Becoming a mother to a girl can bring a lot of worries along with the joy. Perhaps this is because women have more understanding of what life has in store for their girls. Mums (dads too!) may find themselves taking more notice of articles about raising empowered girls, not buying into gender preconceptions and feminism. These are often fantastic articles, written by strong, daring women with ideas that sound right and inspiring. This is how parents are supposed to raise their daughters to be fierce and brave as well as loving and kind…
A lot of what the advice suggests can be hard to achieve and fills mothers with guilt. The articles are packed with information telling mums that if they dress their daughters in pretty dresses, people will only talk to them about their looks or flowers. That if a mum reads her daughter books about being rescued by a prince, she won’t be driven or motivated. In fact, if parents read their daughters almost any books at all they are on to a loser, as they are all full of male leads and demonstrate that the world is male-orientated.
It can all start to feel full of reproach. Mothers can start out adamant that her little girl won’t be dressed up in tutus. Three months later however, once gifts from family and friends have begun to stream in, they then find that their daughter is suddenly in full-on fairy get up and she looks adorable! But then comes the guilt; the worry that they are letting their daughter ‘down’ by not resisting society’s view that “pink is for girls”.
Niggling doubts creep in when they let her choose a doll; there is uncertainty about doing the right thing when reading her princess stories or letting her wear the “pretty dress”. It is hard not to feel surrounded by advice that says this is wrong. Advice that claim Disney and fairies will somehow make girls act “weaker” and perpetuate gender inequality.
Raising children is hard enough without additional guilt about colour choices! As a young girl’s personality begins to form, it is clear that a flowery skirt is no barrier to her fiery spirit. Why can’t she wear pink and play with dolls? She can wear a flowing dress and play with cars, or wear jeans and play tea party. Sometimes she might choose to dress up as a doctor or a wizard, and sometimes she may want to be a princess.
Advice for mothers? Read books where the princess is rescued by the prince and read books where the princess rides off with the dragon on adventures. Let your daughter play with dolls and play with trains. There is no need to feel guilty about buying “stuff for girls”.
Instead of worrying about what they are being shown through clothing, TV and books, concentrate on letting daughters be themselves. Wanting so much for daughters encourages mums to be braver – to take more risks. This is what will help girls become daring and bold.
Feminism is not about what women wear or whether they do traditionally feminine things, but about them having a choice. Women can raise and inspire strong girls by loving them, educating them and showing them that the world is theirs for the taking. Teaching daughters that they can be feminine and powerful; that they are able to be doctors, engineers, painters, and they can do so while wearing a tulle skirt, a tiara and a t-shirt with a sparkly unicorn on it.
Words: Lydia Morgan