Monday, June 19, 2006

Back Link Raising a Daughter in a Male-dominant World

tammy (presently) from Amstelveen, Netherlands

“Mom, why do most women take the man’s last name when they get married, but men never seem to take the woman’s last name?”

“Why do so many advertisements have women with practically nothing on?“

“Hasn’t there EVER been a female (American) president?”

Mom, am I fat?”

My daughter is beginning to understand. The questions began at age 7 and have intensified as she has grown. Now at age 11, it is clear that she is becoming increasingly aware that she lives in a world where women are often objectified and are largely denied places of power and authority. For now, her questions come from a place of curiosity. What she observes doesn’t seem to make sense, so she is asks to be sure she is seeing correctly. And she wants to know why.

Part of me aches with her emerging awareness. While it is simply a curiosity for her now, I know that she will eventually come to understand that women are thought of as “less.” I know that she will have struggles trying to demonstrate to others, and more importantly, to herself that she is NOT less. At some point, she will confront the full horror of what many women in the world endure, and have endured over past millennia, simply because they were born female. Thus, the time will come when her curiosity turns to frustration, sadness, even rage. She will hurt because of this.

But another part of me is deeply pleased by her emerging awareness, and I work to cultivate it. I want her to accurately perceive inequity between the sexes when she sees it and not be afraid to voice it. I want her to feel a sense of righteous indignation that anyone would consider her to be less human because she is female. I want her sense of justice to remain intact, rather than have her handle the unpleasantness by turning away from it – by pretending it isn’t there.

Far too many women tell me they never think about women’s issues. They have established a comfortable niche for themselves with a relatively non-sexist partner and they feel sufficiently powerful in their own sphere. There is a sense that the world is too big to change and they are comfortable – why think about it? But they are raising sons and daughters, too. Can they afford not to think about it? Can they afford to not help their children become aware? It is true – I cannot change the world. But I can help my daughter to perceive it accurately and to live in it with courage.


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