I have a little girl, she is three. Her favourite things are dancing, puddles, fairies, chocolate and playing with her brother. Her life is a musical, with a soundtrack penned by her. She dances to nursery, dodging dragons along the way. When she eats her peas all of them have characters. She is feisty, she is funny, she is clever and she is constantly moving. She loves to wear dresses, fancy dress outfits, hats and pink everything. She loves pink. And glittery things.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because she is a three year old girl finding her way in the world and as her mum I feel an incredibly heavy amount of responsibility in bringing her up.
I also have a boy, see Independence Day, but for now I want to talk about being a girl, because I’ve noticed a strange trend towards not celebrating being a girl. At the same time, I’ve noticed another trend of parents posting pictures of their boys wearing dresses, proud of themselves as parents for allowing their child ‘freedom’ to choose.
Whilst I don’t disagree that we should allow our children to be free and give them as many opportunities to express themselves as we can, I do fear we’re getting towards a society where it’s seen as ‘wrong’ if you allow a girl to wear a dress, but ‘OK’ if a boy does.
There would appear to be an assumption made that if we let girls wear pretty dresses, allow them pink and glitter, indulge their whims of playing fairies and embrace their femininity that we are setting them up to be unintelligent bimbos with no sense of self, no wit and no aspirations to a career.
Why? Why does wearing pink have to translate to working in low paid or low intelligence industries? Where have we, as a generation, got this assumption from? What are we so scared of that we can’t allow girls to be girls? I am a feminist, I believe that women should have equal rights in all areas. We should expect equal pay, the same rights and the same respect as men. I also believe though, that we should celebrate what being a woman actually is.
I am proud to be a woman. I am proud to be a mother, a daughter, a wife and a sister. I am proud that I carried two babies, gave birth and breastfed them. I am also proud that as a writer I have worked hard in a career I always wanted to work in and can show my children what I have achieved through intelligence and perseverance. And I’m fucking proud of having tits and a vagina. That’s because I’m a WOMAN. That’s right, I am a normal woman, with normal woman bits which wobble.
I want my daughter to be proud of what being a woman means and I don’t want to be made to feel guilty for educating her in embracing and enjoying her gender. If that means wearing pink and becoming a fire fighter that’s OK by me. If she wants to be a pop star, go for it. If she wants to work abroad, or in the army, or down a sewer, or in a hairdressers, or as a make-up artist, or with animals, or children, or dead people, or as a vicar, I will support her. She can do anything, she can be anything. I want to teach her that to become a woman is to be strong, resilient, caring and kind.
Life throws many obstacles at us, let us not add further ones by worrying about whether if a girl has a Barbie she is somehow going to become fixated with body image.
As her mum it is my responsibility to show her what a woman is. It is my role to give her the tools to decide for herself if what she is seeing on-line and on TV is sexually exploitive or manipulative. It is up to us as parents to demonstrate that eating right and exercising is the key to a happy body image. It is down to me to educate her about the world, what it can mean as a girl and a woman, but to know that there is no barrier she cannot knock down.
I want to empower her, educate her, enlighten her and engulf her with so much love, that she will know she can be anything.
But for now she can be an explorer, wearing Minnie mouse ears, singing along to Madness and finding beasties in the garden.