All The News That Fits

What Are We Teaching Our Girls?

Posted by E. on December 15, 2008

I consider myself a pseudo-feminist.  This means the women who think they can’t make a decision without their husband’s permission would think I am scandalous, and the femi-nazis would have me roasting on a spit quicker than a liberal Hollywood starlet could bat her fake eyelashes.

I think it is important that we teach our daughters to think, to stand up when necessary, to value education, to expect the same career opportunities and compensation be available to them as are available to any man with comparable experience and abilities.  I think it is important that they not grow into women who see themselves as second class citizens in any respect, because they aren’t.  I’m not.  Women aren’t.

But still, what are we teaching our daughters?  I’ve thought about this off and on quite a bit throughout my adult life.  Quite a while back I was re-reading Gone With the Wind and asked my blog readers if they would rather be Scarlett O’Hara or Melanie Wilkes.

As I recall, not many people responded to my question, but those who did were much in favor of being Scarlett O’Hara.  While I can understand this on one level, it pretty much dumbfounded me on another.  Scarlett is strong, to be sure, but Melanie is much stronger, albeit in a way that is neither recognized nor appreciated in our society today.  One of these days I’ll have to dust off the English degree and defend that position, but I just don’t have the time for that right now, which is why I haven’t written anything about it since whenever it was I first posed the question, and didn’t plan to write anything about it any time soon.

But then, this morning, I uncharacteristically had a morning news program on (because, you know, with five kids I usually have Sesame Street on in the morning if the t.v. is on at all), and I happened to catch a bit of an interview with actress Eva Mendes who is starring a film called “The Spirit.”

She had this to say:

“They are childhood sweethearts,” explains Mendes. “This film is visually stunning. It comes from the creative, genius mind of Frank Miller. What’s really unbelievable with my character is I get to play not only a jewel thief, but a woman who’s been married 14 times and killed every last one of her husbands. I mean, ladies, is that not just — it’s a sick fantasy, but, still a fantasy. Somewhat of a fantasy.”

I understand why women dreamt of being able to vote, of being able to own land and property.  I understand why women dreamt of being able to work outside the home (there are days when I still day-dream of working outside the home, but whether I go or stay is my choice), and I understand why working women dreamt of the day when they would receive both respect and pay equal to that of their male counterparts. 

But when did the dream of equality turn into the fantasy of killing the men in our lives?  When did the phrase “Girl Power” come to mean “Man Slaughter?”

I cannot believe that Ms. Mendes speaks for as many women as she thinks when she says killing 14 husbands is a fantasy, even a sick one.  If she is right, our nation is in a worse place than I ever thought.  The fact that anyone would feel comfortable saying that on television, feel comfortable saying that at all, tells me society is worse off than I thought.

Can you imagine the backlash if a prominent male had said it was every man’s fantasy to kill his many wives?  It would be swift, it would be career killing, and it would be justified.  If we as women want equality, then we as women should be prepared for the equality that would bridle us from making such asinine comments.  Yet that equality does not exist.

I hope my girls grow to have strength of independence, much like Scarlett; but more importantly I hope they grow to have the strength of character and integrity like Melanie, the strength that would allow them to recognize being a powerful woman is not equivalent to being selfish and heartless.  Even in their fantasies.

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