My daughter and I were playing. She was the doctor, and I was her patient. She pretended to give me a shot. I pretended to be nervous in anticipation of the pain. She gently put her hand on mine, whispering, “Don’t be scared. Be brave… Like a Girl!”
I was blown away. Only four years old, she hadn’t heard this expression before. It was one of those moments when you feel like you are just totally winning at the parenting thing. And it stuck with me for the greater picture of raising a girl.
My husband and I know our daughter will have experiences that will be different from ours because of her gender. She will face challenges that we did not need to face. Her perspective of the world will be shaped in part by the fact that she is female.
But I also believe that as humans we tap into collective experiences just because we are all connected. As a female, I believe that my daughter can tap into the courage of women before her. She will be affected by the collective experience of women’s pain throughout history. Women have endured tremendous oppression since the beginning of time. As I raise her, I want to be aware of this.
Since our daughter has come into our lives, male privilege has become so much more obvious to me. I notice things I had been totally oblivious to. Some of these realizations have become unsurprising (and constant) reminders of how boys and girls grow up with completely different messages.
One time my daughter wanted to play Princess and King. She explained that the king ruled the world and fought their enemies. “And what does the princess do?” I asked. “She looks beautiful.”
What? Yes, my daughter had indeed learned somewhere that a princess’s accomplishment laid in how she looked to others.
On another occasion, she asked to play Princess and Knight. Here we go again, I thought to myself. The storyline followed the stereotypical play I had unfortunately learned to expect. I asked if we could play it her way, and then switch so that the princess could rescue the knight. She didn’t think much of it and we played both versions. I loved watching her fight her way to the tower where I was imprisoned. I then asked if we could make another change. Could she be a Knightess and I would be a Prince? She was ok with that too, and specifically enjoyed slaying the fire-spitting dragon.
The problem with these play scripts is not that girls prefer them in a certain way. From what I noticed, children are just not made aware that all these options are available!
I created Brave Like A Girl as a space for parents and caregivers who want to counter the negative messages our girls receive every day. I believe girls are naturally brave. We, however, can use some help so that we don’t stifle our daughters. The language we choose when talking to girls makes a difference. The things we encourage or discourage matter. Most importantly, even with the best intentions, our own biases about gender have a huge effect on how our girls see themselves.
I hope Brave Like A Girl moves parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, and everyone else to inspire children in a new way. Boxes are uncomfortable. Glass ceilings only create hunched backs.
Let’s break limiting stereotypes and inspire our children to be Brave… Like a Girl!