I have three granddaughters under 10. They are little girls bursting with dreams and desires. There is so much they want to try, so much they want to do. The fact that they are females doesn't limit them. Luckily they are surrounded by successful, strong role models who teach by example that they can be who ever and what ever they want to be.
And that fact makes me weep with joy.
You see, when I was growing up in the 1940s our role models were limited to nurses, school teachers, and Hollywood movie stars with their cone-shaped bras and their pastel sweater sets.
Of course, our mothers were our constant role models. They cooked, they cleaned, they put their husbands on a pedestal, and they warned us that if we didn't stop misbehaving, 'Dad would hear about it.' That innocent Leave It To Beaver era is now long gone.
My own daughters were brought up during the raucous Feminist Movement, that topsy-turvy time when my pals and I fought for sexual equality. As role models, we taught our daughters that they could be moms along with any other thing that gave them joy. We encouraged them to be financially independent before they chose a mate. We taught them that beauty has many different meanings.
Now another generation of girls has joined our ranks and I believe they need our positive role modelling much more than I and their moms ever did. As a united group we struggled to win equality with men. This generation of children has turned their battle inward—girls are now competing with each other. Reality shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Canada's Next Top Model demand to know who is prettiest? Who has the nicest hair? Who is (shudder) too fat? In a way these programs are slyly usurping moms' role modelling duties and establishing themselves as the experts. They pay no heed to the anxiety they've dumped into our young womens' laps.
We need to fight back with every trick in the book. My granddaughter recently told me that I was lucky because I was voted the Queen of my High School. I explained that it wasn't because I was prettier than the other girls, it was probably because my classmates thought I was pretty inside. To illustrate my point, I dug through my souvenirs and pulled out a yellowing coronation photo and showed it to her.
She was perhaps too quick to agree! 'Ewww, Grandma,' she said. 'You looked really weird.'
Oh well, to heck with my slightly bruised ego. If I taught this young girl that inner beauty is far better and longer lasting than outer, I'll take the pain.
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