Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bringing Up Girls

Commenting on my recent post about sexual harassment Bob, a father of two young girls, asked if I or anyone else had any ideas about how to “prepare” his young daughters for the world they are about to enter.

I would emphasize Bob’s point: it is best to start preparing daughters for what is to come before they have to face it.

Here are a few of my thoughts.

First, a parent’s role is to protect children. In particular, parents need to go back to thinking about how they can protect girls.

I suspect that if fathers and brothers were allowed to feel like they were obligated to protect girls and women, there would be less sexual harassment.  

It used to be given that men learned at a young age that they had a duty to protect women. Courteous behavior, whether it involves opening doors for women or accompanying them home after a date, used to be the right things to do.

Then one day feminists decided that protecting women was a racket. They proclaimed it to be a patriarchal plot designed to diminish women's strength and independence.

Any man who insisted on being polite to a woman was denounced as a member of the oppressive class.

Courtesy, as in courtship, was thrown out. The result was that men understood that they could be as rude as they wished to women. 

Thanks to feminism women went from being dates to being hookups. 

This attitude probably contributes to sexual harassment. In the past you did not use obscene language when talking to women because it was impolite and discourteous. You did not harass women because you knew you would have to answer to her father or her brothers.

You knew that they were not going to read you your Miranda rights or launch a fair investigation.

It is one thing to say that a woman is someone’s wife, daughter, or mother. It’s quite another to say that she is on her own and to leave her to fend for herself. In truth, being independent and autonomous means being unprotected.

Feminism left women in a state of increased vulnerability. It seems to have tried to compensate by making a fetish out of the notion of using “protection.”

Feminists insist that women should always use protection, but they have left girls and women unprotected.

Second, preparing a girl for today’s version of adolescence requires close and active parental involvement. Beginning with the mother/daughter relationship.

Girls should be close to their mothers. They should be encouraged to confide in their mothers. They should get into the habit of sharing with their mothers, and going to their mothers for advice and counsel.

It might feel like an impingement on the girl’s independence, but when strange things happen, and when girls find themselves in situations they do not understand, who do you want them to run to: their mothers or their peers or their guidance counselors?

Above all else, parents should not want their daughters to feel that they are out there on their own. They should feel that their parents are with them.

Third, young girls need to develop good relationships with their fathers. They want to do so and should be encouraged to do so.

Of course, feminism has made this more difficult. It has maligned fathers as oppressors and as potential sexual molesters.

In the current cultural environment, more than a few fathers are afraid of getting close to their daughters.

Again, this makes girls feel unprotected and vulnerable. It also makes them feel rejected by the most important man in their life.

When a girl feels rejected by the man she loves the most, she will feel that she is not worth very much in the game of romance. I need not tell you how girls behave when they feel that they are worthless.

Fathers do not need to be confidants. They do not need to engage in the pseudo-therapeutic ritual of sharing feelings. But they need to do things with their daughters, whether it involves doing homework or going to a show or taking a rafting trip.

Fourth, parents should instill an ethic of achievement and not an ethic of popularity.

We all became aware of this lesson through the work of the Tiger Mom, Prof. Any Chua.

In her book she showed how she protected her daughters from the ravages of American adolescence by directing them toward getting the best grades and away from being the most popular.

Parents of young girls will learn some valuable lessons from Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

American parents hated the Tiger Mom. Most of them have bought the notion that their children should be well-rounded, engaged in a multitude of different activities. They want their daughters to be popular. 

It’s better for children to do fewer things and to do them well. And it is best for them to spend more time on their schoolwork and less time on having fun.

Real achievements build self-esteem. But no one succeeds at anything by being involved in a multitude of different activities. Multitasking is inefficient and ineffective.

Overcommitted means distracted and unfocused.

Children should learn to work hard at a few things, rather than to do a little work on a lot of things.

Fifth, how can a parent influence a girl’s relationship with her developing body?

Hopefully, everyone knows it is not helpful to have endless discussions of gross anatomy.  

If you want to influence the way a girl relates to her body, start with the way she dresses.

More than ever, girls need guidance in how to dress and how to present themselves in public. Recent reports suggest that adolescent and even preteen girls have taken to dressing up to look like hookers and porn stars.

Parents say that they are powerless to do anything about it, but that is simply untrue. If they are paying for the clothing and giving the allowance they can say No. If you know it’s wrong, forbid it. You’re the parent, not the pal.

If you allow your daughter to dress up like a tramp she is going to understand that you approve of her acting the part.

Despite what feminists say, beauty matters. Girls are naturally interested in fashion and cosmetics. Their mothers should teach them how to dress. Who else is going to do it?

Above all, girls should learn to dress like they are preparing to be ladies.

Everyone agrees that the schools and the culture and the media have oversexualized the female body. To counter these pernicious trends, girls need to find a way to develop a healthier sense of their bodies. I recommend yoga or pilates or dance.

They should also be strongly encouraged to engage in regular exercise or athletics.

Most girls find these outlets themselves, but a little parental encouragement is always helpful.

Finally, many parents are more than a little concerned about their daughters’ relationships with food.

Let's understand the issue. It’s not a diet issue. It’s not an appetite issue. Food consumption is a socialization issue. It is also a gender issue. It is an area of human life where women have traditionally been in charge.

It should begin with family dinners.

Routine, ritualized family dinners give children a sense of order, structure, and security.

Living in an orderly household does wonders for a child’s developing psyche. Parents should not believe that they can compensate for a disorderly household by lavishing their children with love.

Since food preparation is usually a mother’s area of responsibility, mothers should involve their daughters in the process. Girls are perfectly capable of joining their mothers in shopping for food, in preparing meals, and even in cleaning up.

Nowadays boys help out, but it is more important for girls to be given authority and responsibility in the area of food preparation.

I recognize that this is anathema to feminism, but feminism is not about raising girls to be women; it’s about raising girls to be feminists.

Parents who want their daughters to be involved in committed relationships, to marry and to have families do well to teach them the fine arts of homemaking.

If a girl does not bring any domestic skills to a relationship, what exactly does she bring?
How can she see herself involved in a committed relationship leading to marriage if she does not know how to make a home?

If her skill set mostly involves a multitude of sexual positions does this encourage her to see herself at some future time in a home with a family?

If she has been led to believe that the kitchen is a battleground in the war between the sexes will this make it more or less likely that she will be able to sustain a committed relationship?

Women whose mothers never taught them to make a home will fall back on a default position. She will insist that her relationships involve deep emotional bonding. Unfortunately, intense emotions played out against a backdrop of domestic chaos have a tendency to become very ugly indeed.  


Anonymous said...

Thank you! Thank you for the tips! You have confirmed everything that I and my wife are doing. When it comes to sports, my oldest competes in gymnsastics and made state finals, while my youngest is the starting center for her ice hockey team.
When it comes to school I tell them to get A's in math, science and gramar and the rest will fall in place.
Clothing is a tricky subject. I ask them what people will think of them when they wear something with a slogan or a brand such as "AF". I tell them that I will buy anything off the sales rack at LL Bean or Lands End and show them catalogs so they can cirlce clothes that they like. Also I took them to the mall and pointed out clothes and women that look like, well I will not use those words here.
I tell the girls if they want their favorite dishes, they better start to learn how to cook them. Chocolate chip pancakes are real easy now. Bob

MamaTod said...

As a mother of 9, mostly adult, but some still in high school, kids, let me add that trusted adult friends/relatives/mentors are priceless in the process of raising our children well. We've been fortunate for most of my husband's brothers to live nearby and the Monday Night Football games together (just guys) were an opportunity to bond and be MEN together, to absorb our values from other adults, and to be affirmed in doing right. My daughters have had my sister, my sisters-in-law and women in our church for whom they babysat (We were careful where they went for that job!) to fill the same role. The job's not done, but I know for sure the ones "turned out" came out that way because we had help.

Dennis said...

Why is it so hard to recognize that if one wants respect one has to give it? When feminism posited that men deserved no respect then did it not occur to women that the ultimate outcome would be the devaluation, debasement and disrespect of women.
When one allows themselves to be defined by a "job" they instantly lose a large part of who they are as human beings. It is even more amazing considering that large majorities in the past and even now dislike their "jobs."
As someone once said, "Loves weighs a lot more than gold." (SIC) At the end of one's life just how many people are going to be thinking about their jobs vice the loves of their lives?. What a terrible obit to have that states "she was a lawyer" as the sum total of her existence.
As I have said manners, courtesy, politeness and respect start us all out as equals.
One is almost forced to ponder how something as bigoted as feminism became so accepted among so many people.