There’s a difference between being cocky and being confident, but young girls aren’t often taught that the latter is theirs to have. The messages that abound in our media are often confusing and contradictory; with the advent of the divas all over TV (can there really be that many idiot so-called housewives who think they will ever come out looking good on one of those shows?)… and the wailing toddlers wearing tiaras on reality shows throwing Superbowl sized tantrums, and the bride shows that reward outrageously bad behavior, and the tremendous pressure to be sexy and alluring long before anything like that should even be a part of their conversation–we’re telling girls that they’re still objects, and whiny, bratty ones at that, but as long as they look good, they, too, can be famous/popular/rich. And that nothing else really matters.
These messages carry over so firmly into adulthood, that we rarely, as women, feel good saying, “I did that well,” or “I’m confident that effort I made was great.” If we’re confident? Someone inevitably thinks we’re up on our high horse and that we need to be knocked down, and we get that message so freaking often as girls, that it’s hard to just be quietly confident as an adult woman without second guessing oneself all of the time. (Did I look like a bitch when I said that? Did I sound like I was too full of myself? Did I, in other words, just turn myself into a target? I cannot tell you how many times that has run through my head when I have done something well, and knew it, and mentioned it.). [Deborah Tannen’s YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND underscores this, how girls socialize at a young age to try to make everyone “equal.” Very interesting book.]
I think girls are often taught to feel like misfits in our own bodies–we aren’t celebrated for what we can do (which we might have some control over), but are often celebrated (or berated and ostracized) for how we look (which we have very little superficial control over). [I could rant for hours on this alone. I deleted it. You’re welcome.]
And then sometimes you see a video where you see something you know you wouldn’t have seen even twenty years ago, and you think, it’s very possible girls are getting the message after all: be yourself. Be active. Do. You are impressive. Especially when an entire stadium of men–at the Army/Navy basketball game–end up giving them a standing ovation.
Girl power. It rocks. It gives me hope.
If you’re female, what lessons do you wish you’d learned as a kid? What would you go back and tell yourself, if you had the chance?
If you’re male, what misconceptions do you think women have about what men think about women? What would you say to your daughter to help them deal with the obstacles they may face as they grow up?