Dear Daughter: You Don’t Need to Be a “Good Girl”

December 22, 2017

Dear daughter, you don’t need to be a good girl. You don’t need to be a docile, obedient, sweet girl. Be what you want, find your voice, learn how to laugh out loud, run, see the stars and know that you can reach them all…

Dear child, let no one tell you that you look ugly when you get angry, don’t let anyone fence you and your dreams in.

Maybe it seems obvious and so logical to you, but it’s something our culture is having a hard time shaking. Here’s an example from not long ago…

A theater in Louvain had an afternoon screening of “Wonder Woman” for women only. Countless girls attended.

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life”

-Virginia Woolf-

So this theater chain decided to give away a bag with the inscription, “Cool things inside”. It was a good ploy and the theater, as was to be expected, filled up.

However, what that mysterious bag of supposedly cool things contained is unfortunately memorable for the wrong reasons. When the girls opened the package they found dishcloths, window cleaning fluid, weight loss pills and a cleaning brush.

The news continues to astonish the world, drawing all kinds of comments and thoughtful criticism from practically all walks of life.

We know this reality all too well. However, it should also be said that there is another hidden reality, inconspicuous and almost imperceptible.

We don’t see it so easily because without us realizing, it comes out in our language, the way we speak to girls and boys, forcing them into cultural molds.

a little girl playing with a castle wearing a tiara

The good girl, the quiet girl

A good girl quietly stays in the corner, paying attention to everything around her but in discreet silence. Meanwhile, in her imagination, the docile girl escapes to her own little private world, vast and wild, going on adventures in secret.

The adults who go by praise her pretty hair, her dress, and her attentive face. “How well she behaves,” they say to her parents without ever addressing the girl herself. They never ask her what she’s passionate about, what she doesn’t like, what she likes to read, what her dreams are.

While we hardly even notice it, we are evaluated and labelled from our very first day in this world. Unfair language is ingrained in our brain as early as 9 months old.

This may seem very young, but as the “theory of the mind” explains to us, it is the time when the child begins to integrate social behaviors, imitate and also interpret, little by little, the behavior of adults.

If from very early on we are already reinforcing passivity, obedience, silence and the value of physical appearance in girls, we will be forming their natural abilities according to what we want.

For this reason, various psychologists, teachers and educators such as Alfonso Montuori are calling for us to put into practice education free from judgment and gender labels. Education that empowers the humanity and the innate goodness of children, as well as the value of curiosity for learning and self-knowledge.

children in front of the television that says "DON'T THINK"

Dear son, you do not need to be “strong”

We’ve talked about the “good girl.” Now, it is time to remember the many boys who are now adults and who were raised with a heavy emphasis on emotional containment and self-control. Emotions and sensitivity were to be corrected just like crooked teeth were to be corrected with braces.

Tears, meanwhile, are for girls and it is therefore better to hold them back if you are born a boy, because you need to be strong, you need to be able to handle everything and never fail.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”

-Eleanor Roosevelt-

Here, too, in the world of young boys, there are big problems. In fact, a study was published very recently which demonstrated something that everyone, parents and educators alike, should take into account: the male child’s brain is much more sensitive and has lower resistance to stress than girls.

Therefore he needs an upbringing with much emotional support, security and protection.

Watch how you treat children

All this should make us think a little more about those sometimes implicit little gestures that we let “slip” in our daily dealings with little children. 

Things like “you have to be a good girl” or “boys don’t cry” have far-reaching implications.

Incidentally, there are now personal growth professionals training women to become leaders in different areas of the social, political and economic life.

a good girl, hurting and covered in rose wounds

They have noticed that women who aspire to a high position in politics or business perceive themselves as “selfish” people at first.

Breaking this pattern of thinking to show them that fighting for what one wants is not selfishness but rather a right… this is undoubtedly the most difficult part.

Because being “good” doesn’t mean being docile or conformist. Being “good” really means being brave, and setting out to get what you want, no matter if you are a man or a woman.