The Problem with “Girl Power”

Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Articles & Posts | 6 comments

girlpowerEight-year-old Little Chucky is an expert fisherman. Well, at least that’s what he’ll tell you.

His best friend and fishing buddy, Lucy, knows the truth though. Not only does Little Chucky spend more time hooking the back of his shirt than he does fish, I’d say there’s a good chance he’ll have to repeat the 2nd grade. He isn’t the brightest little boy around.

That’s okay because Lucy is smart enough for the two of them. In this duo, she’s definitely the brains. In fact, when it comes to this pirate-themed puppet show my kids and I attended yesterday, Lucy was the most intelligent one to grace the stage.

While my children laughed out loud at the antics of these felt-and-yarn characters, I was uncomfortable. For me, there was something unsettling about listening to a room full of parents, teachers, and children laugh at — not with — goofy, brainless male stereotypes. There was Little Chucky, of course, the resident frat boy minus the beers. But the stereotypes didn’t stop there. Take the bumbling Captain No Eye and his crew. This trio of buffoons somehow manages to sail the seas even though they’re easily outsmarted by a crustacean.

The truth is, shows like this are tricky for me. You see, I’m the mom of four daughters. So I love it when my girls are offered examples of smart, confident, witty females such as Lucy. What I don’t like though, is when these characters are only strong because all the males around them are weak. In this particular show, why couldn’t Little Chucky or Captain No Eye have been strong too? Would that have made Lucy appear less?

Apparently in our culture the answer is “yes.” Because what I saw in this show wasn’t anything new. I actually wrote about this “girl power” trend a few years ago for Thriving Family.

And as I watched yesterday, I was freshly reminded of something that’s important to me as a mom of girls. While Ted and I want to raise our daughters to be smart, witty, confident women who embrace and go after the things God has for them, we also want them to know that men can be smart, witty, and confident too. That the strength of others – particular men — doesn’t make them less.

I want them to realize that the best teams aren’t ones like Little Chucky and Lucy. Ones where one individual is blatantly stronger than the other. No, the best teams are ones like their mama and papa who encourage and complement each other’s strengths.

In our culture, how do I strive to teach my girls on daily basis that men can be strong too? That true “girl power” comes not from being better than everyone around them? Here are three practical ways:

1. I actively engage media. When we watch characters like Lucy and Little Chucky, I don’t leave my kids to process them on their own. Instead, we talk about them. For example, yesterday as we ate lunch, I asked them their perceptions of Little Chucky. We discussed how just because he was dumb, doesn’t mean all boys are. In fact, that God made many men extremely intelligent.

2. Sometimes I just say no. While we do watch and discuss some media portrayals like this puppet show, others I simply turn off. I don’t see any benefit in them. Take the commercial on our local Christian radio station for a moving company. It’s entire premise is a wife saying “I told you so” to her husband. While I think it was intended to be humorous, to me it comes across as belittling. I change the channel or turn down the volume every time.

3. I respect and affirm the men in my life. Perhaps one of the best ways I can teach my girls to value men is by doing that myself. I strive to daily speak well of and act in a respectful way toward their papa, as well as other men I interact with regularly. After all, actions really do speak louder than words.

What about you? What’s one way you’re teaching your kids — either girls or boys — to respect and value the opposite sex in a culture that often models otherwise?

6 Comments

  1. First of all, Justin and I were just talking about this the other day. Mom’s on TV are portrayed as frumpy but have that “I told you so” mentality, and Dad’s are portrayed as morons. Not always, but a lot. What is with that?
    Secondly, I am in agreement with you on all fronts. As a Mama to all boys I have been teaching them from a young age. Justin is a wonderful example to them of how to treat women, but along with that we, like you, talk with them.
    By living out what we say, Justin and I treating each other with love and respect, while also having fun and goofing off with one another in a way that shows that we are not disrespecting one another.

    • Anne, since I have all girls, I love hearing thoughts from a mom with all boys. I feel like I can learn a lot from moms like you who “know boys,” so to speak, as I strive to teach my girls to respect and value males.

  2. It’s interesting that you should bring this up. Matt and I were talking about this very thing last night. Being the parents of 4 boys and 4 girls (equal opportunity parenting – hah! :)), we’ve noticed this definite trend that you’ve outlined here. I think you’ve hit on an important point: that we don’t need to put one down in order to elevate the other? We should respect and value each other – a fairly Biblical concept near as I can tell.

    • Lisa, it’s interesting that quite a few of us have been talking about this subject lately. I’m glad Ted and I aren’t the only ones!

  3. Well said. I don’t even have children yet, and I find this trend extremely disturbing. Even Pixar falls into the trap. I loved the concept and visuals of BRAVE, but Pixar created its first female heroine to be strong and scrappy at the expense of every single male character in the story. They’re all buffoons. It’s not impossible to create a good story with a strong female surrounded by strong males. In fact, it creates more room for story conflict, and ultimately a better story.

    • Liz, I know! My girls love “Brave,” but honestly I’ve never been too crazy about the film. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why.

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