I became depressed in my teens as I became increasingly aware of “the deal for women.” In career counseling, middle school: “no, girls cannot become nuclear physicists” and “no, there are no female surgeons.”
Nobody explained WHY. You had to find out the secret behind these obstacles, and it took decades.
Did you know that most of the religions of the world, especially conservatives – Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Mormon, even Buddhist – would keep women covered (literally), restricted to the home, out of the workplace? They forbid education, work “outside” in the world, freedom of choice. Forbid birth control, because the value is on procreation. Arranged marriage at a young age. Praising domestic work and child-raising as the ultimate fulfillment for a woman. Punishing deviation from this ideal scenario, where women are controlled slaves with no choice.
There is some literature on preparing girls for the realities of unequal treatment in society. Some call it “inoculation” against succumbing to myths, stereotypes and models that girls are socialized to internalize, and believe. That you are inferior. That home-maker is your only role. That this is a limited but wonderful, even holy, role. That you SHOULD enjoy being a Handmaid.
You may NOT love power and leadership. You may NOT love philosophy, physics, law, medicine, finance, adventure, sports, art. Or if you do, keep it to yourself.
Several of my male friends had a mother who was a near-genius sacrificed to the role of home-maker. She was not allowed or encouraged to apply her brains to economic power, even if that would have made the family stronger and happier. (And her, too!!! These were depressed moms.)
I have tracked closely with the literature on “how to survive as an African-American in America.” African-Americans also grow up to realize that they are screwed. Especially boys—a future of denigration, neglect, incarceration, unemployment.
My most recent inspiration is from the New York Times. Mimi Tessema of Dresher, PA: “I am a mother of two black boys living in relative affluence in the suburbs of Philadelphia. What can I do to protect my children from this unrelenting toxic racism? Are there any evidence-based measures we can take?”
Here is the response of Noelle Hurd (Psychology assistant professor, University of Virginia) regarding racism, which is also true of sexism:
-Equip your children with facts about racist history in society, so children do not blame themselves for any unfair treatment.
-Highlight the ways in which blacks have resisted mistreatment and persisted in the face of adversity. This includes learning about black heroes and heroines. Racial pride has been associated with better academic and mental health outcomes.
-Support boys in identifying black male role models, especially in career domains that align with the boy’s interests. Build mentoring relationships with positive black men. Ensure that the boys are getting the advice and support they need.
In other posts, I will attempt (as a librarian) to identify resources that are useful in the informal education of girls, to inoculate them.
Bottom line: Is your girl prepared for her interview with Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby?