There's a rhyme oft repeated across playgrounds: sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Alas, the pen (words) are indeed mightier than the sword (a somewhat more modern weapon). A few recent commercials and public service announcements have me considering and reconsidering the words and phrases I use.
As parents, I thought cubes and I were choosing the words we use intentionally, but three commercials have me taking a second look at some phrases I commonly use and others childcare providers/teachers have used. We realize words alone don't inspire--that's why we actively encourage Gates to explore tools as well as kitchen implements and show her that both parents fix things as well as bake.
Girl Power Commercials and Public Service Announcements
One video in the #BanBossy movement titled "Change the Story" (YouTube link) has me thinking differently about the words we use to label our daughters. Words that stand out: stubborn, pushy, know-it-all, aggressive. Why? Because I heard one them directed at our daughter.
The first time I heard our daughter labeled was at twenty one months. She was told she was a know-it-all, show off. Her offense? She said the ABC song was the ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ song. She had just learned the ABCs a couple of days before and was excited to share her new found knowledge.
A Show Off, A Know-it-All
I don't know how early I was labeled a show off, a know-it-all. I do know that I had tested out of kindergarten, yet none of the other girls had, and I played stupid so that I could be with my friends. I don't remember when I was told to wait my turn and gradually learned that girls never got turns so if I wanted it I had to take it. I was called stubborn and aggressive. I learned grades didn't matter. True and False tests. Multiple Choice tests. A boy's results and a girl's results--the answers the same on both Scantron sheets. The scores not. The grades not. My parents and I challenged the scores and the resulting grades; male classmates stopped showing me their tests.
So You Think You're Pretty Smart, eh?
Another video that is a step in the right direction towards breaking down gender stereotypes, but in my mind still misses the mark, is from Verizon, titled, "Inspire Her Mind (YouTube link)." I don't remember when "pretty smart" became a backhanded compliment. I only know "pretty smart" in the context of getting something right on the first try when my male counterparts were unable to. I don't know why we need to modify brilliant. Pretty brilliant for a girl still seems less than the brilliant others can achieve. And, have you ever heard "handsome brilliant" uttered to a boy?
Like a Girl
A third video, Always' #LikeaGirl "social experiment" (link to YouTube video), got me thinking about the phrase #LikeaGirl, something many of us toss around in every day conversations and writing. "Why can't #LikeaGirl also mean win the race?" And why can't we say "like a novice" instead of "like a girl" or "like a boy?"
I don't know when #LikeAGirl became an insult. When #LikeABoy was now a desireable quality. I do remember when I wanted to be a boy. Second grade. Brains were wasted on girls. I don't know if most girls start seeing themselves as less because of their gender in second grade.
The Always commercial hit home the hardest. Why? Because I only realized I had spent the majority of my life defining myself by what I'm not last year after attending Alt Summit for the first time. For thirty-eight years, I defined myself as "not a boy" and set my goals towards doing anything boys could do but better than they could do it whether that aligned with my passions or not.
Showing Gates Anyone Can Do Anything They Want
This past May, a study came out stating that dads who do chores have more ambitious daughters. We've always split chores in our house, but now we make a concerted effort for Gates to see both of us handling tools or preparing meals. cubes regularly makes eggs for breakfast, empties the dishwasher, and does the laundry.
I don't know whether or not our actions and our intentional word choice will positively influence Gates for certain. I hope so. I want to arm her so that she can find her true passions and pursue them successfully.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.