Yesterday, October 11th, our daughter turned 5 on the very same day that people around the globe recognized Day of the Girl and National Coming Out Day. Day of the Girl’s website has a very strong message: “Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights.” It’s truly mind-blowing that at this point in history, young girls across the globe are still being denied an education because of their gender; 1 in 4 college women in the US experience sexual assault on campus; women in the workplace are still being paid significantly less than their male counterparts and denied leadership opportunities that they’ve rightfully earned; and some people are trying to downplay a presidential candidate bragging about kissing and groping women’s genitals without their consent (aka sexual assault) as ‘locker-room talk.’ It makes me furious—and scared—that this is the state of the country and world in which I am raising my daughter. There is clearly so much work that still needs to be done for the betterment of girls and women.
Living in a two-dad family, our daughter is the only female in our household. My husband and I do all we can to protect her, but also equip her with the skills and knowledge that will allow her to take care of herself. We do everything we can to teach her that she is strong, has immense value and endless opportunities as a girl (and one-day woman). We try to raise her with as little gender-bias as possible—always telling her she can play with whatever toys she wants, do whatever sports she wants, be whatever she wants to be when she grows up, and love whoever she wants to love. With that said, I know there are so many societal messages she takes in everyday, coming from television, billboards, her peers, etc., that have an influence on her as well. From a very early age, our daughter became obsessed with all things pink, purple, and princess…she even took a major interest in shoes (high heels in particular) by the time she was two years old. It does make me wonder: how much of her interests are innate, and how much are they influenced by the world around her? And how much might society’s sexist, misogynistic, and heteronormative influences be pulling her away from who she wants to be and towards what society thinks she should be?
Working in the field of Diversity & Inclusion, my work focuses on creating environments where all identities are respected and where there is true equity, so that everyone can achieve their fullest potential without facing unnecessary barriers. As a father, I hope to consistently send those same messages to both of my children. I don’t want them to ever be held back based on the fact that they are adopted, have two-dads, are of Mexican heritage, or when it comes to my daughter, because of the fact that she’s female. I want to do my best to help my children understand that just because society might tell them certain things are ‘normal,’ that is not always the case, and ‘normal’ should not always be held to the highest value.
I’d love to hear from parents out there: What do you do to teach your children that they should never allow the world to hold them back, based on their identities or for any reason?
One thought on “Day of the Girl Got Me Thinking…”
My daughters were brought up to know they could achieve anything that they wanted to. All they have to do is set their mind to it and find a way to achieve it. They played sports, played with dolls, and with anything they showed an interest in, we found a way to cultivate that interest. Teach them your values, teach them the values of others and explain why they could be different and let them decide how and what they want to do with it. They will grow up with an amazing, diverse life and will undoubtedly have an opinion on everything. Which is what we, as parents, are supposed to do for our children. Give them the tools, step back, and watch them grow. It may not be they way you, or Jimmy, or I would have done it. But it is how they want to do it and that is what matters most to them. While they are young you get to guide them. But eventually there comes a time they will take the lead. You step back and hopefully watch them soar. They will fall sometimes, but hopefully they will learn from those occasions and move forward, better than before! As you know, I have been very lucky with my girls. They are amazing ladies now. I couldn’t be more proud. I get to think back at them growing up and look at them now and think…I had a hand in that! Give them the tools and let them run with it…and watch!