Raising Feminist Daughters: ‘Nice Girls’ vs ‘Mean Girls’?

nice girls, mean girls, gender roles, gender stereotypes
nice girls, mean girls, gender roles, gender stereotypes

Image: Flickr / CollegeDegrees360

‘Nice Girls’ vs ‘Mean Girls’?

There was an interesting discussion recently on Huffpost LIVE about raising ‘nice girls’ and ‘mean girls’.  There are some great points in the conversation, but at the same time, there were some comments that made me cringe.

Like many moms, I want my daughter to be thoughtful, considerate and conscientious in her choices and in how she treats others, but I don’t put an emphasis on “politeness” because I feel it puts too much importance on pleasing others.  I don’t want my daughter to examine herself through the lens that society offers up, or based on what others deem “appropriate” for young ladies.  I also don’t want her to put herself last and end up feeling used in the way that I did much of my life.  She deserves to feel entitled to her choices, whether or not they inconvenience someone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I want her to be considerate of others, but not to the point that she harms herself…which, let’s be real, most girls are in that mindset…people pleasing.  It’s not all our fault either.  Society trains us to operate this way, but we need to do something to ensure it doesn’t happen to our girls.

Whether we want to believe it or not, society is programmed to see assertive women as aggressive, mean and pushy.  We often call them man-haters, but while some women do focus their anger at the nearly all-male establishment, I don’t think “hating men” is really the issue.  Obviously, gender is a very polarized discussion, because we define “male” and “female” in such finite, immovable terms.  There really is no room for debate or discussion in the eyes of many…and that’s a shame because there is so much overlap between genders.

Why can’t we express that overlap?  Moreover, why can’t a girl be assertive and aggressive?  Aren’t these traits that we encourage in boys?  And why can’t our boys be sensitive and considerate?  Shouldn’t we be raising our children to be both assertive and considerate, no matter what their gender?

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder though.  Is this whole debate about “mean girls” vs. “nice girls” really just another way for us to discredit strong feminists?  Does a “mean girl” grow up to become a “man-hater”?  Is that what we’re implying with this discussion?

Why are we all so fixated on forcing girls into one of these two categories?

Huffpost LIVE video:

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