My nine-year-old daughter told me the other day that a boy at school often called her “bossy.” I asked her if “bossy” was a term ever used about a boy at her school and she said no.
I told her that didn’t seem fair to me, and she agreed, since, in her words, “boys can be even bossier than girls most of the time.”
Words are powerful things. Words can inspire us, but they can also rob us of our self-esteem. Well-meaning parents can tell little girls they should "be nice" rather than be adventurous or daring. They can praise them for being "pretty" instead of "smart."
I know as a mother myself that I can focus too much on looks. My youngest daughter hates combing her hair. In fact, would never do it without serious intervention from me, but the other day I realized I probably spend more time focused on whether or not her hair is combed than I do talking about what she wants to be when she grows up.
Where we focus our attention matters.
Last year, a dad took a photo of a girls’ magazine next to a boys’ magazine at a local library to highlight this very issue. The girls’ magazine told girls about fashion and encouraged them to “Wake Up Pretty!” The boys’ magazine told them to “Focus on Your Future” with jet planes, police badges, firefighter helmets and microscopes.
Today, October 11, marks the Day of the Girl, an international day of observance created in 2012 by the United Nations to highlight gender inequality around the world. Today, over 130 million girls across the globe didn’t go to school, and many millions more braved long commutes only to arrive at schools that lacked books and teachers. The challenges girls face around the world are real, and the challenges don’t disappear here at home in the United States. Our girls may go to schools, but many aren’t safe there—some attend schools in crime-ridden neighbors, and others, even in affluent ones, find themselves the victims of sexual harassment.
I believe the fight towards equality starts with the words we use and with how we talk to our daughters AND our sons. That’s why I am launching the The Gutsy Girl Persisted Box, a box for girls and tweens to encourage them to follow their dreams. The shirt included in the box shows that Girl Power isn’t just an empty phrase, it’s backed up by women doctors, women judges, and women astronauts. I want my daughters to know it’s more important to be strong and smart than pretty and nice, that being bossy is JUST fine, because being bossy now, means being a Girl Boss later.
It’s a message I want to give to my daughters early and often.