Here is a fairy tale:
“There was once a boy named CinderFella. He was an orphan and lived with his evil step-father and two step brothers. He did chores all day long but was constantly harassed by the trio. He was depressed. He had nowhere to go. He tried his best to please them. He polished their shoes and ironed their clothes, but nothing was enough for them.”
Then one day, the princess announced a ball. CinderFella wanted to go to the ball, but his evil brothers laughed at him. They gave him a pile of housework and left him alone at home. He sat crying. Suddenly, there appeared a fairy godfather…”
Would you read this story to your son? I guess you are mouthing a big ‘no’ as you read this. I do not blame you. This story with gender reversal challenges the world as we know. It challenges the gender-specific roles that the world accepts. It also fails to show CinderFella, the ‘Man’ in the tale as a ‘hero’. So if you won’t read it to your son, why would you read the original to your daughter?
And this is exactly the reason why Elena and Francesca, two friends frustrated with the stereotypical stories passed around as fairy tales decided to write Rebel Girls.
(Image: Rebel Girls Facebook Page)
Elena and Francesca, like all of us, grew up reading the classic fairy tales. They knew something was wrong. There was not a single story where the central character takes her destiny in her own hand and decides to carve a life out for herself. What adds to the insult is that there is often someone else who ‘rescues’ her. This sends two wrong messages:
- Girls, when they venture out on their own, often land in trouble.
- They have to wait to be rescued by a knight in a shining armour.
This seriously undermines the confidence of girls in their formative years. The world of a six-year-old revolves around the stories she hears daily. She is already playing ‘kitchen’ and planning her imaginary wedding. While it is a part of growing up, it should not be the only thing they should look up to.
Rebel girls is a collection of 100 stories of brave, strong, confident women who shaped their destiny. The hope is that this book serves as an inspiration to girls as they grow up. In the words of the creators, “If you can see it, you can be it”. Now, girls, and of course boys have an inspiration to grow up and be in charge of their own destiny.
Raising confident daughters
My confidence stems from the knowledge that I am capable of doing something. Maybe I have done something similar or I know that if I fail, that would not be the end of the world. I would either succeed and/or I would learn something out of it. In short, I wouldn’t know what ‘fear of failure’ would be.
On similar lines, you need to do these 3 things to instil confidence in your daughters
- Lead by example. Children learn from observing. If you are confident, chances are that your daughters would be confident. Involve them in activities, particularly those that are thought traditionally to be meant for men. So, teach her how to use a screwdriver, or open the hood of your car and show her how to top up the engine oil. Ask her to observe the person who services your aircon the next time he/she comes around.
- Curtail the negativity. I once saw a granny telling her granddaughter to ‘behave like a lady’. All she was doing was playing with other boys. When girls are exposed to such kind of negativity from people who influence them, they end up believing that there is a set of things girls ‘cannot’ do. No one wants such negativity in their lives. Make them believe that nothing is impossible if they choose to do that.
- Treat them equally. If you are blessed with a son and a daughter, treat them equally. So, both of them do the same chores on alternate days, get equal allowances, and share toys. This means that the boys have access to dolls and the girls have access to the cars and toy guns. While shopping, encourage them to pick and chose toys and clothes for the sibling. For a change, buy only those things that both of them agree upon. Granted, there would be a lot of friction to start with, but eventually, both of them would empathise with the issues that the other gender faces.
So mums and dads, teach your daughters that they might be princesses, but they do not need to be rescued every time. Tell your sons that they need not always be the one who rescues.
(Image courtesy: Youtube)
Also read: How to raise your son to be a ‘real man’.
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