Friday, February 25, 2011

The Women

So, somehow I got on this kick recently of reading books about gender and gender-related issues. It started when I was in the parenting section looking for books on weaning (which maybe I'll discuss at some point in the future, maybe not :P ) and a title leapt out from among the sea of titles:  The Way of Boys: Promoting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Boys. I thought, hey, I have a little boy. This could be interesting. So I read it, and dang but it was. Fascinating. It gave me so much to think about, made my mind feel engaged again, and mostly it encouraged and uplifted me. You wouldn't think a book all about how tough it is to be a little boy would do that, but it did. It gave me a lot of hope for my little guy and his future and all the joy we're going to have navigating it together. Here's a picture of my cutie, just to break up this text-heavy post:

So, then I was talking to my awesome and well-read sister-in-law about it and she mentioned another book in a similar vein: Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men. This one was just as interesting, though maybe less uplifting. In fact it made me feel a bit panicky about the schools my little boy will some day go to and the video games he will certainly want to play and even the plastics we have all around us (endocrine inhibitors, holy crap! I'm almost ready to throw out everything plastic in our house... :/ ). But even with the slightly panic-inducing content, I felt like it was a hugely beneficial read. I felt like I learned a lot about the plight of boys, even if I didn't feel as equipped to aid in that plight at the end of the book as I did at the end of The Way of Boys. Mostly because I felt Dr. Sax seemed to be pushing for changes in education, society, and psychiatry that I just really don't have all that much control over.

Anyway, all this reading about boys got me wondering the obvious, well - what about girls? If I read a book about the difficulties of navigating life as a female, would I find myself in it somewhere? So, back to the library I trucked (gosh I love libraries, but that's a post for a different day). This time I found Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters. I'm only on the second chapter, but I've already found a lot to think about. First, I find it interesting that in all these books about gender that I've read (yes, all two and a beginning :P ),  there seems to be an element of competition. When they bring up the other gender, all three of these authors have said something to the effect of "We recognize it's hard to be an x, but really it's harder to be a y. This annoyed me. Why do we have to downplay the problems of girls in order to help boys, or vice versa? Ridiculous.

But, that's a sidebar. What I'm really wanting to get at in this post is one little sentence that Dr. Deak wrote in Girls Will Be Girls. I can't for the life of me find the book, but she said something to the effect that when girls were asked to list their role models, their lists were only half as long as a boy's list would be. On average. Something like that, she said it so much better. Wish I could find my book.

It got me thinking - who were my role models as a young girl? I sort of came up blank. My heroes were Abraham Lincoln and Helen Keller. Yep. Truly. But now I realize those weren't really role models. I never planned on being a leader of a country in crisis or a deaf and blind woman courageously navigating a dark and silent world. Those were not, and still are not, roles I anticipated filling. So, then who were my role models?

Well, I didn't keep a journal and I have a terrible memory, but here's a list I came up with of women I can remember looking up to when I was a girl: Anne Shirley, Corrie Ten Boom, Jo March, Beth March, DJ from Full House, Storm, and Kirsten (the American Girl) . . . at the moment I can't really think of anyone else.

I know who my role models are now. And while my childhood list was made up mostly of fictional characters (they called me The Girl with the Book, what can I say?), my list these days is made up of real women. Real, awesome, women. I'd like to take some time and post about them over the next few days. I'd love it if you'd read and comment along. If you got this far, I'm impressed. 

What about you? Who were your role models when you were a girl?


Shirley said...

I find it interesting there are books about these things. It is scary how a lot of boys are growing up. I'll have to read the first one you mentioned. And I love all the pictures of Isaac! What a cutie! And I don't really have role models. Mostly it's my family and other strong women who learn balance in all the important aspects of our lives.

Evan and Holly said...

I don't know that I really had any. Although I didn't keep a journal or anything either. It was such a revolving door of women, many of whom I didn't like. Fictionally, I liked Laura Ingles, but I never planned on having a life like hers, so maybe it is more like your Helen Keller example. Hmmm??? I agree with why do we have to compare and one up on gender? I mean, Evan and I even do it in our marriage sometimes, although mostly in fight. I.e., who works harder who has more responsibility......

George and Ruth said...

One comment jumped out: that women/men, girls/boys always seem to be competing. "When they bring up the other gender, all three of these authors have said something to the effect of "We recognize it's hard to be an x, but really it's harder to be a y. This annoyed me. Why do we have to downplay the problems of girls in order to help boys, or vice versa? Ridiculous" Yes, it is ridiculous, but truly it seems that that it is alway either one or the other. Fictional example: In the "Da Vinci Code" Mary was the Divine Feminine whom everyone seem to be protecting the identity of or the memory of or something of, and Jesus was down graded to a mere mortal man. Either men rule or women do. A patriarchal or matriarchal society but never a combination of not both. Marriage is the work of spouses becoming equal saving powers for each other. Sure men and women are different. That is where working together comes in. We shouldn't do things the 'male' way or the 'female' way. We should work together to find the correct answer. What is the correct answer? Something that can only be discovered by listing to the opposite sex and moving forward only when both sexes are on the same page. That page will be better than either the female or the male way. Just Saying.

Good thoughts. At least one of those books is on my reading list. Darn, but that list is growing everyday and I only read maybe a book a week. Sad.

George and Ruth said...

Another thought. Women stories haven't been told for as long as men stories have. With internet stories are being told and life is changing fast. If we do not know the stories of our past (individual and collective) we will not realize our full potential. I remember the question of who is your hero coming up several times in various church classes as I was growing up. Most girls just said their hero was their mother. Good answer, but I suspect that that might have been the only women they really knew about, aside from a few Hollywood women and how can you admit that Hollywood is you hero in church.

Buffy said...

I wonder how much of the lack of role models has to do with the way girl's brains work or with what our society expects of them. I know that for me, my entire list of "things to do" in my life was over at 25. I got a degree, I got married and I had a baby. I never consciously thought of myself as the type just to grow up and get married, but looking back and as my last child is getting ready to go to school and I am ready to add something to my life, I am realizing how completely lacking in role models I am still when it comes to women doing something that doesn't involve children. I discovered that all the shows I absolutely love are the ones with truly strong women. I crave that...I crave that example in my life of an assertive, confident woman out there in the world. When it comes to the real world...I have no examples of that. Sure there are a lot of females in the world place, but a great many of them are still in "female dominated occupations." Granted, those female dominate occupations are much broader than they use to be, but I long for a day when most fields are just mixed. I wonder sometimes if the shift in male/female dominated specialties is something akin to male flight.

Also, you totally hit on the reason why I haven't read any books about how to raise daughters. I am scared. I am scared of reading the books and realizing that I have already totally screwed up my daughters, don't have the financial means to raise a good daughter, or that upset that it is just so hard to raise a girl in this world because our cultural norms seem to be against us.


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