STRONG GIRLS In the spotlight
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.
“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