Mom and daughter hugging in street

by Jessie Huart Sullivan

Last year, I became a mom for the first time to a beautiful daughter.

I was recently asked in an IHE interview what scares me most about raising a child for a solutionary world. Even though I had been thinking about this in some form or another since the day my daughter was born, I struggled to articulate my thoughts.

What scares me most is raising a girl in a society that is immersed in over-sexualized images of women, teenagers, and even young girls.

I worry about the burden that an unattainable beauty and body image can have on a girl’s self-image and her physical and mental well-being.

I worry that everything I do to raise a confident girl will be overshadowed by a sexist culture she won’t be able to avoid.

Today, girls have more strong women role models than ever before, and empowerment messages for girls are abundant.

The “Like a Girl” campaign aims to instill confidence in young girls at an age when it is often hard to come by.

GoldieBlox is on a mission to inspire the next generation of female engineers through innovative and fun toys that promote problem solving and critical thinking.

For the first time, there is a woman who is the likely Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

Why then, does it continue to be so difficult to shake the societal limitations that have surrounded women for generations? Why do we still need campaigns to tell people that running like a girl isn’t an insult?

I know the answer is more complicated than what I can write in a brief blog post, but there is one question that often comes to mind:

How are women a part of the problem?

Over the years, I’ve noticed the indirect – and sometimes very direct – ways that women put each other down. It seems that we often turn on each other instead of fighting the oppressive systems that hold us back. And by doing this, we contribute to our own subjugation.

Women envy and compete against other women.

We compete to be the prettiest, the thinnest, or to have the best clothes. One woman will put another down for being everything she thinks she isn’t. Another woman’s “success” is the other woman’s “failure.”

Instead, how can we be a part of the solution?

I know that I will be unable to completely shelter my daughter from the unrealistic images of women that will bombard her daily, so my hope is that she will have the skills and the confidence she needs to think critically about them.

I will do my best to help her become strong and confident and to ensure that she will get there by supporting, not criticizing, other girls.

It is my goal that she will learn to feel positive about herself, as well as to speak positively of others.

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