Raising a Mighty Girl

Tell me Ava, why do you think Sistine said what she did about Southern people?” I asked.

We were reading the book ‘The Tiger Rising‘ by Kate DiCamillo and Sistine (the female protagonist) introduced herself to her new classmates in Kentucky by declaring southerners ignorant. Her classmates answered back on the playground afterwards.

Does she have a good point?”

What do you mean?

Are southern people ignorant?” I asked.

Well daddy, everyone is allowed to have an opinion.” She answered back.

Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it doesn’t mean just because you have an opinion, that makes you ‘right’.” I countered. “All opinions are not equal as some are better supported by facts and reason than others.”

I suppose Sistine’s point is backed up by the cruel irony that actual, modern day Kentuckians in desperate need of affordable health care vote against their own self-interests by electing people like Mitch McConnell who has routinely threatened to take it away. Add statistics on the southern states leading the country in obesity, lowest levels of educational attainment, teen pregnancy, and most deaths by firearm and Sistine may have a point. That would be a lesson for another time.

“Every country has the government it deserves.”

-Joseph de Maistre

With these deplorable conditions and bleak statistics, one would think that voters would be desperate for change. However, when the United States elected an admitted misogynist over a distinguished secretary of state, first lady and senator, we took giant leap backwards for women’s equality. I was shocked at how many women were dismissive not only of Trump’s conduct, but flat out rejected their own gender as weak or inadequate to run a country. The fog of the election hangover seems to be clearing to the reality of having a charlatan run the highest office in the country. That too would be a lesson for another day.

Just like Sistine, girls are often subject to a different level of judgement that has a razor thin margin of error compared to boys. They must be capable, but too much, and they’re seen as headstrong. They must be leaders, but if they micromanage, they’re ‘bitchy’. The pendulum swings so quickly.

Raising a daughter in this double standard environment will be the ultimate challenge for us as parents and we hope she’ll be able to recognize and rise up against blatant sexism as she grows up. Our little jag through the middle east in October and November should yield some teachable moments for women’s equality.

Strong and virile men with the inviting and submissive female

Our family is preparing to see ‘Avengers Endgame‘ this weekend and have been thinking of the franchise as a whole. The first time ‘Black Widow’ was introduced to the world, she was a damsel in distress to be rescued by capable men. One of my colleagues in graduate school highlighted how we even market products to boys and girls differently and this indoctrination conditions gender roles for the rest of children’s lives. Some people just can’t get their head around transgender, unisex bathrooms but have no problem with them on airplanes.

“These lawmakers who preach ‘small government reach’ want to limit a woman’s choice of what to do with her own uterus and ensure she’s nothing more than a birthing vessel to pander to their political base.”

As I write this, the nation is in a frenzy. New abortion mandates in Republican controlled houses have swept across the predominantly southern and midwestern states have made it illegal for women to get an abortion after 8 weeks. Doctors that perform a procedure will be sentenced to a life-time in prison. Teri Carter shared a very touching op-ed piece in the Washington post about her own experience of reuniting with her father who abandoned her as a child and pointed out how these new laws exonerate the impregnating father from all culpability; even child support. This condemns underage women to a life of poverty and limit their upward mobility with them being asked to carry the sole burden of childrearing as men are officially deemed as not responsible. These lawmakers who preach ‘small government reach’ want to the government to have more control over a woman’s uterus than she does, relegating her to a birthing vessel in order to pander to their political base.

For Small Hands
Like a girl

What can be done? How do we raise confident girls in this anxious age? Expose them to strong females in movies, literature and around them in life. Empower them. Let them shine. Encourage them to hangout with similar people who are up standers not bystanders. A friend of mine recently introduced me to ‘A Mighty Girl‘ which is a great site for parents and teachers with fantastic readings, and highlights movies, books, even clothing to empower and inspire girls to stand up, not sit down. But really, how does any parent really know what the hell they’re doing? Like Tyrion told Jon last weekend when asked if he did the right thing: “Ask me in ten years.”

By then, our daughter will hopefully be in her first year of college and I’ll be willing to tell you all about whether I did the right thing or not. In the meantime, we’ll always have Sistine to inspire us so we’ll be seeking out many more like her.

For Small Hands

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