Girl Power!

May 1, 2016

  
I believe one of the most important responsibilities I have as the father of a daughter is to instill a sense of confidence and belonging in her. Sadly, we live in a world where women are still often treated as second-class citizens. Even in the good ol’ USA, women make less money than men, still can’t join certain clubs and organizations, and continue to be the butt of inappropriate (yet widely accepted) jokes. I hope things change by the time my six-year-old is an adult, but I want her to be prepared to stand up for herself and expect nothing less than equal treatment in the future.

My son is twelve. He’s a great kid, but he’s also at an age where he tends to occasionally be a jerk. As a matter of fact, he’s usually a jerk and is exceptionally good at it. As older brothers (and sisters) tend to do, he picks on his much younger sister quite often. I picked on my little sister at that age (and maybe still do a little now), so sometimes I don’t do as good of job of getting on him about it as I probably should. I do, however, try to consistently remind my daughter that she should stand up for herself at all times, regardless of the circumstances. That being said, she typically gets upset and simply tells on her brother when he is mistreating her in some way.

Today was different. My youngest hadn’t even had a chance to take a bite of the banana with peanut butter (a rare healthy snack that she actually loves) that I had just made for her, when the jerk grabbed it and took a bite. My daughter stood up from the table, narrowed her eyes on her big brother, and sternly said, “Listen, if you want some of this there are bananas and peanut butter right here in the kitchen. Make yourself one, but stay away from mine!” My son and I were both totally taken off-guard. “Um, okay, I’m really sorry,” he genuinely muttered. I was just speechless. Slowly, my daughter turned her fierce gaze towards me. “This is girl power, dad. Get used to it.” Luckily I was able to keep from laughing — as it was very funny — but I couldn’t hide my pride. This kid’s gonna be just fine. 

There’s a quote By William James that I like to keep in mind when it comes to parenting:

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

I truly hope my fellow fathers of daughters are doing all they can to empower their young girls. Our generation has an opportunity to make great strides towards equality for our children. Let’s work together to make it happen.

Advertisements

  
Not so long ago, a little girl named Rose was growing up in an old, run-down, dirty neighborhood. It seemed like it was always cloudy. Her neighbors were grumpy and rarely came outside.

As Rose walked to and from school each day, she passed a vacant lot near her home. Her parents had told her about the lot many times. There used to be a beautiful house here, with big trees and a colorful flower garden. But now it was just a patch of hard, cracked dirt with only some weeds growing.

Walking home one day, however, Rose noticed something different in the lot. Something other than weeds was coming from the ground. As Rose got closer, she realized it was a small bush with one tiny flower. It was a rose.

“Look, a rose, just like me!” she said aloud.

The rose was wilted and in terrible need of help. Rose ran home and returned with a large cup of water, which she slowly poured around the bush. The water flowed through the cracks in the dirt.

The next morning Rose woke up early and hurried to the lot. She couldn’t believe what she saw. The little rose had grown — and there was a second flower, a daisy, growing next to the rosebush!

Every day when she got home from school, Rose filled a watering can and headed to the lot to water her flowers. Every morning there were more flowers to see. Red ones, purple ones, yellow, green, pink, orange — so many beautiful colors that were nowhere to be found in the neighborhood. There were roses, daisies, daffodils, tulips, and some strange types of flowers that Rose had never even seen before.

After just two weeks, there were far too many flowers for a watering can. Rose’s dad gave her a long garden hose that she would lug to the lot each day. And with more water came even more flowers!

People started to stop and stare at the new flower garden. Rose’s mom found an old bench in her basement, and painted it bright yellow. She put the bench on the sidewalk in front of the garden so people could relax and enjoy the scenery.

Oddly, things began to change in the neighborhood. People started painting their houses, fixing broken windows, cleaning up trash, and planting flowers of their own. Before long the old gray neighborhood had color everywhere. People who used to keep to themselves inside were now outside working on their lawns, playing with their kids, walking their dogs, and saying “hello” to people they passed on the street. The neighbors were getting to know each other and were becoming friends. Someone — no one was exactly sure who — even put another bench, this one painted red, in front of the flower garden. So many people were coming to admire the garden, that one bench just wasn’t enough.

Rose continued her watering every day. More and more flowers grew, until you couldn’t see the ground at all, just flowers everywhere! Kids and grownups alike came from all over the town to see the garden. They also noticed how nice the rest of the neighborhood looked. Soon, other neighborhoods were doing the same thing, until the whole town become something to see. It wasn’t long before people started coming from far and wide to see the flower garden. They then went home and started their own gardens.

Folks from all over the map started adding color and beauty to their own towns. They were working very hard, yet they were happier than ever before. People had something to be proud of.

All because of one little Rose.

“I hope the fathers and mothers of little girls will look at them and say, ‘Yes, women can.'” – Dilma Rousseff

Hillary Clinton is running for president, and I couldn’t be happier.  Wait, don’t stop reading!  This isn’t a political endorsement, per se.  I’m glad she’s running because I have a wife, sister, mother, step-mother, mother and sister-in-laws, aunts, female cousins, nieces, and many female friends; all of whom I respect and want the best for.  More importantly, I have a five year old daughter, and I believe a female presidential candidate can help her, and all women, have a better future.  I’m hopeful that the more our society is exposed to women doing things traditionally seen as “men’s work,” the more likely we are to embrace gender equality.

Although it is still not frequent enough, I am noticing more and more discussion about gender inequality in the workplace.  This is much-needed conversation.  Depending on the source, women earn about $0.77 for every $1.00 earned by men.  Last year, the United States (a country that we Americans like to think of as the best at everything) was ranked 20th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.  If you’re wondering, no, this ranking is not good.  We are lagging behind some real powerhouse countries, including Rwanda, Nicaragua, Latvia, and yes, even Canada…  This is a national disgrace, and I personally don’t understand why it continues.  Is it male insecurity, ignorance, fear?  I’m not trying to belittle men at all (I’m usually on your side), I just sincerely want to know what a man can do better than a woman, other than fertilizing eggs and peeing standing up (not necessarily in that order)?  Sure, some guys will make an argument about men being physically stronger, but this is rarely relevant, and not even always true.  I’m not ashamed to admit that my wife can occasionally open jars that I can’t (although I do suffer from some minor arthritis…).

Pardon me, this really isn’t something to joke about.  I spent 19 years working with men and women in the construction industry — both in the field and in management positions — and see no reason why a capable man should make more money or have more opportunities than a capable woman working in the same role.  Heck, maybe women should earn more?  I’ve experienced firsthand some of the positive traits that women bring to the workplace, which men typically don’t — or won’t.  For example, a can-do attitude, a more competitive drive (perhaps both of these can be attributed to a chip being on many women’s shoulders, and who can blame them?), and, thankfully, more compassion — something many guys seem to have been taught to hide for some reason (but all secretly want).  Plus, it is proven that women have a higher pain threshold than men, which could result in fewer sick days.  What is a debilitating hemorrhoid to us fellas, may just be little more than an annoying pain in the ass to our female counterparts. 

We have many societal problems in the U.S. that need to be addressed.  However, I am a stay at home dad with a young daughter, so gender equality is very high on my list.  My wife’s earning potential is very important to our family now, and my daughter’s right to unlimited future potential — both monetarily and opportunity-wise — will never cease to be important to me.  I look at this girl and see all the promise in the world; just as much as I see in her older brother.  I want them both to be equally successful (however “success” ends ups up being defined by them), and expect that any other dad with both a son and daughter would agree.

Win or lose, I hope that Clinton’s presidential bid is at least a catalyst for narrowing the gender gap.  Unfortunately, we may be years away from ending inequality, but putting women in powerful positions under the media spotlight could go a long way towards helping make equality the norm.  In the meantime, I implore all parents, but particularly fathers, to let your daughters know they can do anything they set their minds to; certainly anything their male counterparts are capable of.  Let’s empower our young girls as early as possible so they learn to believe in themselves.  Let’s help give them the confidence to stand up to inequality — for their sake, and for the sake of our nation.

Say it with me men:  “Yes, women can.”

My daughter can do anything she sets her mind to.