owe it not only to the next generation but humanity as well.