Stumbled across an article on Jezebel that I thought was very interesting. In a blog I did previous to this, I talked about how living in today’s society means that parents are taking a more active approach when it comes to teaching their daughters how to be safe, etc. Although I agree that most risk awareness tips are patronizing (because they’re usually common sense things), I agree that younger girls need to be taught something, so maybe it’s not the messages that need to change, but the way that we’re teaching them.
This article encourages parents and educators to take a more realistic approach when talking to girls about the state of today’s society in terms of how women are treated and what life is like as a woman in America in 2013. The first thing they say to do is not to fill their heads with idealistic notions that women are somehow equal to their male counterparts, because, as we’ve been talking about in class, we know that is simply not true. We can teach girls to empower themselves while at the same time making sure they know the reality of the world they’re living in, and that might give them a better chance to make a good life for themselves than sugarcoating the situation ever would.
Tip #1: Teach girls to be angry. “The more we teach young girls how to discuss, channel and express their anger, the more likely they are to do that with and at their male peers, which means men, at a younger age, are also becoming more comfortable with this expression, too.”
Tip #2: Girls need to be comfortable with math, science, engineering and technology ASAP. The article stresses that this isn’t anything new – that girls have always been slightly behind their male counterparts in terms of careers in these fields, etc., but that it’s important to change that. Some of the best jobs available are in technological fields, and women are seriously lacking in this department (studies show that girls stop thinking about careers in these fields due to a “confidence gap” that happens somewhere around senior year of high school, when they are getting poorer grades in these subjects than their male peers)
Tip #3: Teach girls how to challenge the status quo. “We need activist girls who become activist women, and that can activism can take many forms. But in order to encourage wide-ranging world-changing in girls, we need to point out from a very young age ways in which the world needs their energy and healthy anger at injustice, and show them how to be a part of that change.”
Tip #4: Teach girls they can do whatever they want and be whoever they want, in a responsible way. “Yes, by all means, we should continue tell girls they can do whatever they want — they have to believe this is possible to do all the above — but we should add the realistic, and not discouraging asterisk that it might not always be so easy. You don’t tell a would-be doctor that she’ll sail right through medical school. You realistically prepare her for mind-bleeding amounts of study and all manner of obstacles. So it is with some of the still-prevalent injustices women face.”
Tip #5: Encourage girls to be creative. Girls should always feel comfortable being creative and doing creative things, whether it’s acting, singing, etc. More and more women are directing, producing, and doing other things behind the scenes and encouraging the support of women-made works will teach girls that they have a place in careers that have typically been dominated by men.
Tip #6: Teach them to talk about injustices they face. This is the most important part of the article, I think, and they only spend a sentence on what it means. We need to teach girls to speak out and make their voices heard in the face of injustices. If we’re not silent, the problems can’t be ignored.
Tip #7: Teach girls to “relish the competition”. “Women who change the system for the better do so by rattling cages, persisting in the face of great bureaucracy and opposition, or engaging fellow men in competition. They also sometimes relish the challenge of cutting through the stereotype, of showing up anyone, male or female, who has the nerve to say they can’t run fast enough, throw a ball right, code a computer program, critique a rock record, write a great novel or fight hard enough at the front lines. We criticize the “alpha females” who make it look too easy to climb the ladder due to their various advantages, and that privilege is important to acknowledge. But we have to also acknowledge that these women still move the needle in our favor.” The author stresses that she’s not encouraging everyone to be the next Sheryl Sandberg (who we have talked about in class, and has received a lot of criticism for being “elitist”), but that we need more fearless women to take a stand and start paving the way for women in professional environments.
Tip #8: Teach girls the real meaning of choice. “Just as we teach our children to be accountable, we, too, must teach girls that this has special meaning for them. Choosing — what feminism has always claimed to be about — has consequences. It isn’t always easy. We pick one thing, which means we don’t pick something else. Women need to get more comfortable than ever with their new buffet of choices, but also with the possibility for the same disappointment and unhappiness that men have enjoyed (or not) alongside their many choices. This isn’t ammo for arguments that feminism has failed — it never sought to give us happiness, only greater freedom from which to fashion our own idea of happiness.”
With these tips in mind, this is a kind reality check I can get behind.