Girl Power, Self Image, and “Oh My God, Still?”

Last night, Little Bit (my six year-old daughter, who as some of you have pointed out is not so little anymore) snuggled up next to me on the couch. She said, “I’m gonna sing.”

I expected Kelly Clarkson tunes, or maybe Katy Perry. Instead, she burst out in a self-composed ditty:

Girls can do anything they want to do! 

Girls can be strong!

Girls can do anything they want to do!

Girls can run fast!

Girls can do anything they want to do!

Girls can shoot baskets!

Evidently, girls can also write songs that get their parents’ attention.

Jon and I immediately asked what had brought on this song. Little Bit said that she had been playing some “jock challenge” yesterday during recess.

“Mom, even though I did really well in all the competitions but jumping high, they said I was last because I was a girl. They said boys could be strong and girls couldn’t.”

Geez, guys, you keep saying this crap?

Girls and Self-Worth

While Little Bit’s story made me mad, it didn’t surprise me much. I’d grown up a tomboy and had heard much the same thing from the boys in the neighborhood. But despite everything, I’d hoped that years of seeing women in the workplace and in athletics would make the messages my daughter got from her peers a little less blatant.

After all, her male peers were all being raised by strong modern women who’d grown up under Title IX, right? They should know that girls can be successful in sports, academia, work or wherever they put their time and attention.

On the other hand, in January, a study was released finding that by AGE 6 girls start to lose confidence in their abilities, while boys don’t. While the study focused on the children’s beliefs in their intelligence, it’s all too believable that girls’ lack of self-confidence and the lack of confidence in girls’ abilities stretched into other areas as well.

My kid is six, and already the world is trying to put her and her friends in boxes. Girl. Nice, sweet, hard-working, well-behaved (I can hope!). Boy: brave, strong, confident.

And that difference in confidence slides into adulthood and into earning potential.  Women, far more than men, apply for jobs only when they meet 100% of the requirements.  Women are less likely to negotiate higher salaries during the hiring process, leaving them at lower starting levels that follow them as they move on in their careers. And women get 15% fewer promotions during their career, in part because they don’t aim as high.


Girl Power, Self Image, and "Oh my God, Still?"

Instilling a Little Girl Power

So what’s a parent to do when a little girl starts championing her own self-worth in response to others eroding it?

Jon, being the good dad he is, immediately said, “There are a lot of girls a lot stronger than I am.”

I, being more direct, said “Girls CAN do anything they want to do and work hard for.”

But I wonder if we did enough. After all, I’m still telling her it’s not her natural ability, but her effort, that makes the difference. She has to have both to succeed, but she needs confidence in those natural abilities that seemed so obvious in the boys and had to be proven in her case.

So we’ll work on the Girl Power messages. Little Bit got new t-shirts this weekend. She chose several with empowering messages: Never Underestimate the Power of a Girl, Grl Pwr, and Challenge Accepted. She watches cartoons with strong (if skimpily dressed) girls, like Monster High and MLP: Equestria Girls. We both idolize Hermione Granger from Harry Potter (and Emma Watson, too!)

Some day, I hope we’ll enjoy Buffy together.

But in the meantime, I worry about the messages she gets from pop culture, her peers, and even unthinking adults who act on gender biases. Will she lose her confidence in her abilities?

Keep singing, kiddo.

How would you counteract these messages and promote your daughter’s self-confidence and self-worth? Because, guys and gals, it’s a long haul, and I need all the advice I can get. 

21 Responses to “Girl Power, Self Image, and “Oh My God, Still?””
    • Emily Jividen 03/09/2017
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  1. Steve from Arkansas 03/10/2017
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