Yesterday, I was at the mall doing a bit of back-to-school shopping for myself and as I was browsing the racks and simultaneously chatting with my 14 month old daughter, two of the saleswomen at the store noticed her pigtails and pink shoes and exclaimed, “Why aren’t you adorable? Hi, cutie!” I prompted Louisa to say hi, and she smiled shyly, and then I continued looking through the rack of blouses. The saleswomen kept chatting with one another, remarking, “Oh, doesn’t she make you want to have another?” To which I found myself smiling, because, yes, for my husband and I, our daughter does make us want to have another baby. But then, their conversation continued and I felt my inner mama-rage set in…
“Oh, but girls are so hard. I’d take five boys before I’d have another girl,” one of the women commented. “Ugh, I know. Girls…” I gritted my teeth and quickly pushed my daughter’s stroller out of earshot and to the other side of the store.
Can I tell you that I can’t even count how many times another woman, another mother has said that same thing to me–in front of my daughter? Boys are so much easier. I don’t want girls–they’re way too hard.
I know that most of the women saying this are not ill-intentioned, and I’m sure, they love their daughters, nieces, and granddaughters just as much as their sons, but I cannot tell you how maddening these comments are as the mother of a young girl. And how it boggles my mind that it is socially acceptable to say this to me (as a proud mama) and in front of my daughter…
We live in a world where most families still prefer sons, where in some countries daughters are given up (or worse) just because of their gender, and one in which women still have to fight for equal pay and recognition for doing the same work as a man. I worry that, although women’s rights are so vastly different than a century ago, our daughters will still grow up in a society where they will be up against double-standards. I worry that if our daughters hear from the very beginning–from other women–that they are more difficult or not wanted as much as boys, aren’t we setting them up to already have to prove themselves otherwise? Aren’t we already setting the stage for negativity and low self-esteem issues that many young girls battle?
And why are they more difficult? Maybe it’s that some studies show that girls are often more verbal at a younger age and so start voicing their opinions and ideas before their male counterparts? Is it because of what we foresee as the scary teenage years–the years in which they will be potentially moody and hormonal, and struggle with friendships and body image, and possibly sexual relationships? What about boys–shouldn’t we worry about those same things for our sons?
I honestly don’t know what it is that makes us say these things about our daughters, but as the mom to a strong-willed, curious, funny little girl (and an aunt to some pretty strong-willed, curious, funny boys), I don’t want my daughter to ever think she is less than. And so I write this plea to think twice before making what might seem like a harmless comment, on behalf of my daughter.