Probably my third thought after finding out my first baby was going to be girl (after oh wow, I really am pregnant and hooray! Now I get to use my favourite name!) was about how I was going to protect her from the world we live in – one that doesn’t allow women to be educated; which stones victims of rape; which marries off 10-year-old girls to 50-year-old men. How on earth was I going to raise her to be healthy and grounded amidst all this madness?
And no, I don’t live in Iran or Turkey, but I do live in a place when 9-year-old girls go on diet and want to marry a rich man and look like Miley Cyrus. And it’s kind of degrees of the same thing. So, I had all these plans in my head – I wouldn’t allow her to dress like a princess or watch American teen sitcoms. I would tell her she was clever instead of beautiful, and I would lead by example by having a career, being with a guy who respects me and regularly asking her questions which would keep her critical of the world we live in.
In reality, I managed three out of six. When I saw what her face did when she came across the Cinderella dress at a toy shop in Malmö at the age of two, no amount of stoning could have stopped me spending my last cash on that mad, pink concoction of tulle and bling. And when she wore it, all the time, over pyjamas at night, to school in the morning, her happy little face wasn’t clever, it was beautiful. And I told her so, repeatedly. How can you not?
Now I have two girls, and I don’t let them watch American teen sitcoms and they understand why, and even though I know they watch them at Granny, the important thing is that they know how I feel about it. We talk a lot about the world we live in, and when Sophie says stuff like, ‘boys are better at maths than girls’, we have discussions around how and why and she figures out sooner or later that that’s just a load of hogwash.
But, they are both girly-girls, as am I, and I’ve realized I have to step back and let them be who they are. Because, as any mother will know, your kids are individuals from the moment they are born. You guide and help and facilitate, but if you’re a sorted, clued-up kind of parent, what you’re really doing is giving them the confidence to be who they’ve always been.
My daughters love clothes and accessories and and dressing up. They’re also clever and creative and avid readers and storytellers, and the two kind of feed into each other. And I don’t think their penchant for pink and sequins is going to adversely affect their lives. God knows, a sparkly top doesn’t shut me up for a second. I know they watch me closely, so I’m super mindful of the things I say and do that will impact the way they understand their role as women. I make sure I have days in the week where I deliberately throw on whatever and don’t wear makeup or jewellery or even look in a mirror. So that they understand that this is an okay option, too.
The world has changed and continues to change, even with the inevitable backlash from certain sectors of the populace. I think, for them – especially if they go to university in Scandinavia – the playing-fields will be more level than they were for me, just a few years ago. And where they aren’t my hope is that their self-confidence will be developed enough to see them through, at least most of the time.
We watched this video together yesterday. No matter how many times I see it, it always makes me cry. And what’s more, they totally got it. More than this I can’t really do.
10 thoughts on “On Raising Girls in a Crazy-ass World”
I’m afraid I don’t get it – it did cause me to find the word “misandry” though.
Video is good; depiction of her attitude / experience, great; as an educational / parenting tool, …?
And no, not hatred of men at all; the reality of how women are represented on music videos.
Couldn’t resist popping over here since I raised three boys (had only wanted a girl, so The Lord thought it best to correct me!–so glad He did!)…but the title caught my eye (and now the little Robin Thicke link I saw below has caught my eye as well). That said, this was great. And on the Robin Thicke link that I have not gone over to see, rest assured that there are at least three young men on this earth (my 3 boys) that know how to treat a lady and know that they want a partner in life (yes, they’re all grown up now… 28, 26 and 24 …as grown up as boys can be until they take a wife as they say). But I did want you to know that I believe I taught my boys well as well as my sweetie on respect for women. They amaze me! If you’d like (and I don’t normally do this,but thought you’d get a kick out of my blog that I just started–check out the parenting section if you’d like–but since I just started it, my parenting posts are also under Humor–can you guess why!? LOL!). Hope you don’t mind the link, but if you do, feel free to delete…just thought I’d share (not spam). http://beinghealthysite.com – again, pop over to the parenting section for a chuckle or two. :-)
Hi Sandy, thanks so much for commenting! I’m sure your boys are wonderful. I’m sorry I never got to raise a son – it would have been a good learning experience for me :-) I will certainly check out the site, thanks so much for posting it.
Well, I compared it to the original one, of course, by the Black Eyed Peas.
Aha – that bit was lost on me
:-) Thanks for taking the time to comment! Always good to get feedback.
Have to share…thought of this post straight away. Way to go Sinead O’Connor!
OPEN LETTER FROM SINEAD O’CONNOR TO MILEY CYRUS
I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today I’ve been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in Rolling Stone your Wrecking Ball video was designed to be similar to the one for Nothing Compares… So this is what I need to say… And it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love.
I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether it’s the music business or yourself doing the pimping.
Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.
I am happy to hear I am somewhat of a role model for you and I hope that because of that you will pay close attention to what I am telling you.
The music business doesn’t give a s*** about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think it’s what YOU wanted… and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, ‘they’ will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.
None of the men oggling you give a s*** about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a f*** about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a f*** about yourself, and when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a f*** about you either. No one who cares about you could support your being pimped… and that includes you yourself.
Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and its associated media.
You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever… Don’t be under any illusions.. ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty… which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognise those who do not.
I repeat, you have enough talent that you don’t need to let the music business make a prostitute of you. You shouldn’t let them make a fool of you either. Don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying f*** about you. They’re there for the money… we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The sooner a young lady gets to know that, the sooner she can be REALLY in control.
You also said in Rolling Stone that your look is based on mine. The look I chose, I chose on purpose at a time when my record company were encouraging me to do what you have done. I felt I would rather be judged on my talent and not my looks. I am happy that I made that choice, not least because I do not find myself on the proverbial rag heap now that I am almost 47 years of age… which unfortunately many female artists, who have based their image around their sexuality, end up on when they reach middle age.
Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question… I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. It’s really not at all cool. And it’s sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself. Your body is for you and your boyfriend. It isn’t for every spunk-spewing dirtbag on the net, or every greedy record company executive to buy his mistresses diamonds with.
As for the shedding of the Hannah Montana image.. whoever is telling you getting naked is the way to do that does absolutely NOT respect your talent, or you as a young lady. Your records are good enough for you not to need any shedding of Hannah Montana. She’s waaaaaaay gone by now… Not because you got naked but because you make great records.
Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that it’s somehow cool to be prostituted… it’s so not cool Miley… it’s dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. we aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers… that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career. Kindly fire any motherf***er who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you.
Susan, I don’t have kids yet but I’ve often thought of the same things you’ve written about – it’s great to see that it can work. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, it’s wonderful to know there are others out there on the same wavelength.
Much as I’d have loved a girl, I got handed 3 boys (the youngest – my surprise – is 6 weeks this week, so it’s still early days on the parenting road for me!), and though of course a daughter would have been absolutely wonderful for so many reasons, I look at the ones my eldest is at school with (he’s 7) and wonder how their poor parents negotiate all the issues you have written about, and still manage to stay reasonable and sane! The clothes I see in regular clothing shops, and I’m not talking about Cinderella dresses here, are… slutty… for girls under 10, wtf? ”You can’t afford me” on t-shirts, plastic high heels, bra and pant sets for 6 year olds, I mean, how on earth do you handle it? It’s impossible to shield them from everything, and girls will be girly, of course, and that’s fab. I myself am very much a girly-girl, but it must be an absolute minefield.