I am the mother of three girls. Sometimes, when people learn this, they raise their eyebrows and express sympathy for me, as though having three girls is a bad thing, like it’s harder, in some universally understood way, than having three boys. As one of three sisters myself, I see no need for such negativity. So although I may not always manage to get these words out in response to the eyebrow-raisers, I’m saying them now:
It’s good to have girls. It’s good to be a girl. Girls. Are. Good.
I do appreciate the enormity of the task I have before me. To raise girls who will love and respect themselves, despite all of the obstacles society will try to throw at them, is going to be hard. But that’s because society makes it hard. And who makes society? We do. The grown-ups. We choose to produce, purchase, and promote the toys, media, and clothes that make it hard to be a girl, and we could make other choices. Because our girls are good. And they are worth it.
I can’t control the world that my girls are, more and more each day, becoming aware of. I can, however, raise my own voice to say a few things that might help my daughters (and those pesky eyebrow-raisers) to understand why it’s good to be a girl:
- Your anatomy need not define you
Whoever you are, whatever your sex or size or shape, you are deserving of love, respect, and fulfillment in your life. You are brain and bone and heart and muscle, and those things are just as much a part of who you are as any other parts. Being a girl can mean whatever you want it to mean. The fact that you are a girl may inspire you, shape you, or even plague you, but it does not have to define you, and it should never keep you from living the life you want to live.
- Being emotional can be a kind of strength, not a weakness
Emotional girls are observant. They feel deeply and love fiercely. If we support and encourage them enough, one day they will dazzle the world with their brilliance, leaving it more just and compassionate in their wake. And if you’re not a particularly emotional girl, that’s okay too. You don’t have to be emotional just because you’re a girl. Men are not from Mars and women are not from Venus. The lines that divide us are so much more flexible than that.
- Happiness has nothing to do with being thin, or pretty
You have the ability to find your passion and use it to enrich not only your own life, but the lives of other people as well. Do what you love and don’t worry too much about what your outsides look like. If you want to wear makeup and work out because those things make you feel good, then great! But you don’t ever have to do those things for anyone else. Your body is meant to be a source of strength, not strife. Confidence in yourself, not perfect abs, will bring you happiness.
- Women’s equality in this country has come a long way, but the work is not finished
Equality for women was hard-won in the United States, and it should never be taken for granted. It is, in fact, an ongoing battle. Be a part of it in a way that is meaningful to you. Realize that there are women all over the world who do not have the opportunities that we have, and respect them by making the most of what you’ve been given. There are also women all over the world setting fantastic examples of leadership, strength, and wisdom. Learn from them. Make the choices you think are best for your life, and appreciate your ability to do so.
Being a girl is neither greater than nor less than being a boy; it is simply good, and as I watch my three girls grow and struggle and learn on their way to becoming women, I’ll teach them to scream out loud with me: it’s good to be a girl.