This annoyed me yesterday. Because it’s stupid, banal, and wrong on many levels.
I don’t often write scathing posts but any article suggesting that I’m unlikely to present a clear, cohesive opinion purely because I’m female is, frankly, asking for it.
How to parent girls: my guide to health and happiness, by Hadley Freeman.
(Freeman is female.)
OK, with a title like that, I’m expecting a reasoned argument or two and the article starts off by implying that we as a society are fond of scaremongering — leaping from one gender-specific bandwagon to another, e.g. boys’ literacy warnings, girls’ diet disorders, and the like — as if the world has ever been a safer place. Intelligent comment is made about ‘rising rates’ of e.g. anorexia — is this a rising incidence, or increased reporting rate?
Or as Freeman says,
I’m always wary when I read about the “unprecedented” rising rates of mental illness, self-harming and eating disorders among young girls and women due to exterior factors such as cultural messages. First, it seems likely that such rising figures are at least partly down to parents and GPs getting better at spotting the signs of a problem…
Good point, and one often missed. For the first few paragraphs, I was nodding. Freeman then states that children react differently to external stimuli and no single parenting method can be guaranteed to work for a specific child… and yet, she goes on to present her ‘programme for raising happy and healthy females’, which is this:
- Discourage vegetarian diets until the age of sixteen.
- Check movies for Smurfette syndrome and the validation of men (to the detriment of women).
- Because females are often terrible at saying what they mean, ask your daughters questions like this:
“Do you like that dress or are you only wearing it because other girls at school are wearing something similar?”
“I’m sorry Violet is being weird with you at school, but do you even care, seeing as you never liked her anyway?”
“That’s great that Robert asked you on a date, but do you actually like him, or did you say yes only because he asked?”
FREEMAN! Come here, a WORD, please… and bring your editor…
1. This is a newspaper. People will read it.
2. It’s not 1983 any more. We’ve had Margaret Thatcher, Germaine Greer, and Kill Bill: Smurfette is dead. And, for the record, most men are not anti-women.
3. Most women and girls communicate effectively. However, if you persist in asking a child neurotic questions, they will grow to expect their decisions and opinions to be second-guessed. Will this enhance their communication skills, or create hidden agendas? Have a think. The best way to teach a child to be clear and concise, and confident enough to express their opinions, is to be clear and concise yourself, and to acknowledge their opinion as expressed. Take them at their word, and they will learn to be careful with their words. (With the proviso that, yes, there will be age-appropriate filters before the child is allowed to act on their opinions, such is parenting…)
4. THAT is your parenting guide? Veggie diets, men and Smurfs in movies, and dress choice for a date? You’re not going to talk about community — moral and social responsibility? Friendship, respect or trust? Exercise and balanced nutrition? Politics? Global resources or the environment? The space program? Sex or reproduction? Education and economy? History? Travel? Personal hygiene? No — you want your daughter to be accepted as an intellectual giant and a balanced individual, so your three key parenting issues, as published by the Guardian online, are diets, not being a Smurfette with men, and dress choice. FREEMAN, take a look at your right palm — now slap yourself on the forehead with it.
And finally, to the eds:
5. Enough of the sexist tripe in our media. Purlease. Because we’re sentient beings, and because girls aren’t stupid, and boys aren’t mean.
Rant done. Thank you for listening.