Instilling Confidence in Our Daughters
We live in a world in which women still earn “only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent. Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio.”
Women are subsequently undervalued in both the professional and interpersonal realms. A video that has gone viral, features fathers and their little girls, affirming their abilities, strengths, inner and outer beauty. What is particularly powerful about it is the obvious bond between the daddy and daughter teams. The men are proud of them and want them to be proud of themselves.
What are girls told about themselves?
- You are primarily valued for appearance.
- Men matter more than women.
- You need a man to take care of you.
- You should apologize for taking up too much space.
- You are to follow proscribed gender roles.
- Your career and educational options are limited.
- You are responsible for making sure that other people’s needs come before yours.
What we need to tell them:
- Who you are is more important than how you look.
- You need not please others to be loved and accepted.
- Speak your mind without hesitation.
- Own your body; no one has the right to touch you without consent.
- Maintain a sense of personal dignity.
- You are strong and resilient.
- You can achieve your dreams and goals.
- You can succeed on the playing field as an athlete.
- Being assertive is a value to encourage.
- Setting boundaries is acceptable.
JoAnn Deak, PhD, a psychologist and author of Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Competent and Courageous Daughters, makes clear that, “Girls face an extraordinary challenge in our changing world. They are dealing with more sophisticated issues than ever before, and they are doing so with less adult contact and guidance than ever before. Statistics tell the story of a population at risk both physically and emotionally: One in four girls shows signs of depression. Compared to males, twice as many females attempt suicide, and there is a sharp rise in actual suicides for females beginning at age ten and peaking at age twenty-four. One in four girls has been in an abusive relationship.”
In a 2000 Harris poll for the national nonprofit organization Girls Incorporated, girls in grades 3-12 were asked about gender stereotypes, their quality of life, and their plans for the future. Their answers — and their parents’ comments — indicate that if anything, life for girls today is more difficult than it used to be.