So I’m 20 weeks (halfway through my pregnancy) and have discovered that the beautiful little baby growing in my belly, is a girl. However, to be honest, I had always imagined myself having boys, as I felt (perhaps naively) that it would be easier. I know parents-to-be aren’t “supposed” to suffer from gender disappointment, but secretly they do. People say “Why does it matter, as long as it’s healthy?”. Whilst I agree with that statement and at the end of the day no matter what, I will love that baby with my whole heart and soul, some people have their reasons.
My notion of wanting to just raise boys probably stems from the fact that I am one of six girls in my family. Having five sisters I know all too well the social dramas, hormonal changes, conformable pressures, pop culture influences and self-esteem issues a young woman is exposed to and really struggles with. Although I know and understand that boys too can also experience these things. I do feel that in regards to things like the media, which can have a major influence, girls are slightly more targeted and thus can be more exposed to, or pressurised by what certain marketing channels are portraying. In a world that is currently driven by glossy magazines, talentless reality “stars” and social media, I worry how I will help my daughter combat a world whose media is not only constantly promoting superficial beauty, but glorifying the sexual objectification of young women.
Women are endlessly bombarded by all sorts of beauty products that promise to make them “look better”. Not to mention the constant stream of provocative images that are being flaunted by magazines, celebrities and music videos. These things alone are teaching our girls that there is a social standard of how women should look, and that sexually personifying your body can earn you kudos. I mean, we all know the negative body image ramifications these certain forms of media are perpetuating. How many teenage girls (even tweens) do you see on Instagram or Facebook posting seductive selfies? You see these poor girls that are scantily clad, posing with pouty lips, face slapped up with make-up to look like they’re five years older, just so they can measure how much people “like” them. These days you can even use different types of filters, apps and Photoshop tools to cosmetically tweak your photos, so that you don’t even end up looking like you. And yes, there are grown women out there doing the same, so it begs the question: Why are we so god damn afraid of people seeing who we really are?! In the good ol’ days you took a photo and what you saw was what you got. No smoke and mirrors to hide behind or deceive others. Young women these days are being taught to obsess over their physical image and be less authentic versions of themselves!
Worryingly, teenage girls and young women these days look up to people like Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus. I mean WTF? The thing that scares me the most about people like “Kimmy K” being a role model, is that she didn’t have an actual talent or intellectual brain to start with. Yet she’s a (and I use the next word extremely loosely… like diarrhoea loose) “star”. Sure Miley Cyrus had a career at an early age, but how far did her “talent” get her until she felt the need to strip down to her nipple tassels and g-banger?
Yeah the media has caught on a little and there are campaigns to positively empower young women. Not to mention there are strong, positive female role models that are featured in the media out there like Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai and Alicia Keys (FYI, loving her movement #NoMakeup http://www.lennyletter.com/style/a410/alicia-keys-time-to-uncover/). I just think we still have quite a way to go. By the time my baby girl is starting to tread her treacherous teenage years, will we still be living in a self-obsessed culture that glorifies superficiality? Probably. It could even be safe to say it’s getting worse. The media plays such a big part in our lives, so what do I do as a parent to try and limit its negative impact on my child? Here’s what!
As a parent it is my responsibility to guide my children and lead by example. As a mother I will promise to be a strong and positive role model for my daughter. I will promise to show her what is real and what is not in a world that can be so fake. I will not criticise my looks or my body (she’ll never catch me saying I’m fat), I will love myself and show that I’m comfortable in my own skin and that is where true confidence comes from. She will understand looks are only skin deep and those who measure your worth by them have no self-worth of their own. That intelligence and knowledge is far more powerful, will carry you further and is forever. That leading a healthily lifestyle is the way forward and will make you feel good about yourself inside and out. That self-obsession will lead to loneliness and feeling worthless, and genuinely caring for others will lift you up and make you shine. I will show her how to be strong when others try to tear her down and that in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt; “No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. That to truly make it through tough times, you need to lean on the love and support of those close to you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, they are inevitable. The trick is to try not to make them more than once. My dear child when you leave this earth what will be your legacy? Mine will be that I have instilled all that is truly beautiful about this world, in you.