"What a Little Girl is Made Of"

Have you heard it lately? It's been happening for decades, but only recently has it been common. I'm talking about how parents describe their little girls, from young ages.

No, I'm actually not talking about the sex-driven descriptors (hot, p0rn star, etc.) that many advertisers are now plastering girls' t-shirts and underwear with. And I'm not talking about the boy-demeaning words & phrases we see all too often either (smarter than boys, girls rule, etc.). Nope, I'm actually talking about the tendency to label little girls as "tough," "independent," "strong," and "rough." I've heard it from friends, on TV, and read it on many blogs; it's everywhere...moms bragging about a daughter's toughness.

First Peter describes women as "the weaker vessel", not meaning that we are not spiritually strong- but that we have a tendency toward physical and emotional weakness. And it's true. No matter what culture you are looking at, across the board, it is accurate to say that men are physically stronger than women. So why are we actively trying to "buck" the truth by encouraging our daughters to be something that they are not built to be?

And let me just clarify: it's not so much the words I'm concerned about, as much as the frequency that these comments are made, and the intention of the words used. I'm sure I've said something along the lines that our daughter is going to be tougher than she otherwise would have been if she hadn't grown up with two older brothers. That's one thing, and I certainly am not talking about speech control or not stating the truth.

But here's what I'm hearing too much: moms of little baby girls and toddlers, praising them for their toughness, independence, and "sassy"ness, all things that are either boyish or sinful. Are these really the things we want to praise and promote as desirable to our little girls? And can we really label a two-year-old as a "tomboy"?

Isn't every two-year-old a little wobbly, prone to bruises, curious, and more rough than they should be? That's where
teaching comes in. To little ones--girls AND boys, surely we say, "we must be gentle" when we see a little kitty cat or a newborn. This is the age where they begin to learn about soft touching, not hitting, that it hurts to scrape your knee, that other people don't respond well when we're agressive, etc. Boy or girl, these are all things that happen around age two or three. So why would some moms be bragging about "my little tomboy", when really all they have is a little girl who is a toddler?

This is one more sign of the after-effects of over-the-top feminism unleashed in the everyday American home. Too many young moms are encouraging their daughters (by their words, even if they don't realize it) to be "rough and strong"... words we use to describe a combat fighter, fireman, or policeman.

Why are we promoting toughness to our daughters? Why are we proud of encouraging our daughters toward masculinity? Why is it OK to encourage a tear-prone little boy to "buck up" and to be a "strong man", but it's not OK to encourage a fall-prone (or physically agressive) little girl to be more gentle, more kind, and more ladylike?

Any thoughts?


the blackwells said...

What if Maranatha wants to grow up to be a fireman or policeman (or should I say policewoman)?

Just curious...

heather said...

Excellent post! There is so much truth in what you wrote. One problem is that we, even as Christians, have been influenced by feminism. We have bought the lie that there must be something better than embracing the role and qualities of a Godly woman. When we encourage masculine qualities in our daughters we are, in effect, dishonoring God and His created order.

It is ironic how we have been "liberated by feminism to take on masculine qualities." What a lie. This is not true liberation. According to my dictionary, liberate means to "to free from bondage or restraint or to raise to equal rights and status." We have walked right into bondage and have not gained the freedom to be true women. There is now the expectation to reflect masculine qualities more and more. Instead of finding freedom, too often, women feel trapped by the expectation to be mom and to provide for the family in a masculine way that was never intended. That is not to say work is always wrong. The Proverbs 31 woman was quite a worker, but she worked within her God-ordained realm.

We need to encourage our daughters when they display the qualities that God loves. We need to encourage our sons and daughters in many similar areas, but also in some uniquely different areas. We need to encourage our daughters to be good helpers. We need to encourage them to have gentle and quiet spirits. We need to encourage them to look for ways to grow in wisdom (sons too on this one). We need to encourage them to joyfully serve others (again, sons too, but it will often look different for sons and daughters). And we, as moms or other "older women" need to model these attitudes. When we fail, we need to confess and get back on track.

We should not be raising wimpy daughters, but we should be raising daughters that are strong in the ways God values. The Bible shows strong, brave, courageous women as examples for us to follow.

This is a very timely topic and one I could write on and on about. I feel that I just scratched the surface on this.
Thank you for boldly raising this important topic.

Jess said...

In the world we live in, Maranatha can *literally* be anything she wants to be, and after age 18, there is nothing anyone can do about it, including me. Odds are good that she won't turn out to be a fire"fighter" or police "officer" (to use the PC terms), as the overwhelming majority in each of those fields is male. But again, there's nothing I can do to prevent her from becoming a firefighter.

Just as most parents of young sons would not encourage their sons toward ballet (even though there *are* men in professional ballets), I won't be encouraging Maranatha (or any other daughter I may be given) to pursue firefighting or policing as a career.

If at age 9, she declares that she "wants to be" a policewoman when she grows up, or if at age 7 I find her donning a sheriff's badge and apprehending criminals around the house, I won't be concerned... that's all fine and good (let's see, I think I wanted to be an astronaut and a pediatrician when I was 7 & 9... maybe I'm an amateur pediatrician???).

But I digress... if she started seriously talking about wanting to sign up for the police academy at age 18, we would talk openly and honestly about the physical and time demands of each of those professions, and encourage her toward professions that are suitable for her, given her personality and talents.

This would be an interesting quick query... stay tuned! :)

Jess said...

If she was insistent on becoming a police officer or law enforcement officer, my wife & I would talk to her and try to determine why she felt so strongly about it. Maybe God will have given her a strong sense of justice and a determination to defend the poor and easily exploited; these are biblically-based, God-given and God-honoring characteristics. I would encourage her not to limit herself to being a police officer but guide her in learning more about federal agencies (FBI, CIA, DEA, etc, etc). (Not that there is something base about being police officers; it's just so common, that that is what kids want to be. I don't think I've ever heard of a little kid saying, "I want to be in the FBI and bust survivalists in Idaho!")

The bottom-line for me would be to determine her motives for wanting to have a career that is typically a male-career. If it is for right reasons and she has prayed about and God is leading her to defend those who can't defend themselves, then I will trust God to lead her and protect her. If it was for wrong reasons, i.e. "I want to be tough", "I want to shoot guns", "I want to be a man!", then we would show her, again, what the Word has to say about men and women and the respective Godly-qualities that honor him. It all comes down to motive and heart-attitude.

Doug (Jessica's husband, answering on her Blogger account)

Mandi, Sean, Peyton and Dylan said...

Hmm, Jess, this really gave me some things to think about, as I would say I use some of those words to describe Peyton on occasion.

The fact is she IS independent, has been since she was 3 or 4 months old, when she didn't want to be rocked or held when sleepy OR when happy! I guess when I talk about her independence, I'm thinking of her bucking the system and becoming a crunchy homeschool mama who doesn't use birth control, rather than thinking of it as her fighting her role as a woman!

When I think of her as tough, I think of her up late nights with her babies without complaining, giving birth without interventions or epidurals and enjoying it.

When I think of her as being strong or rough, I see her working in her garden or cleaning her house without whining about the heat or the work involved.

And when I mention her spunk (not sure I would ever use "sass" in a positive way), I'm thinking of her fighting injustice, not afraid to speak her mind and defend those who are weaker than her. I'm thinking of her challenging her girlfriends not to conform to this world!

I'm really just thinking out loud here (not arguing) because I see your point, but part of me does celebrate those traits in my DD, and yet I agree with 99.9 percent of what you say in regards to the role of a woman in the home. I'm wondering if these things are truly at odds...

Dawn said...

Great post! This is an area that I've been contemplating lately, since I have a daughter who is about to turn 15 and another 9 yod.

I guess part of my dilema is how much do we push our daughters towards a career or do we just train for being a wife and mother? I guess I was fortunate to have had both training. I have a Master's degree and have worked in my field for a number of years, but feel that right now my true calling is being home for my family. (Although financially right now it looks like I may have to return to the work force, even though I don't really want to.)

Lots to think about.


Jess said...

Your reasoning is exactly what I had in mind when I said, "it's not so much the words I'm concerned about, as much as... the intention of the words used."

You are using the words strong, independent, and tough in the same way I would: to describe women I admire, and the kind of woman I'd love her to grow to be.

What I'm hearing too much though is those same terms used to laud a little girl who is not yet even two who has somehow already "decided" that she's not a girly girl. What I'm fed up with is these moms who refuse to dress their little girl in pink, or openly discuss how she's not a frilly girl, when the poor thing hasn't even had a chance to try being a girl yet.

She hasn't had a chance to dress up, play with dolls, and really be a girl yet, but her mom is already verbally pre-determining the course she'll go on.

That's my objection... certainly not having a daughter who thinks for herself and is emotionally and spiritually strong. I think those things are admirable and praiseworthy indeed.

I hope that clarifies things a bit.

Jess said...

Your question is an interesting one, and one I've been reading about a lot lately... I'll try to tackle it in a post soon. But let me just sum up here: we do not serve our daughters well to just *assume* they will be a wife and mother, or that once they are a wife and mother that they will never need a career.

I don't believe that every woman has to pursue the highest level of education she can possibly obtain, but I do think we should encourage useful educations for our daughters in particular. Educational opportunities that will be useful even if they do get married early in life and choose to stay home with their children. A good awareness of accounting, for example, would be an excellent field for a woman that would not significantly change from year to year, and she could keep up with varied computer programs from year to year, if ever she was going to re-enter the working world. She could also take advantage of tax season each year and run a small business from home if she desired.

Oh, bother. I'm just going to go ahead and do the post now. I've got a head full of ideas on this one! :)

Thanks for asking~

Mandi, Sean, Peyton and Dylan said...

Gotcha...I think I understand exactly what you're saying now.

just-a-mom said...

You know, you can encourage little girls to be feminine and play with dollies, but the fact is there are some personalities that would rather tumble and roughhouse with their brothers. Is it wrong to encourage that behavior? I don't think so, to a point. When the little girl is old enough to see "differences" in behavior of girls and boys (girl things vs boy-type things) are we as Christian parents responsible if we instill in our girls that they are as "tough" as their boy peers?
I think making the distinction of being a girl or woman is paramount to understanding how God intended woman's role to be. If we over indulge that toughness, do we make it harder for the daughter later to be her husband's helper and to see her role in the marriage clearly? That's it's not a competition to see who can do the most? To those little tough girls that grew up to fix their own broken sinks and repair their vehicle--great! But how does the husband see it? How a relationship works is on strengths and weaknesses of both sexes. Whether he cooks and she doesn't, whether she fixes and he cleans...it needs to be a complimentary pair.

That's how God created us.

Rambling here...just some thoughts.

Wish I had a better answer for you!

just a mom