Why I Won’t Tell My Daughter That She Can Do Anything Boys Can Do
If there's one message I don't want my 3-year-old daughter to hear too much, it's that girls can do anything boys can do. This weekend, we were watching the new Disney Channel show “Sofia the First” together, and there it was. Sofia wants to ride a winged horse in something called the flying derby. But duh, everyone knows that competing in flying horse derbies is just for boys. The boys tell her that. The girls tell her that. Sofia decides to go for it anyway.
At first she's terrible at flying horses. Uh oh, is everyone right? Is it because she's a girl? Then suddenly she becomes awesome at flying horses and she realizes it doesn't matter that she's a girl because she believes in herself.
I have no doubt the producers of the show meant well, but here's my problem with constantly telling little girls they're as good as boys: until my daughter heard that message, she didn't have any reason not to believe it.
The world isn't like it used to be. My daughter knows women who are doctors, lawyers, nurses, TV executives, school teachers, writers and stay-home moms, and they're all incredible, confident, wonderful role models. I don't have to tell her women can do anything they want because she sees it every day.
She knows the president is Barack Obama, but I don't ever say, "Isn't it great that we have an African-American president?" because he's the only president she's ever known, and she doesn't care what his race is. In her world, it's no big deal that we have our first African-American president... unless I make it one. I'm optimistic she'll see a female president soon, too, and that'll also be no big deal to her.
Granted, I'm talking about a 3-year-old. She might be a little young to have encountered sexism, and I know someday, she surely will. It's still out there, in various forms, and all the amazing women she knows have had to overcome it in one way or another.
Here's my hope, though. When she does come across sexism someday, when she does want to enter a flying horse race or something and some boy tells her she can't, it won't break her spirit in the least. She won't need to be told she can do it anyway, because she'll think that boy is freaking nuts. And all the other girls -- probably most of the boys, too -- will back her up, because they know women who've fearlessly achieved whatever they had their heart set on. It's the outdated notion of male exclusivity that will seem foreign to them. And that boy who tells girls they're not allowed to do things will feel like the outsider.
I'm not sure exactly when “Sofia the First” is supposed to be set, but I think it's in the distant past, and that makes sense.
In the world I want my daughter to grow up in, nobody has to tell her she's as good as a boy, because by the time someone suggests she can't do something she wants to do, she will have already done it.