Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Imaginary Daughter

Sunday I attended an Oscar-viewing party with my boyfriend. I entered the pool ($5 entry), knowing full well that I'd be leaving the party before the Oscars were over. We carefully picked who we thought would win Best Actor, Best Director, etc. My boyfriend asked me if it was ok that we were leaving early: could we still win? I said yes. It was fine. I didn't bother checking with the organizer, because I didn't want to intrude.

I found out the next day that the winning ballot got 10 of 16 right. I looked at the duplicate copy of my own ballot -- 12 of 16 right. Hmm, I thought. I guess we had to stay. And then I went on with my life.

A couple days later, my boyfriend asked me how many categories the winner got right.

"Ten," I said.

"What?!" He got mad. "I thought you said it was ok if we left!"

I said that I just assumed. He said he wished I were more assertive.

Yeah, me too I suppose. But my reticence is such a part of me. I'm accustomed to coping with it myself, figuring out other ways to express myself and get my needs met. It's just interesting looking at it through someone else's eyes.

I imagine having a daughter. Age two. Age five. Age fifteen. How do I teach her to be confident? How do I teach her not to be afraid of others or of food? How do I make her feel important, always? How do I instill that which I lack?


Aki Mori said...

First of all you "lack" nothing. But putting that aside, I just saw an article in Huffingtonpost that I'm going to photocopy and pass out to female students at my middle school. It's called "The Trouble with Bright Girls":

I actually don't buy into the oft-repeated and unsupported conjecture stated in the piece, "Most likely, it has to do with the kinds of feedback we (girls) get from parents and teachers as young children." But I can overlook that because the general message and tone of the piece is really pertinent and important for girls.

So, if you're really worried about your future daughters, start filling up a file with articles like this! :-)

August said...

Ha, thanks Aki, and thanks for the article link. I'm less worried about intelligence than the area of social skills. I just imagine her picking up my neuroses.

I was reading the Salon's Cary Tennis response to a young man who was jealous of everyone who went to an Ivy League school. The man argued that those people all have great lives, exciting jobs, good income. Tennis replied that the only difference between those people and HIM wasn't in the quality of education. Rather it was that the Ivy Leaguers had received an unspoken PERMISSION to go for those big dreams--the exciting job, good income, etc. So this man, he had to give himself permission to also dream big.

I think you could use that ivy league/state school argument for men/women. While (generally speaking) women today are more educated, more skilled than their male counterparts, men are much more likely to be in positions of power. In my own library system, while the majority of workers and librarians are women, the branch managers are much more gender-balanced. Are men more likely to be hired as managers, or are women less likely to aspire to those positions?

Anyway, it's interesting to think about.

Tonja said...

I think we help our daughters (and sons) be confident by accepting them for exactly who they are (even if their strongest quality is the one we hate the most about ourselves).

We need to notice the things that are wonderful about them and support them in whatever their talents are. We show them how to love themselves by loving ourselves. Not easy. Maybe impossible.

August said...

Thanks Tonja - I think you're right. (It's funny that my imaginary children are always girls :)

george rede said...

First off, congrats on your non-win at the Oscars party (smile). Second, it IS funny that your imaginary children are always girls.

As the parent of a adult daughter who's always been self-directed, I've mostly just gotten out of her way as she sets her goals and then goes about attaining them. A lot of people would describe Simone as assertive, but it's situational. She can be just as timid as anyone else, including me, depending on the situation.

And that's the key to it. I think we feel more or less assertive depending on the variables. Are we in a crowd or one-on-one? With friends or strangers? Is there something about the setting or the other person(s) that makes us feel more or less in control and confident?

I do think there's something to the argument that Ivy Leaguers have give themselves permission to dream big. But I also see folks with less education but equally healthy egos doing stuff with supreme confidence.

As for the gender imbalance among positions of power, no easy answers but interesting to think about, as you say.