Friday, March 1, 2013

DFTBA: Girls are Awesome!

For Lent this year, I'm trying to make DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) my spiritual discipline. Inspired by the Vlogbrothers and Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, I'm considering what DFTBA looks like for me and for my two-year-old daughter, Esther.

So far my Lenten discipline has included:
1. Remember you're awesome.
2. So is everybody else

Spirituality of DFTBA 4: Girls Are Awesome!
This post reminded me that Japan has a cool/fun tradition of having Girls' Day every year. It's a day to celebrate the girls in our lives, to fuss over them and celebrate that they ARE girls.  I don't know much about the background of the holiday, but it sounds like fun.

Especially after episodes in which women are derided and nine-year-old Oscar nominees are insulted in front of large national audiences. Yeah, Seth McFarlane, that was pretty awful.

So in honor of Girls' Day, and to spite Seth, I'm here to remind us all that GIRLS ARE AWESOME!

First off, God made both males and females. Both were created in God's image. The Bible doesn't say, God created the one with the penis in God's image, but the one with the uterus was just a knock-off.  No, it says, So God created humankind in his image,

And the fact that scripture calls God "He" doesn't mean God is a boy. It means our (ancient and modern) grammar systems are too limited to come up with a singular personal pronoun that is gender-neutral.
The second description of God's creation* of men and women, the rib-from-Adam's-side thing, is equally silly non-proof that men are in any way superior to women. First, "Adam" comes from the Hebrew, adamah, which means something more like dirt-thing or mud-person or earthling than, humanoid-with-a-penis. And even if women were specifically created second, we all know the 2.0 version is better than the trial model anyway.** (Though this is not generally true with movie sequels!)

That said, for a long time, society, including and sometimes especially the church, have been telling women and girls that they are not awesome, that they are inferior biologically, intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually. This is categorically UNTRUE.

I would like to say we're smarter than that these days, and many of us are, but there are still examples in contemporary progressive societies, let alone in more traditional cultures, of  misogyny, paternalism, sexism, chauvinism... Whatever you choose to call it, it's there.

I grew up being told that, "Anything boys can do, girls can do better!" I know this is kind of reverse-sexism, but I needed to hear it: I was at my great-grandmother's doctor appointment with her and my mom, and I guess we were talking about how the doc was making Grandom feel better, because I told my mom that when "I grow up to be a man, I'm going to be a doctor!" I'm sure she told me it was pretty unlikely that I would grow up to be a man, but she also assured me that I could be a doctor as a woman, too. (I'm obvi not a doctor, but I am a minister, also a traditionally-male field.)

I wish that the world had changed enough in the thirty-ish years since that incident that I didn't feel like I would have to spend Esther's life telling her the same thing. Alas, I fear this is not the case.

Reel Girl is a blog dedicated to the equal portrayal of women and girls in films, especially in children's movies/media. The author has found a consistent ration of about 1:5 of female to male characters in children's media. Oh, and an odd note: there are basically NO female characters on cereal boxes.

My mom, a teacher and the director of a preschool & daycare for over twenty years, said that kids are picking gender-traditional toys more than ever in the last few years. As in, "I'm not playing with that, that's for girls!" Or the reverse.  Toys are SO gender-marketed these days, that even a casual glance in a toy store shows you where to shop depending on the genitalia of your toddler.

Pigtail Pals/Ball cap Buddies is a blog that tries to fight those gender role assignments for kids.  There's no reason why a boy can't like purple or a girl can't like trucks.  One of their logos is "Colors are for everyone," fighting the belief that girls should limit themselves to pink, purple, and sparkles, while boys get just about all the other colors, and especially not pink, purple, or sparkles. They talk about all kids being, "Full of Awesome" and encourage kids to think outside of the box.

That said, there's nothing wrong with pink, purple, OR sparkles.  I'm a fan of all three myself. But they're not the only colors I like, and I would hate to think I could never wear blue again because it's a "boy color!" When we found out that Esther was a girl, I was terrified imagining the piles of pink we would receive. Again, this isn't because I dislike pink, but because I like the other colors, too! I want Esther to pick her favorite color because SHE likes it, not because she's been told (sub-consciously or by some little girl/boy in her preschool class someday) that she HAS TO like pink because it's a girl color.  (Of course, if she really does like pink, I will swallow my pride and bite my tongue.)

The same thing goes with the princess trend. Peggy Orenstein's book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter is all about the specific marketing that Disney and others (even Sesame Street!) have done to create this princess-crazy girl market.  I have nothing against the princesses (besides the fact they are generally a bunch of helpless women waiting around for some guy on a horse to ride them off into the sunset), but I do want Esther to be able to play with any toy and every toy she wants. Again, if her favorite thing ends up being tea parties with the princesses, I will swallow my pride and bite my tongue and sip invisible tea right next to her. But I will continue to take her to the zoo and point out trains tell her that girls can do anything they want.

Ok, so how does all this fit into the Spirituality of DFTBA?

  • Ladies, remember you're awesome. You are more than your boobs, and idiots like Seth McF who suggest otherwise are just that: idiots. Men, women are awesome. They are more than boobs, and idiots like Seth McF who suggest otherwise are just that: idiots.
  • Women, what are your assets that have nothing to do with your appearance? Congratulate yourself on those.
  • Men, compliment a woman on something other than her appearance.
  • Support causes that stand up for women, whether in media, education, or in laws about violence against women.

How do I do this for Esther?

  • I encourage her to play with all kinds of toys.
  • I watch as gender-balanced TV with her as I can. Doc McStuffins, a female doctor whose mom is her doctor-role-model is my current fave. 
  • I never tell her "you can't do that, you're a girl." 
  • I try to dress her in as many colors as the stores let me. (Hint to the stores: if you want me to buy an object, make it in a color other than pink! I get so excited to see anything outside of pink/purple, that I buy it whether I love it or not!)

God, thank you for men and women and for the ways we reflect your image. Help us to treat each other all as awesome, and help us to help others see the AWESOME in all of your children. Amen

* Yes, there are two creation stories.
** Yes, I believe in evolution. That doesn't mean the Creation stories are false, just that they have a deeper meaning than your average science text.

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