STRONG GIRLS In the spot­light

Your Baby & Toddler - - TALKING POINT - BY MAR­GOT BERTELSMANN

Fem­i­nism is en joy­ing a mo­ment right now, as celebri­ties use their fame and younger women their so­cial me­dia pres­ences to drive what is be­com­ing known as the fourth wave of fem­i­nism – char­ac­terised by the pub­lic calling-out of sex­ism and dou­ble stan­dards in the ev­ery­day life ex­pe­ri­ences of girls and women. Think of the re­cent Rhodes Uni­ver­sity protest ac­tion against rape cul­ture; the ag­i­ta­tion for free men­stru­a­tion prod­ucts for school­girls; the ini­tia­tives to call out dou­ble stan­dards in at­ti­tudes to­wards sex when we protest against “slut-sham­ing”; the hugely pop­u­lar #Every­day­sex­ism trend on Twit­ter; and so on.

It is true this move­ment has been crit­i­cised for its fo­cus on the ex­pe­ri­ences of sex­ism of mid­dle-class, first-world women and girls. Yet as par­ents we must ad­vo­cate for our daugh­ters and their lived ex­pe­ri­ences (as much as we may still care about, say, fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion or other more ex­treme forms of op­pres­sion fur­ther from home). Start­ing at the in­di­vid­ual level, one girl at a time, we can and do con­trib­ute to­wards rais­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of pow­er­ful girls who can grow up ex­pect­ing equal treatment, and as­sert­ing them­selves ap­pro­pri­ately. Rais­ing a girl who is re­sis­tant to abuse, who feels like she oc­cu­pies an im­por­tant space in the world, that she is wor­thy and se­cure in her­self, and that she has much to con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety, is a dou­ble win: it is good for her and for so­ci­ety as a whole.

Yet if we sweep sex­ism un­der the car­pet our daugh­ters will be dam­aged by the gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion they will in­evitably en­counter dur­ing their life­times. And there is much our early par­ent­ing can do to coun­ter­act neg­a­tive so­ci­etal influences. You may con­sider the fol­low­ing an­ti­dotes to grow­ing up in a world that is still be­set by sex­ism.

BE BODY-POS­I­TIVE

“There is no wrong way to have a body,” says writer Jamie Ken­ney in her ar­ti­cle ti­tled 10 Things Fem­i­nist Moms Do Dif­fer­ently Than Any Other Par­ents. Too few women grow up with a sense that the space we fill in the world is jus­ti­fied (psy­chol­o­gists think the eat­ing dis­or­der anorexia is partly about feel­ing like one does not de­serve to take up space). In­deed, the body pos­i­tive move­ment has protested fat-sham­ing and the overem­pha­sis on thin­ness which our girls are likely to see on ev­ery model, movie and mu­sic video. But be­cause she is con­stantly as­sailed by stan­dards of beauty in pop­u­lar cul­ture, it is your job to en­cour­age your daugh­ter to en­joy and use her body for the com­plex and won­der­ful

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