Women in the United States have better opportunities than they ever have before, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Women are still paid less than men, face sexual harassment in the workplace, and are often questioned if they don’t want to be mothers. It’s our responsibility to empower the little girls in our lives, break through the glass ceiling, and raise a generation of women more empowered than ever before.
Books and games
There are lots of books out there designed specifically to empower little girls. One recent publication is Good Night Stories for Rebellious Girls, which features short biographies of women who have had a successful career or overcome major obstacles. The Uppity Women series does much of the same thing. These books are targeted toward girls with good reading and comprehension skills, but there are books targeted for toddlers and early elementary-aged girls as well. There are also toys that move away from traditional baby dolls and fashion dolls. There are also educational toys, such as periodic table building blocks, science lab sets, and fort building construction kits. Of course, no toy is ever “just” for girls or “just” for boys, but more and more companies are developing female dolls and figurines who are in positions of power and strength. You might buy the little girl in your life a female action figure, such as Rey from Star Wars. Engage in imaginative play. Dressing up as princesses is fun, but what about playing restauranteur or surgeon?
There’s a tendency in our culture to tell little girls how pretty they are. This is a fine compliment, but when it’s the only thing we ever tell them, we begin to promote the idea that prettiness is the most important quality for a woman to have. Instead, let’s focus on telling little girls how intelligent they are, how brave they are, and how kind they are. Let’s engage them in conversations and ask them what they’re reading, what their favorite games are, or what they want to be when they grow up. If the little girl in your life is a little older, help her volunteer with or visit something such as your regional cancer center or local library. Demonstrate to her that you value all of her positive qualities, not just her prettiness or cuteness.
They don’t have to pursue masculine ideas of success
All too often, women who want to be successful are forced to pursue the masculine ideas of success. We value these masculine ideals more than the feminine ones. We can prove this by looking at the double-standard between “women’s” roles and “men’s” roles. Women who wear pants to work are powerful; men who wear a skirt are sissies. Women who want to be at-home-moms are lauded; dads who want to stay at home are considered lazy. This subliminal shaming of men who want to express themselves along traditionally “feminine” lines shows just how “weak” we perceive feminine dreams and ideas of success to be. While it’s fabulous for women to wear pants, play sports, or do other “traditionally masculine” things, if she does want to wear dresses or have a career as a makeup artist, that’s fine, too! There are many different ways to be successful and empowered.