Today is International Women's Day and one thing I've thought a lot about in the birth control debate is the world I want for my daughter. So when I saw a link 15 Things Girls Should Know Before They Turn 18, I clicked on it, curious about what it had to say. I was directed to Ooph.com, a site specifically tailored to parents of tweens and teenagers. I quickly became incensed with what I was reading. I found that the "sage advice" fell into five categories. There was the Happy Homemaker category, coupled with the Happy Homemaker MacGyver edition with the added necessary knowledge of how to use a fire extinguisher and jumper cables. In the Sandra Dee vs. Sandy category, there were warnings against the vagaries of smoking and drinking. I was disturbed by the prevalence of the message that Looks ARE Everything (or The Fear of Fat and Ugly) so don't go cutting your own bangs and "looking fat" is something to obsess over and guard against. Telling a girl exactly how much exercise she must do to work off pizza casts food in the role of enemy, rather than sustenance and something to enjoy. On a daily basis women and young girls are presented with an unattainable ideal of beauty, through airbrushed ads or magazine covers. More and more the internet is becoming a treasure trove of thinspiration and pro-anorexia sites. What about strong and fit and capable? Yes, dress up, get fancy, but there's so much more to an individual than how they look.
However the most upsetting was the cavalier men-are-from-mars-don't-try-to-change-em attitude. Aside from being exceedingly heteronormative, it excuses chauvinism and misogyny. I want my daughter to find a partner who is smart and self-aware. I do not want her to shrug off sexism as expected behavior. Men should be made to "help it" and I want my daughter and the women of her generation to demand that men look them in the eye. Empowerment is about knowing that you deserve respect and having the confidence to demand it when it's not given.