I have thought a lot about what it would have been like to have had a boy. To have experienced a son with a man who desperately prayed for a boy and was not so thrilled to have a daughter. I was proud to have a healthy baby, no matter what the outcome. Now that my child and I are older, I have realized the power and significance in my life since having a daughter. I have realized the value of educating my child about gender and equal opportunity. I have also noticed the difference in how we have been treated all because I have a girl rather than a boy to raise. Here’s what I have summed it all up to.
We live in a world where (all over the planet) male children are valued more than females. Male babies are welcomed to families with more enthusiasm for the fact that they can carry the family name. A strong boy is always welcomed to be born first so they can be the oldest and the protector. In some countries, boy children are valued higher for their physical abilities to work and earn income for the family. Males are also able to carry out family traditions such as religion and possibly a family company.
In other parts of the world, female children are used as a system for bartering and gathering dowry to earn status and income. Land. Reputation. Daughters are valued as a service or deal while male children are kept as leaders of the family. Girls are sold into sex slavery and married off young in order to provide benefit in highly poor regions. Some countries find it beneficial to send the boys to school while the girls have to work in sweatshops and on farms. This is valid and recent information. So many girls all over the world are treated unfairly in comparison to males. So many girls are aborted, abandoned and devalued through trading their lives for income or status. Its nothing more than a sales transaction, while some little girl somewhere is being raped repeatedly in a brothel in order for her parents to afford their farm and boys to make a living.
This stuff is real. It happens. To this day.
I have come to appreciate all of my advantages in being a young, white and independent female in America. To be able to choose my fate, apply for assistance and live by myself at a University. To have food on my table and clothing for myself and my child. I can recognise my advantages as a teen parent, though having been abandoned by my parents. I still have options. I do not have to care for my parents financially or emotionally. I will not ever have to be responsible for their debt. Nor will I have to give up my own child for their gain. Not me. I made my choices.
And lucky for me, I survived.
Somewhere, far away, I know girls are worse off than I was. Homeless. Starving. No education. No ability to take care of their kids. No contraception but sometimes no other means of survival but to turn to prostitution or stripping. To turn to marrying onto a loveless marriage in order to get bills paid and a loveless union for a roof over their heads.
How many men have had to face these trials?
How many young boys have been traded in order to harvest the crops and afford the family home?
How many boys have been sold into sex slavery and then forced to have abortions or operations for far worse problems from having to have sex with hundreds of men a month?
Of course, young boys and teen boys have also been sold or kidnapped in the past. Its not only a female focused crime. However, the point is to look at the value of each gender. Why should either child be more or less important?
In America, children are gendered even in this generation. The way we dress our children, the toys we select for them and the things we prioritize for them are GENDERED.
Look in target. Toysrus.
Stroll down an isle in the girls section and tell me what you see. Do you see pink, glitter and accessories? Dresses, tight materials and low cut everything? What are the toys like? Do you see any science kits or legos in the girl isle? Does dressup consist of firefighters, doctors or lawyers? Or do we see imaginary character costumes? Fantasy or domestic roles over police officers or dentists.
The funny thing is, most people are senseless and don’t even notice. Check out the toys that are eye level to children. What does the media and the toy industry want your child to aspire to? If you think it doesn’t hinder your child’s ability to develop based on gender bias then your wrong. Your dead wrong to say you would let your boys play with Barbie’s. And when my daughter wants to grab trucks or wrestlers, she’s stared at. Why is that?
Though I can go on forever listing the ways western culture gender divides children, my main point lies in the way we choose to raise our children. We choose this stuff. From the nursery until the college dorm, we hand pick and design the way our kids develop. We encourage things based on their gender as well as what is normal for our societal norms. This complicates your child’s ability to differentiate between fantasies and real goals. Our daughters find fantasy play more pleasing than hard laboring or leading their own dreams. Because we tell them its OK to be dainty and submissive. To wait for a husband to pay for their every need and build their home for them. To be the breadwinners for them and provide the stability. Leaving all the pressure on the males to complete those sometimes impossible achievements.
We also rob female children of their own achievements by making them feel as if certain goals are unattainable. As if they simply cannot and should not be able to take care of themselves.
I appreciate that I do not need another person to take care of me. I have had to grow up very fast due to many things in my past that didn’t allow for me to be submissive or for lack of a better term, effing stupid. I have not had the time or patience to sit around and wait for others to take care of me or save me. I have never settled for less than what my mind believes I can acquire. I believe in myself. Regardless of my gender or the oppressions I have faced, I know I can reach as high as I allow myself to.
What I will pass down to my daughter is the knowledge and abilities to take care of herself. I want her to understand the history of women all over the world and the strides many made to overcome their societal limitations. To overcome the struggles pushed onto them for simply being born a female. I never want to hear my daughter say she does not appreciate who she is or what abilities she has. We all should be thankful for what we do have because someone out there has it way worse. I want her to be compassionate and have a desire to serve others. To help make the world have equal opportunities for both genders.
I want her to know the struggles young girls face every day. Instead of being blinded to the crimes and awful treatment afflicted by strangers, families or cultures.
I have had more than a handful of people curse me with the conclusion that because I had my daughter young, she may get pregnant young. Correction. Will get pregnant young. As of she will spitefully plan it. Or I will not reinforce the lessons I learned hard enough. Maybe they even though in some ways, my “stupidity” gene was hereditary. I have mostly been stunned enough to pause before reacting. My favorite was the time an unnamed person told me that I’m in trouble for having a daughter because she can be pregnant as a teen. To this I replied, “well I suppose it would be better than having a son who can impregnate twenty women at once if he tries hard enough.” Yup. I said it.
I have also been told that I am in trouble when my daughter becomes a teen because girls are just worse off. They are troublesome for wanting to dress a certain way. For wanting sex. To date. To be popular. To be noticed. Its been said that girls are the ones who seduce. Who beg for attention. Who ask for it. Attract rape. Attract pregnancy. Well, I would like to know what made women feel the need to compete against one another. What makes the females want to act certain ways and go through certain things that males don’t. Supposedly don’t.
Some day, when I have a son, I am going to treat him as equals with my daughter. I want to educate my child(ren) about sexual health, body changes and hormones. I want to provide curfews and standards for both sexes. I also want to be fair. I want my boys and girls to feel value in themselves as unique individuals with different passions and dreams. I do not want to blame their short comings on their gender. Or limit their options based on what society provides for each gender.
Wake up people!
The truth is, no child should hold more value over the other. And no child of anyone should have to feel inferior in their family. We set the standards. We have the choice to make the boundaries. But parents have to be willing to put in the work and effort.
While I raise my daughter, I show her how to respect herself and respect others. I show her how to use compassion and kindness. How to appreciate her talents and work on her weaknesses. We love animals and nature. Art and science. We do not do things based on the fact that she is a girl. However, I do not want her to be gender neutral. I won’t tell her she does not have to identify strongly with being female. That’s not what feminism is about. What I wish for my daughter is to stand up for the fact that she is a female, but to make her own definition of what is appealing to her. Not what society forces her to like.
I will not blind myself to the fact that she will soon have emotions of all kinds. She will hit puberty and go through social obstacles. Like any other child. It all comes down to how I will handle it. And how I will educate her to make her own choices.
The best gift you can give your child, boy or girl, is the whole picture. Instead of allowing a narrow view of life, give them the whole picture and allow them to make their own mind up. If you can teach your children to be independent and well rounded, your job as a parent is complete.
So here it is. Some day I want more children. Once I am married and in a home of our own. A home built up on values and equality. A family that appreciates each others uniqueness and talents. When the days come and the obstacles hit the front, I will deal with them as fairly as possible. When I have sons, they will hear the importance of safe sex and commitment. They will all hear about curfews. About self respect and self reliance. Independence. As well as knowing when to ask/receive help. I want all of my children to understand the importance of permission. To say sorry and take responsibility when making a mistake. I want my sons to respect and care for their future partners but also accept when a partner wants to be independent. To never leave a girl if she does not want to be intimate. To earn their lovers. To earn trust.
These are the qualities all children need to be raised on.
Its what will help weaken the gender standards. So we can all start living with equal expectations and opportunities. For the better of our own and future generations.
The magical thing about freedom of choice is that we do not have to live like the past. Society has the opportunity to record history and learn from it. Change is the only way to make a difference in this world.