Tuesday, 25 June 2013

On Raising A Daughter

I am going to do a series of posts about what sort of things I think that we (as in Dan and I) need to be conscious of, for raising our baby girl. I'm not going to pump these out, bang-bang-bang, but I will likely, here and there, have a post that will fall into this category.

I realise that not everyone believes there's still an equality gap between men and women, but I don't happen to be one of those people. Furthermore, I recognise that men also have social expectations placed on them that are difficult or impossible, but for now I'm  only raising a daughter so it's going to be the female side of this coin that I'm talking about.


Over the years I have heard many, many times (being one of three daughters) people tell my parents, 'Oh, poor you! Three girls!' to which my parents always replied, "Why poor us?" For some reason there is a prevalent belief that girls are more 'difficult' than boys.

Boys are easy, girls are challenging.

There's a million ways I could rip this comment to shreds but I'll stick with one counterpoint, which is that historically girls were always supposed to be 'proper little ladies'. Sure boys were expected to eventually become gentleman, but they were allowed to be rough around the edges up until some future--moving target--age where they would then magically put boyhood mischief behind them and fall into step with society. Girls were traditionally supposed to be ladies from the beginning: playing with dolls, having tea parties, sitting quietly and not making a raucous because ladies don't draw attention to themselves.  But is it realistic to expect someone to not want to run and shout, when out their window they see their brothers being allowed to do this?

It's not.

So maybe girls have been perceived as more challenging because they were expected to behave in a way that is like trying to force a square block in a round hole. They were challenging their parents because their parents (and society as a whole) put them in a challenging position to begin with.

I don't like this expected role.

Too bad.

Also, let's not forget that you shouldn't loosen the reigns too much because then your daughters will get pregnant. Obviously.

I don't think that LB is going to be challenging to raise by default of her being a girl. I think that raising a kid is challenging in general, but I do think that it's going to be our responsibility as parents to raise LB in such a way that all of the subtle messages about 'women's roles' will not lay any faulty foundations for her femaleness. That we will provide her with the tools to build her own strong foundation of female identity, so that she can stand fast against the bullshit that relentlessly whirls and attacks women.

And it can be subtle, Internet. So subtle.

Here's a recent example:

I like to read Hollywood gossip, and last week I was reading a popular celebrity magazine that had  an article comparing the names of the babies recently born to Channing Tatum and his wife Jenna, and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. I'm not quoting the article verbatim but the general idea was, "Channing Tatum, the sexiest man in the world, gave his daughter a beautiful name! How could Kim Kardashian give her kid such an awful name?!"

So in this article Channing Tatum's wife is not credited for her input into giving their kid 'a beautiful name' and Channing gets all the credit. Kanye West isn't lambasted for participating in the naming of his kid, but rather Kim Kardashian is held solely responsible for choosing 'an awful name'.

That's subtle, and maybe you think it's too subtle to support my point. I'm reading too much into it.

I'm not, but here are some points that are less subtle:

(1) Women didn't get the vote in Switzerland until the 1970's, and one particular Canton didn't allow women to vote until 19-fucking-90 when the federal court had to step in and tell them to get-fucking-with-it. It was only in 2004 that paid maternity leave was approved. That's just Switzerland (in reference to the world), and that's just legislated equality. It doesn't even touch on the deep-rooted beliefs of what a woman's role should be.

(2) I've been told as recently as three years ago that I was 'smart for a girl'; I've been told men have no business doing housework: only women and 'gays' should do it; I've been in a room of teenage boys (when I was a teen), and they all made super inappropriate jokes about my breasts, as though I wasn't sitting there (and I wasn't, long after that); I've been told someone's craving a woman's touch...to bake them a pie.

(3) In high school, graduating year, I remember being in the math room getting some extra help and I started chatting with a peer (we weren't friend-friends) while the teacher looked over our worksheets. I asked her if she was going to university the following year, and she told me she wasn't allowed: she was getting married in two years so until then her parents told her she had to stay home and learn how to cook and keep house. That was 1999. In Canada.

(4) When I was trying to focus on a career direction, and was enamoured with veterinary medicine, I started working in a vet clinic under the supervision of a male vet. One day as he was neutering a standard white poodle he told me point blank, "People don't like female vets. They have a tendency to get pregnant."

A tendency to get pregnant, Internet. Like it's that fucking easy. Oh damn, touched that guy's hand as I gave him his change back. Shit, guess I'm pregnant again.

I walked out of there immediately and in a couple of weeks started working with a female vet who did, I assure you, have a very healthy practice despite being, you know, a woman.

(5) This year I learnt of an acquaintance who is my age and highly educated, but her parents have not allowed her to practice in her field until she gets married. She's been working for the family business since graduating.

So, yes, Internet, I happen to believe that the role of women in society is still a hot topic and if you feel squirmy that I'm talking about it...good. There are definitely going to be times in her life when LB is going to be made to feel inferior, confused, ashamed, afloat, simply because she's a girl. It would be nice to put on my rose coloured glass and say, "Nay, it will be different by then", but come the fuck on. People are people are people. As recently as this week a high profile celebrity said that 'of course' she's used racial slurs; parents out there are still shunning their kids when they tell them they're gay; women in some countries and cultures are still being killed by their own families because they've 'dishonoured' them, somehow.

I can't change the world, but I can make a difference to how capably my daughter walks through it.


Mom said...

Well said Cait! AND, just so your viewers know, you 3 girls were never a problem, NEVER!!!

T said...

I can totally relate to this post Caitie. I have a lot of nieces right now and every time another girl is born the comments just start rolling about how trouble is just around the corner. I find it very insulting on my niece's behalf to assume that any one of them can't be trusted or are doomed to be a source of stress for their parents any more than my nephews will.

My sister-in-law recently had a rough delivery of my newest niece and it astounds me to hear how many people have said something along the lines of "well that makes sense, girls are always more difficult". SERIOUSLY? WTF is wrong with people!