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Antonia Goddard Faith Formation Ink Slingers

Raising Role Models

Raising Role Models

Once upon a time, I lived in Sicily, teaching English to Mafia children.

(Okay, they weren’t really Mafia children. They were students. But this was Sicily.)

I always used to begin with the same question, no matter how basic or advanced their English was.

“Who’s your role model?”

I like that question. For the advanced speakers, they get a chance to test their vocabulary making a strong argument about someone they admired and why. For beginners or children, they get to understand how to make a question in English, how to construct a basic answer, and we usually spend a lot of time talking about their families.

“Kim Kardashian,” one of my students replied confidently.

My heart sank a little, but I’m always prepared to take a debate. “Why?”

She frowned, working out her next sentence carefully. “She is just… so beautiful.”

I was disappointed, but I wasn’t surprised. Again and again I see and hear from young girls that their idols and inspirations are so chosen because they are attractive. Attractive women are successful women. Beauty draws the eye, beauty sells, beauty wins sponsorship deals and television shows. Beautiful women can have whatever they want, they get digital likes and sponsorship deals and money and cars and clothes and money and makeup and money and money…

“That wasn’t really what I was thinking,” I ventured, “I was thinking more someone you admire for what they’ve done. Maybe they’ve worked really hard to overcome difficult situations, or achieved something great. Maybe they’re staying positive in adverse circumstances. Doesn’t have to be someone famous, it could be a member of your family. Do you know anyone like that?”

She screwed up her face to think. “Kendall?”

I sighed.

But how can we blame them? Our Instagram screens are flashing constantly with gorgeous women, their designer clothes oozing money so transparently they may as well have dollar signs in their eyes. Some actually do. Their mothers, sisters, and teachers actively encourage the girls to aspire to these role models, encouraging them to look Insta-perfect every time they left the house, praising loudly their most attractive friends.

In fairness, I think they honestly believed they were helping. Many of these women grew up desperately poor in a country ravaged by the effects of the Second World War. Economic prospects were exceptionally limited, and there was little money left over for luxuries like lipstick or pretty dresses. As a result, many women were often encouraged to associate wealth, luxuries, and physical beauty as a marker or achievement.

So the lie is fed to their children, piece by piece, a grotesque fairy tale. That if they work hard enough anything is possible. That they too can look like her, dress like her, have her clothes and her money and her life – because if she can do it, so can you. The pain, when these dreams are not realised, is real. The fairytale is shattered.

And by encouraging their daughters to pursue these dreams they are glorifying envy, greed, pride, lust, and want. They are chasing easy, material luxuries at the expense of kindness, compassion, generosity, and love. It breaks my heart to see young girls coveting the ugliness of fame, with no-one to tell them that their own beauty doesn’t lie in their ebony curls or their blue eyes or their form-fitting dress but in the sweetness of their souls. In the way that they can make their little sister laugh or care for their grandparents or help their friends through difficult times.

All women are born with one natural female role model: their mother. A loving mother will teach them about all the other amazing heroines throughout history: Mary, the saints, great leaders and writers and thinkers. She will teach her girls to love God more than their dresses, to love their friends more than lipstick, and that the life Instagram paints for them is a lie. She will teach them that their worth does not lie in their income nor the cost of their clothes but the goodness of their character.

Most importantly, she will teach her daughters to be role models for others, not because of their outer attractiveness but the true beauty of their souls. That is how to be a role model, not just for our own daughters, but to Catholic women around the world.

 

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Adrienne Domestic Church Ink Slingers

Thankful for Pink, Glitter, Princesses and Ballerinas

A Halloween costume, not either of my girls.
A Halloween costume advertisement that depicts well what I’m talking about.

 

My husband and I have been blessed with a boy and two girls, and today I would like to talk about girls.  Our girls enjoy the girly things in life, and our lives are blessed for it.

Pink, glitter, princesses and ballerinas hold little value in our American society at large.  I’m looked down upon by some for allowing my girls to enjoy being girly.  Perhaps some judge me to be forcing gender stereotypes upon my girls because they enjoy typically “girly” things, and not only do I let them, but I encourage them in enjoying the pretty things they enjoy.  Enjoyment of the pretty, frilly and feminine is viewed as weak and limiting.   I feel alone in the crowd asking, “Why is enjoying pretty and feminine things inherently weak and limiting?”

At some point in elementary school I heard the world tell me femininity was weak and limiting, and I accepted that message and rejected my femininity.  Dresses didn’t have a place in my wardrobe except maybe to be worn to Mass on Sundays.  When I chose to join the school band for intermediate school I chose to play the trumpet because it was more masculine than the other instruments I was considering.  When I needed to choose a major, I chose Computer Science, and I felt strong when people commented how surprised they were that I would have chosen such a male dominated field.  I mention these two things because they greatly shaped my social interactions for a bulk of my life as I played the trumpet for 11 years and studied and was employed in the profession of software engineering for about 15 years.  I regret neither decision because I truly enjoyed both of them, and as it turns out, these choices led me to meeting my husband in college.

The only thing I regret is falling for the message that femininity is weak.  I am not weak because I am female.  I am not weak if I like feminine things.  I am not limited by appreciating the gender with which I was created.  My gender is not weak.

I’m told that as a woman, I need to suppress my fertility in order to not be oppressed.  This need of mine is so strong, I am told, that I need the government’s help in rendering myself infertile.  Furthermore, I’m told, infertility is my basic human right and my way to find equality in America.  I am told that I am being held back if the government doesn’t help me render myself as barren as a man.

Is it any wonder I learned to reject my femininity?

There is indeed a war on women.  America has no appreciation for things that are feminine.  America will eventually tell my daughters that their delight in pretty dresses and glittery nail polish is weak.  When my daughters are in middle school, America well tell them my husband and I, as their parents, don’t know how to make decisions in their best interest and that instead the school can make better parental decisions.   The school nurse will offer them a prescription for birth control pills and offer them help to obtain an abortion when the birth control fails, all without our,  their real parents,  interference.  Before they are even in high school, my girls will have heard America’s message loud and clear – they are automatically lesser because of their femininity – and that femininity needs to be stripped away in order for them to be equal to their male counterparts.

I want my girls to know they can enjoy their pink and tutus if that’s what they like.  I want my girls to grow up knowing they are equal to men even with their ability to conceive and carry babies in their wombs.  They need to hear that their fertility isn’t a handicap, and that they should demand to be supported as fertile females instead of accepting the “remedy” of infertility America wishes to give them.

I am thankful I learned that the Catholic Church is adamant that I am perfect just the way I am.  The Church is adamant that my fertility isn’t a handicap, but insists that my fertility and any children I may have are all  blessings.  The Church is so adamant about this that it insists I can learn about my fertility (NFP – Natural Family Planning) and work with the way God designed me instead of using hormones or surgery to render myself barren.  The Church is there to provide all women support when they are expecting a baby, reminding them their children are indeed wanted instead of agreeing with America that a woman’s baby isn’t wanted then offering an abortion.  I am also thankful that God provided me a husband who respects me just the way God made me instead of expecting me to take hormones or have surgery.

And I am thankful for pink, glitter, princesses and ballerinas.  I am thankful that every day our home is filled with little people who enjoy these things that would otherwise go unappreciated.  It is a joy and privilege to see my older daughter in a flattering feminine dress and kitten heels with glittery lip gloss.  It is a joy and privilege to see my younger daughter in ballet slippers and a tutu or her favorite Sleeping Beauty gown with matching crown.  Our lives are enriched because of their appreciation for the dainty and feminine.  Sure, it would be a joy and privilege to have them in our lives if they didn’t enjoy these things – I’m not at all saying girls must love “girly” things otherwise  it means that they are rejecting their femininity because that is of course untrue.  I only wish to challenge the notion that being female and even enjoying feminine things is neither weak nor limiting.  I hope all girls enjoy being female, but as an example to my point, behold a girl enjoying her femininity in a princess dress or tutu and you can’t help but smile just as much as if she were playing with cars in the dirt.  She is a gift us all, and so is her enjoyment of things we would otherwise overlook.  Please, please, don’t tell her she is weak for enjoying feminine things – let her relish in being a girly girl, and you too, let yourself relish in the privilege of being in the presence of a girly girl.