Last month a young woman in her twenties posted a set of pictures/memes on Facebook describing her distaste at being hit on by men old enough to be her father. I found it hysterical and refreshing. No one seems to bat an eye when older men in the public eye date women young enough to be their daughters, but it’s a different story altogether when the woman is the December to the man’s May.
When I shared the young woman’s post an interesting conversation took place. A male friend accused me of “male misogyny,” if there is such a thing. His argument was that my laughing at men being called unattractive was not in line with my resenting women being judged on their looks. His line of thought is that if you want to stop sexism you can’t be sexist in return. I get that… I do, but I’m not a pacificist. I am living in the real world raising a daughter who, if things don’t change at a much faster rate than they have over the past 100 years, can look forward to making less for the same job, being judged on her looks, and being told by society in countless ways that she is not equal to a man.
Raising My Daughter with Realism
I don’t believe that sexism or pay inequity is an excuse to not succeed. I navigated an extremely male dominated industry for a more than a decade and did very well in sales and management. Although I have experienced being paid less for the same job, I have never felt like a victim, and I have never felt voiceless. But I am a realist, and I know how tough the world is for women leaders in business; women represent just shy of 23 percent of directors on Fortune 100 boards. I know how hard my daughter will have to work to get to a position of power if she chooses the business world for her career path.
It is my duty to arm her with weapons to overcome the additional obstacles that will lay in her way. I intend on doing that by filling her with enough confidence to make it through her harrowing teenage years. I talk and think a lot about what happens to girls as they age – what society does to crush their souls and take away their voice. It is my goal to build my daughter’s confidence up around her voice as much as I can so she can somehow make it to adulthood with it. I don’t want her to have to spend 10 years trying to find it.
That means that I continually tell her how superior women are. How smart, intuitive, and able to lead teams. I talk to her ad nauseam about standing up for what’s right and against what’s wrong. I tell her that some people won’t like her for doing that. I am very, very honest with her about the people who don’t like me for doing exactly that. And I show her that it is FINE to live with some people not liking you… even if it’s the sexist prick that lives across the street who loves to talk to others about what a bitch I am. When he slinks by our house, head down, I fix my gaze on him. She watches him afraid to make eye contact with me. I let her see me be ok with making men like him uncomfortable.
I make sure she knows the good men too. Because her father is so sporadically in her life, I make sure that she has plenty of good men, good fathers, men who respect women, in her life. I make sure that she spends time around couples who mutually respect each other because she isn’t witnessing that at home in our single-mom family. I spend too much money for her to follow her passion, horseback riding because girls who ride horses gain confidence in their physical strength.
I’ve been called out for teaching her that girls are better than boys, and I’m ok with that too. At 8 years old she’s already been told countless times on the playground that girls aren’t as good as boys. Little boys she has grown up with – one who was her very best friend – have told her that she isn’t “tough enough,” or as smart as they are because of her gender. I arm her to counterbalance the waves of sexism that are already lapping at her self-confidence and will build into a tsunami by the time she reaches college. I am arming her by any means necessary with enough confidence and self-belief to battle through her late teens and early twenties and come out the other side as an adult woman who doesn’t have to spend years dissecting her own self-esteem issues in order to have a healthy self-image.
There are those who are critical of my approach. They tell me that I am reinforcing the gender divide – that we won’t get to true equality if women take my approach. After 25 years in the workforce where mansplaining is still going strong and women make .76 on the dollar for equal work, I’m ok with that. I’m raising my daughter to succeed in this world, not the one we, and our mothers and grandmothers, have been dreaming of for so many, many years.
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