A coworker was relegating to my husband at work about an incident he had experienced with his teenage daughter the night before. He had been yelling at her for something when she said something he felt was in a disrepectful tone – backtalk, at which point he slapped her across the face hard. I can only imagine what my husband’s face looked like at that revelation. His coworker went on to explain that he hated to do it but that it had to be done. My husband made a sarcastic comment about training daughters for how they should be treated by men and then said he wanted better for his daughter.
Children come into this world unknowing of the world or its inhabitants. They haven’t yet learned of social graces or how to interact with others. They learn these things by watching us. How we treat others, especially the ones we love, has a lasting effect. It shapes not only how our children treat others but also how they allow others to treat them.
A strong, confident, loved woman doesn’t suddenly allow a man to hit her and accept that that is the way of life. Abused women, and those who abuse them, have learned somewhere along the way that it is acceptable or that they are an undeserving exception. Most fathers would protect their daughters from some other man hitting them, and yet many of these same men are teaching their daughters that being hit, being belittled and degraded, by a man is acceptable.
Girls and boys, men and women, aren’t very different. Looking around at American society, you would never guess that. In their book, Packaging Girlhood, Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown examine the societal aspects which strive to make these gender distinctions and how that affects our daughters. While many would claim genetics and hormonal differences dictate such differences between the genders, Lamb and Brown make a compelling argument that our male dominated society is so driven by marketers – from baby pink onesies and dolls to sexy shopping teenagers and young women to the lack of strong females in books, movies, music, or even advertising. Marketers know how to the play the game, and that game is creating a society that plays into buying their products. Our daughters are the ones who suffer most.
If you have a girl in your life, I recommend reading this eye opening book. While some of the examples are dated back to 2004/2005, marketers haven’t changed in any recent history. The same gender distinctions are merely repackaged. Even individuals who feel they are cognizant of gender stereotyping may rethink how they look at some things. Read the book and then take the authors’ advice: talk to your daughters.
She dances in the sunlight, red highlights glinting from her hair.
A smile emanates from her bright blue eyes and curving mouth.
She is beautiful, this little girl from my womb, with her alabaster skin and long limbs.
She plays hard, and her muscles strengthen each day.
I watch her growing taller; some day she will be as tall as I am.
She is secure and knows herself.
She looks forward to someday having babies and nursing them.
No one tells her that she is fat or ugly. She only knows that she is loved.
I watch in awe at this little person, hoping to learn from her and to heal the hurts of the past.
She is beautiful because she is herself.
This post is participating in the Body Image Carnival being hosted by Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! and MamanADroit who will be posting articles on themes pertaining to body image all week! Make sure you check out their blogs everyday between April 12-18 for links to other participants’ posts as well as product reviews, a giveaway, and some links to research, information and resources pertaining to body image.