By Monica Wilcox
Even with razor sharp parenting skills you can’t keep a child free from society’s notions. My 11-year old daughter is here to prove it. “If I were to get a doctorate, would people have to call me ‘doctor’ because I really hate that idea? ‘Doctor’ sounds way too boyish. It sounds like a name only boys should have.”
Is this my child?
I grew up in the clashing idealism of feminism and the Cinderella Syndrome. I was in the generation of women pressured to “Do it all”, which included having a successful career, amazing body, beautiful home, marriage and children; futile as it was. I’ve made a serious effort to raise my daughter (and son) with a better sense of balance, more of a “Whatever you choose, do it well.”
Since I’ve spent years exorcising narrow, sexist thinking from our home, I’m a little piqued to have my daughter bringing it back in. Did my inspirational mommy comments pass right over her? “You’re in the perfect position to do whatever you want in life,” and “What you’re passionate about should never be consumed by who you’re passionate for,” and “Depend on yourself first, a boy last.” I agree: this was some deep, empowering stuff!
Sexism at Its Root
Yet, my daughter’s off-hand comment begs the question. We live in a land where women can vote, drive, wear half-shirts, and run marathons. We’re in an age where more women are graduating with Bachelors degrees than men, are instigating 66% of divorces, building successful corporations and taking on extreme challenges. So WHY is there an 11 year old, well educated, middle-class girl living on American soil who still thinks “doctor” implies “man”?
Sexism is imbedded within our history, our language, but has it imbedded itself into our very collective consciousness? I believe a woman has as much value as a man, you may believe it, but does humanity believe it? Do the masses believe it?
And here’s the scary part: my daughter is in the best position on this planet to move her future above what the world expects of her. My daughter, as a citizen of the western world, is in the best position to help move all women above the low expectations many societies are placing upon them.
The Girl Effect
Can you forecast a person’s life at the age of 12? Can you change a life on a $60 loan? Can one brave girl draw her entire community out of poverty? The Girl Effect Organizationsays ABSOLUTELY and is working hard to prove it, one girl at a time.
I showed this video to my daughter and asked her if she would rather give another girl the opportunity to change her life or buy herself another outfit. She was shocked that a $60 loan could really change someone’s life and was thrilled to get involved.
We agreed, but on one condition: from this day forward she must never see any profession as a man’s. I told her a “doctor” is no longer a title given to men, it is a title given to healers. I stressed to her that she could not expect an 11 year old girl in Bangladesh to have the courage to live her dream when an American girl is not doing so.
Start by empowering the girls in your life; guide them to be the wave of change from our western waters. Allow them to empower themselves and all girls through this simple act of mutual confidence. The Coalition for Adolescent Girls is a fantastic place to start.
Do you feel it’s the responsiblity of western women to uplift girls in underdeveloped countries? Do you think the next generation of girls will be more empowered than the generations before them? Are you battling sexism in your home? What perceptions has your daughter pulled from the society she is living in?