I went shopping this week -I know -shocker! -and not the sarcasm in the way you might think: I DETEST shopping, so for me to do it, it means my wardrobe needs to stop looking like I haven’t purchased anything since 1999. Anyway, I came out of the dressing room to find six piles of the t-shirt I have pictured at the left. It was folded so all I could see was the three super heroes and the words “Girls Rule the World”. Hm. I’m a girl! I’m the queen of my house! I rule lots of things! I had to take a closer look! I unfolded it and read the bottom: “Boys Just Live Here”. Hm. The employee noticed my interest and said, “Isn’t this cute?” with a huge, excited grin on her face.
My response was not what she expected: “No. I don’t think it’s cute. I don’t agree with what it’s saying at all. Do you have shirts for boys that say a similar message for boys to slam girls?”
“No. I don’t think we do.”
“I didn’t think so.” Then I took this photo and she scraped her chin up from the counter.
What are the messages we are hearing and sending? Girls need good self esteem. (Yes.) Girls are bombarded with negative messages about what they are expected to look like. (Absolutely.) Women deserve equal pay for equal work. (Of course.) Women are treated as second-class citizens. (Horrible truth.) To confront these facts, women and girls need to be spiteful, argumentative, and put down boys and men so we can feel better about ourselves. (Wait a minute.)
I am the mother of three boys. I am a woman in a man’s world in my own home, but I never feel I have to battle for my place in it. I know I am valued and bring a side to our family make-up that is crucial and the males benefit from me and my perspective. Not all women have this luxury. I know that. Many women are single moms who are in charge of everything for themselves and their children. No child-support; no husband; just them. My own Mom was kind of in this situation. My Dad was only around on the weekends and then when we were older he wasn’t around at all. They weren’t divorced. Technically. (There’s more to this, but that’s an outpouring for another post.) Bless these women and everything they manage to get done in a day. They ARE superheroes. These women DO rule their world. They have every reason to think men are just occupying space because what they get from them is more work, less pay, and never get a break. They could hate men for very good reasons and buy that shirt for their daughters and fuel their anger and frustration for the horrible wrongs done to them by men. But they shouldn’t. It doesn’t help. Do unto others. Treat others as you want to be treated.
Your daughters will grow up with the mind-set that in order for themselves to be better than someone else they have to put down that other person. Instead of being great because of their own talents, intelligence, and hard-work, they are great because they made someone else look lesser-than. Women have been treated as lesser-than. Where has that left us? We need to be greater-than because we are better than who we were yesterday, not because we stepped on someone else to rise up. Somebody doesn’t have to lose for everyone to win.
We need women’s shelters because women get battered by men. Shame on those men. We need self-esteem seminars because women get negative messages about their body type. Shame on those ad agencies, marketing practices, and media outlets that glorify women who strive to be “perfect” by any means possible: botox and plastic surgery. We need our judicial system to declare fathers must pay to support the children they bring into this world. Shame on those fathers. We feed a media frenzy that glorifies perfection at any cost. Shame on all of us. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need, or feed, any of those things. It’s not a perfect world, but we need to be the change we want to see in it. The small changes begin with us, our hard-earned dollars, and the precious billboard we carry wherever we go: our chests inside a t-shirt.
Our daughters deserve the best of our selves we can give them. They deserve power and acknowledgement. So do my boys. I know I am a powerful woman. I have been blessed to hear this from both women and men in my life. My boys are powerful. They are told this by men and women in their lives. I hope they will be blessed to find powerful women that will be contributors, equals, and partners in their lives as I am with my husband. I hope they don’t feel the need to be with women who want to degrade them and tell them they are just here to be sperm donors. If we want to be treated as equal-to we cannot treat others as lesser-than. That equation just won’t work. (See? I’m using mathematical terminology. In my blog. And I’m a woman!)
Once again, it comes down to the Calandro Clan Credo: Respect. Be kind. Contribute. So much comes down to respect. Men should respect women for the way we look at the world and what we contribute in the only way a woman can. Women should respect men for their perspective and the abilities that are innate to them and how they operate in the world.
So shame on you, retailers, and the message you are perpetuating. The shirt could have said, “Girls Are SUPER” and had the superheroes on it. That would have been awesome, cool, and made sense. Would that have sent the same message without the edge? Absolutely. Next time when your designers sit around the table, try to think how much more powerful a positive message can resonate with your audience and the effect it can have on the viewers. Same shopping day, different shirt. This one says, “It’s Good To Be A Girl.” Now that’s a message worthy of our daughters’ billboards and one that no one should have a problem seeing.