Today is International Women's Day. It is a day to acknowledge and appreciate the wise women who came before us to pave the way towards equal rights. In addition, it is a day to empower females of all ages. This year, for the first time, I am viewing this day not only through my own eyes but also through the eyes of my daughter.
I feel a different sort of pressure than I did when my son was a baby. Throughout their lives, girls are given subtle messages that diminish their shine. Compliments tend to be appearance based: you look so pretty, look how shiny and long your hair is, what a pretty dress, etc. Body image is distorted by seeing impossibly perfect photo shopped pictures presented by Hollywood, instead of the real life variety of shapes and sizes.
There is still a very real wage gap that guarantees that if my son and daughter end up doing the exact same job, he will make more than her. If she decides to have children and a career, she has to worry that her family obligations will affect her job, whereas it won't matter to his employer whether he has a wife and kids.
Someone I know offered the sentiment "Why do women need their own day? I treat women well every day." I think the intention behind that statement was that women should be treated well every day but it misses the whole point.
About a year ago, I saw an Always commercial that helped to shed light on how easy it is to be sexist without even realizing it. Women are brought into a screen test and asked to do various tasks "like a girl". In every case, they present a silly and uncoordinated caricature of the action. They bring in young boys and men, and they too show actions that are weak and goofy. Then they bring in young girls. Amazing girls. Girls who show running like a girl means to run fast and hard. Throwing like a girl is a whipping windup with a powerful throw. Punching like a girl looks brutal and intense.
At what age do we stop believing that a girl is capable and strong? How can we stop making girls feel ashamed for who they are? In saying that someone does something "like a girl" there is an implication that it is a negative attribute.
I am going to teach my daughter to be proud she is a girl. That she is strong and smart and funny. She is also beautiful, but that is not her only amazing quality. Hopefully by the time she grows up, the rest of the world will catch up!