Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Strong Women

My beautiful, brilliant, spunky daughter had a fever and other various symptoms yesterday.

I stayed home with her.

I held my whimpering daughter, trying to comfort her and get her through this illness.

We aren't a television watching household, not much anyway, but the television comforted her yesterday. We watched a bit of Chicken Little, because she saw the chicken on Netflix and wanted to watch. We watched Home because of the colorful graphics.

Then we happened upon My Little Pony.

I played with My Little Ponies, Barbies, Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, all of them. But I watched Voltron, Thunder Cats, and He-man & She-ra.

Before yesterday, I didn't know.

The first scenes of the first season of the new My Little Pony show "Twilight Sparkle" running around researching, learning, discovering. Then, she gets a directive from her mentor and teacher, "Princess Celesteia," to go to Ponyville and organize a party, oh, and stop studying so much and work on getting some friends.

Excusez-moi?

Sure, the rest of the episode and the couple that followed show "Twilight Sparkle" meeting a few supportive friends, all who have special qualities that make them good ponies.  Good, right?

But good enough? Enough to push our daughters to greatness?

I (harshly) posted about the show in a group.  The answers? Oh, give it a chance. It gets much better.

Give it a chance?

My little bitty daughter can't pick through the subtleties of a cartoon. I will find something else, something that is more obvious in its support of intelligence and inquiry.

I don't want my daughter to have to read through all of the mane tossing and giggling to figure out that what they are really talking about is that everypony has their strengths, and we can all work together, despite our differences.

Kids take these cartoons at face values. She will process very pretty little ponies stomping their hooves, tossing their manes, giggling, and going on about their business.

What's wrong with that?

Everything.

When my son watches what are clearly "boy" shows, does he see characters telling each other to stop studying? No, he says Dino Dan exploring, through study and scientific experiment, what dinosaurs can do.  He grabs his friends, including girls, to go experiment with him. No one stops him, least of all a teacher, to suggest he go play some baseball and have some fun, instead.  Instead, the teachers and parents make learning fun - they let Dan explore his passion and interest through art, experiment, and more.

On Octonauts, the characters help each other, those around them, and there's nary a hair flip.  Dashi and Tweak (name aside...) are key parts of the team, with Dashi documenting and researching new sea creatures and Tweak engineering the ship and developing new techniques.  They make study and academics something normal and expected rather than something to do less of.

It's clear that I'm not a "girly girl." I do love pink, and I have a huge collection of colored pens and patterned leggings.  But I have never once used flirtation to get my way - I wouldn't even know where to begin. That's neither my strength nor my style.

And I'd rather it not be my daughter's style either.

As a teacher, I've watched countless girls bat their eyes, smile, and expect to get their way, either with teachers or other students. And it makes me cringe.

Women should be able to get what they want, what they need, on their own merits.

Women should not have to hide their intelligence behind beauty.

Sure, women can follow fashion, fix their hair, and be the most brilliant people on earth.

It's when they do all of these things and still say, "I don't know..." and shrug cutely, when we all know they have the answer, that we have a problem.

My mother taught me better than that.

I have dealt with my fair share of, "Oh, just smile and laugh it it off."

In one instance of sexual harassment at work was told, by three female supervisors, to, and I quote,"Giggle and look away." Have my male peers been given the same directive?

No.

I want more and expect more for and from my daughter than giggles and flirtation to hide her intelligent mind.

I love that, so far, the girls my son admires most are fierce, intelligent, and vibrant.  He gets it. He is drawn to strength.

I believe that strength resides in owning our intelligence, in proving that femininity and womanhood need not be defined by simpering flirtation.  Yes, there is strength in love, in kindness.  But when women set aside their intelligence in favor of appearance, they reveal only weakness.

I want to cultivate strength in my daughter, my son, and my students.

Be smart.

Be brave.

Be kind.

And let us see all of it.













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