The irony of me posting this on international women’s day is not lost on me but don’t fret there is an international men’s day also so this post isn’t about either :).
Lately there has been a lot of talk about movements that are giving women more power. It is on every award show and every social media platform. The “me too” movement is quite empowering for women who are suffering in silence about horrible things that have happened to them but, much like anything else, this has become somewhat of a bandwagon movement. I hope that the girls in my class grow up in a world of “hell no” rather than “me too”. This post is certainly not meant to offend anyone so if you’re reading this and the hair on the back of your neck is starting to stand up lets stop here and agree to disagree.
Girl power insinuates that we are lesser immediately. I have never, not once in my life. heard anyone say ‘boy power” and that right there makes me want to do away with the phrase. In my opinion it sends messages that make us less than and make us question every interaction and wonder if people are treating us one way or another because of our gender and I won’t have it, not in my classroom at least.
I am the first one to say that I want girls to know they are smart and intelligent over beautiful and sweet but more importantly I want to help girls understand that standing up for yourself is not “bitchy” or “rude” or any other derogatory term that has been thrown my way when I refuse to stand for someone’s bullshit. Girls need to be raised and taught in a world of mutual respect. This means not only respecting others but RESPECTING THEMSELVES. Now I know that some men (and women) are awful and some men do terrible things to vulnerable women and those men should be locked in a cold dark place for the rest of eternity BUT and it is a big BUT you can’t possible think that all the men being accused in these movements are actually in the wrong. You can not possible think that some women don’t manipulate situations, sexual or not, for their benefit by using the fact that they are women. Lets all try to think of this big picture and from both sides.
If someone, male or female, crosses a line there 100% should be consequences in life and in the classroom but there also should be skills, both social and emotional, that are taught in families and in classrooms to help all children, and lets face it, adults, to navigate the world without making themselves vulnerable to the evils that this world has to offer. If I contribute anything, it is suggestions that are proactive rather than reactive, although that sounds somewhat hypocritical given that this whole post is a reaction to current issues .
So what happens next? We create a world of choice. We create a world for our children where they, from the day they can, are making decisions for themselves. This may seem a bit extreme but this starts at the beginning. This starts at those family gatherings when you force a little girl to hug a family member she would rather not hug. When you tell her that she is being rude for not showing affection. When you decide for her, regardless of how young she is, you take away her power. We need to ask children if they want to be tickled, you stop when they say stop. AND CAN WE PLEASE STOP ASKING GIRLS TO SMILE OR TELLING THEM TO BE HAPPY. It seems strange to think about but the reality of development is that a lot of your habits start when you are very young and continue throughout your life. My habits, for example, were fostered by a mother who listened and a father who thought girls were the greatest. I ask a million questions and question everyone because of the two of them, I also think girls can do anything boys can do, thanks mom and dad. So if, from the very beginning, we empowered our girls to be themselves, to not tolerate things that make them uncomfortable, and if we teach them that they don’t have to be delicate or soft spoken or tolerant we can create a real movement. I am trying to stay away from gender stereotypes but the two issues are intertwined.
This proactive strategy goes both ways. Can we please eliminate the use of the words “boys will be boys” when boys are disrespectful? Can we please hold boys, even in elementary school, accountable for their inappropriate behavior towards girls? Can we please create a world where there are immediate consequences for making someone else feel lesser or uncomfortable?
Pop culture is also the problem. You may not see it , and the media is certainly making an effort to change it, but girls need saving in too many of the things our kids are watching. There are not enough women superheros, there are not enough women in power, there are not enough women who don’t look like they just stepped out of a fashion magazine while they are fighting crime. There are not enough women who are truly successful and truly independent but not bitter about it. On the flip side, there are not enough men showing emotion, there are not enough stay home dads whose wives are the bread winner and their masculinity isn’t tarnished (have you seen the intern, don’t it basically tells you that successful women’s husbands cheat). There are not enough men who are not being constantly manly. When we send these messages so loud and clear from the first day that a child sits down to watch T.V. we create the same cycle. Men are powerful and women need saving and it is a truckload of bullshit.
It is totally impossible to think that from one small classroom in one small town I can change this but if I can empower 6 little girls a year then I will have done my part. I know that this kind of change takes decades and I know that these issues may not be the biggest issues that we are facing in 2018 but damn it we have to start somewhere. So I leave you with this, If we start them young, believing in themselves and give them the words and the skills to advocate for themselves maybe we can create a more equal place for our kids regardless of gender.