Is this a reasonable argument?
Babble blogger Laura Mayes made an interesting point recently with her column, "Someone To Look Up To," by discussing a potential girl power backlash. With full knowledge that we still make less, etc. etc., Mayes wonders if powerful girl messaging is making her six-year-old son feel inadequate -- she cites an overrun world of female educators, business women and pop messaging like Beyonce's Run The World (Girls) after her son questions why everyone in charge of his life is a woman.
Mayes explains that a lot of this has to do with her son's age. She writes:
Remember, this is coming from a kid whose only understanding of the world began in 2005... and let's be honest, he's only started to understand a PBS Kids-version of the world since about 2008. So he has no concept why one gender would need to be encouraged over another.
Of course, this depends on the boy. My eight-year-old just told me the other day that boys are always stronger than girls and I reminded him that I am not only stronger than him, but bigger than him. So there's that.
While Mayes's piece is a thought-provoking tribute to her son about gender equality, I think girl power messaging can be enlightening without taking anyone down -- that includes young boys. Granted, we're seeing all sorts of reports that boys struggle in their own way. They're more likely to drop out of high school. In the home, women have been appointed the decision-makers. And in the workplace (despite the wage gap) women have a higher employment rate than men. Hannah Rosin's ubiquitous 2010 Atlantic Monthly article "The End of Men," argued that women and girls have not only become preferred sex, but that we're holding more powerful positions than ever -- and more that we might be better suited to those positions than men are.
Says Rosin in that article:
But what if men and women were fulfilling not biological imperatives but social roles, based on what was more efficient throughout a long era of human history? What if that era has now come to an end? More to the point, what if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?
Still, I'm not convinced we should focus on What about me, Mom? when (if) your boy asks about girl empowerment. It's about explaining some of the basics, like the historical -- and, let's face it, current -- fight for gender equality. That Mommy wasn't always allowed the same rights as Daddy. Because my kid is eight, I can't yet talk to him about the other ways women and girls are currently over-sexualized or treated differently from men and boys like this, or this or this.
In my kids' bathroom above the toilet, I hung a poster called "The 19th Amendment" by artist Michael Albert-- it's a collage that features the text of the 19th amendment and was given to me by my sister-in-law who is a friend of the artist. I didn't consciously hang it over the toilet -- honest -- the space simply fit. But in retrospect I realized the poster, with the actual quote from the constitution and hundreds of images of women (including Dora, the Statue of Liberty and, uh, Pebbles, though I'm not sure how Fred and Wilma's offspring fits in here, she's cute nevertheless) acted as a daily history lesson.
Every time my son pees standing up, he's reminded that women didn't have the right to vote until 1920. Now put down the lid on that toilet. Thank you, honey.