Feminism and Raising Daughters (Part I): Why Such Girl Anxiety?

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TDBy Tiffany D'Souza

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]I[/dropcap] recently read an article in a feminist magazine about raising daughters, and it stirred up my inner thoughts and emotions. At first, it was hard to believe what I was reading given the advancements and strides women are making in many areas. But after the first few paragraphs I started to feel less like a stranger to the words on the pages. Instead of cursing the minds of the blissfully ignorant, I absorbed this information and I internalized it.

For days, I pondered over this absurd notion of what the world would look like if it only consisted of men and no women. I wondered about how certain countries around the globe consciously choose to bear sons over daughters. In some cultures, sons are treated akin to Gods; whereas daughters, they are just a burden to be forgotten. They are mistreated. They are indispensable and eventually made to disappear into the shadows of patriarchal thinking. The hardest part is digesting that this as a reality for many girls and women in the 21st century.

After much deliberation, I concluded, that despite the struggles that have been triumphed over, what I read was not new information and neither did it come as a surprise to me. It’s not just a generational thing – the prejudice is alive and well, and probably staring at you in the face, or sitting beside you at the office.

While reading the article, I identified with several of the author’s experiences. Although I’m not a mother, I was glad to discover I was not the only one having these thoughts, questions, and emotions that have been boggling my mind for some time now.[divider type="dotted" spacing="10"]

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]I[/dropcap]n an article for Herizon Magazine, author Deborah Ostrovsky explores the controversies of raising daughters in a sexist world surrounded by sexist connotations. From renowned philosophers such as Simone de Beauvoir to the common man and woman, she discusses society’s sense of entitlement to scrutinize parents, especially mothers, for having a baby girl. Having a baby girl is not wrong, nor illegal, but largely still frowned upon. I know what you are thinking, this concept is supposed to be outdated and done away with, right? Sadly, this is not the case.

In many countries, including Canada and the U.S., research has shown a preference for sons over daughters. In Europe, there is still a slight preference for sons over daughters for the first-born child, or in families with uneven numbers. In some Arabic-speaking countries and China preferring a son can entail its own pejorative terminology.  [pullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]As a result, one lesson I did learn is that it takes a lot of strength and courage to be a woman. It takes even more strength and courage to raise a daughter. Women have to work twice as hard and twice as long to get to be where we want to be. [/pullquote]

So why this preference? Why are sons more glorified than daughters? Well, a lot of it simply boils down to personal opinions... Or does it?

Personal opinions aside, this male over female preference stems from the generalization that raising sons over daughters is supposed to be simpler. There is a misconception out there of that has parents believing daughters and girls are just too dramatic and they bring with them all kinds of baggage, especially related to pregnancy and sex.

Reading this infuriated me. This is not entirely true. Sure raising daughters is tough, but then again raising children in general is tough. You can understand and probably agree with my frustration when I say that girls and women seem to be the targets here.

I can’t seem to comprehend all this girl anxiety. I feel like we have come such a long way, and yet we are stuck in reverse. I can’t wrap my head around what is so mortally wrong to bear and raise a daughter.

Are women really a burden to society? Do we really bring that much despair and stress to our families?

Do we really deserve the inferior act of drooping heads, cowering over the beaten hearth resulting in embarrassment and shame? Do mothers and fathers still shudder over those three ominous words ‘It’s a girl’?

For over two weeks now, I couldn’t help having these thoughts on constant replay. Throughout this time, all I kept thinking about was what the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes in We Should All Be Feminists stating, “We have evolved. But our ideas of gender have not evolved very much.”[divider type="dotted" spacing="10"]

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]E[/dropcap]very day, I set out to catch a bus to work. On my daily commute, I cross paths with all kinds of females. Women on their way to work; mothers taking their children to school; wives who are the sole care provider and homemaker; young girls giggling in packs, the enthusiastic learner who sits in the corner with a book in her hand, the elderly women with their grocery bags chatting to glory despite the wee early hours.

These are not just any women; these are strong capable women. These are women with rich and thriving stories. These are contributing members to society. These women are injecting indubitable gender revolution and empowerment everyday into the very core of our culture. These women are holding up Half The Sky as authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn would label it.

It occurred to me that girls and women may have all kinds of music camps, computer training, science programs, boxing clubs, and shop classes to build self-esteem and confidence. But despite it all, all these projects and attempts seem minor compared to the constant sexual harassment of women and girls, inequality in the workplace, and the systematic marginalization of this significant group. After reading this article, I felt like part of our fight is not yet over. It still feels like we are fighting for our recognition and our place in this world.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]

As a result, one lesson I did learn is that it takes a lot of strength and courage to be a woman. It takes even more strength and courage to raise a daughter. Women have to work twice as hard and twice as long to get to be where we want to be. To educate a daughter is not an easy task for sure, but it surely is a rewarding one.

Take me for example, my life would have been very different today had my parents prized the birth of a son over a daughter. My life could have included for a very different turn of events if they thought similarly to the parents in the article, but here I am. I am standing tall and free; ready to face any challenge that comes my way. This way of thinking is all owing to my parents for not treating me as a subordinate creature that needed keeping out of sight. Instead, they filled my life with love and raised me no differently to my brother. They provided me with the same opportunities and told me to go forth and flourish, which is exactly what I did and what I plan to do with my children regardless of their sex.

I am extremely proud, blessed and grateful to be a woman. I am very fortunate to have parents that have supported me all my life and have encouraged me to reach for the stars. My parents have been my rock, my guiding source of strength and the reason who I am today.

Ultimately, I believe in myself, as well as something bigger outside of me. I hope all parents recognize the worth and beauty of raising a daughter. The most important thing is that raising a child, male or female, is truly a special gift. We need more strong women in this world and we certainly could always use the ally of a strong man as well.