When my daughter was still a helpless baby, there were times when I would look forward to the day she could finally walk and talk.
But now that she is a sociable and expressive preschooler, I’m beginning to have mixed feelings about her reaching puberty in a few years’ time.
Of course I know that this is inevitable and I cannot expect her to remain 4-years-old forever, but I am also aware that once a girl comes of age, the world as she knows it will turn into a much different and even scarier place.
Sure, boys will go through various changes too, but here are the main reasons why a girl’s passage to womanhood is far more arduous and downright terrifying:
1. Breasts and bras
As soon as you notice two small bumps appearing on your daughter’s chest, you’ll probably be quick to get her a training bra to keep those blossoming “breast buds” under wraps.
My well-meaning mother made me wear starter bras when I was in Primary Four but it made me feel really uncomfortable so I would secretly take them off when she wasn’t around.
I loathed the itchy little bralettes and was confused as to why she made such a big fuss about ensuring my little lady lumps were kept completely hidden out of sight, which made me feel awkward about my own body.
If you think about it, our breasts are not really our own — they seem to exist for the sexual pleasure of men, and then later on for breastfeeding our babies.
2. Menstruation and vaginal health
Getting your first period is a confusing yet exciting part of every girl’s life as this is a clear indication that her passage to womanhood has begun.
But girls will then have deal with nonstop bleeding from the nether regions for 24-hours a day for up to seven days, and experience painful period cramps that can leave you writhing in agony, or even other menstrual related conditions.
Also, don’t forget that later on in life women will be pushing out a baby the size of a small pumpkin from her vagina — so we can’t help but feel that boys definitely have it easy when it comes to puberty!
Go to the next page to read more about the struggles girls will face after puberty
3. Body under constant scrutiny
Too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too dark-skinned, too pale? Girls seem to always be judged by their looks and physical attributes.
Once a girl hits puberty and her body starts to slowly fill out with more womanly curves, there will be many people who are quick to point out her flaws and make her feel inadequate about herself.
When you attend social functions such as family reunions, don’t you notice how relatives or friends like to make comments about your daughter’s looks and maybe start picking on her weight?
In some cases like when young girls go through precocious puberty and start blossoming at the tender age of six, they can be bullied or even made to feel ashamed of something which is beyond their control!
Even high-profile celebrities like Lady Gaga aren’t spared from being body shamed, so imagine what your little girl will have to endure while growing up.
4. Media influence and false advertising
We are constantly being bombarded with all sorts of imagery on TV, in glossy magazines, and also on social media, to what is perceived as beauty and perfection.
These unrealistic goals are unhealthy for a girl’s self-esteem and can even lead to negative body image issues and eating disorders.
Women have always been objectified in advertisements and told to look a certain way, behave in a certain manner, and buy certain products in order to become the “ideal woman” in the eyes of society.
What your daughter has to learn is how to be confident and not compare herself to all this staged glitz and heavily filtered or photoshopped images.
Believe it or not, when your daughter is exposed to “princess culture” (such as watching certain Disney princess cartoons, playing dress up as a princess, etc) this can actually be a bad influence on her and may even cause damaging effects to her behavioural development.
The media, pop culture, and inappropriate products (such as thong underwear for 6-year-olds!) have been especially marketed to young girls which encourage them to act in adult sexual ways.
If you look at clothing for girls, you’ll notice the disturbing trend of promoting inappropriate sexual manner and encouraging them to behave in a gender stereotypical behaviour.
T-shirts with wordings such as “Spoiled Princess”, “Diva Queen”, “Sexy Girl”, and “Hot Babe”, can easily be spotted in the tween’s department — and sometimes even on baby girl rompers!
Keep reading to find out what else makes life tougher for girls after puberty
6. Sexism and double standards
Going by traditional gender roles and stereotypes in many cultures, girls are usually viewed as less superior to men and are expected to be “domesticated” and stay home to cook, clean, and take care of the children — whereas boys are generally excused from such duties.
Girls may also be discouraged from pursuing higher education, or advised against getting a good job where they can earn more than their husband, or refrain from taking part in any activities (such as sports, singing, etc) that would draw attention to themselves.
The fairer sex usually has to play the role of a helpless damsel in distress who waits for her strong, handsome prince to rescue her and it is rare for girls to be portrayed as the hero (although times are slowly changing now).
If a girl is expected to know how to bake cakes, sew clothes, mop floors, and be a natural at changing baby diapers, then perhaps it’s fair to assume boys are able to change a car tyre, fix a broken washing machine, can catch an impressive haul of fish, and also build a house from the ground up?
7. Slut-shaming exists
If a boy has a string of relationships, he will probably be praised by his peers as “a stud” and even admired — but if the roles were reversed and a girl was known to be popular with the guys, them she will automatically be labelled as a slut or “cheap”.
Once a girl reaches puberty, she needs time to slowly figure out her identity as a young woman and this might be expressed through her new choice of an eyebrow-raising wardrobe and her supposedly flirty mannerisms when interacting with the opposite sex.
Although no parent would actually encourage their young daughter to be a serial dater or start having an active sex-life (some may even hope she remains a virgin up until the day she gets married!), it is better to have a calm and mature discussion with your child about any concerns you may have, instead of chastising her.
Even if you think that words can’t possibly cause any harm to your child, think again because there are some serious consequences of slut-shaming on girls, such as:
- Sense of worthlessness
- Body-image issues
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts
8. Fear of getting abused or raped
Unless you are a girl, you will never truly understand the fear and paranoia that goes through your mind everytime you are walking home alone from the bus stop, or when a male stranger enters the same lift as you.
Ask almost any girl what her “secret weapon” is and chances are, she will show you her sharp keychain, solid umbrella, chunky rings, or even a travel size can of deodorant spray (in place of mace) innocently tucked away in her handbag but still within reach should she ever be attacked.
Some might joke that only conventionally pretty girls should worry about getting raped, whereas the plainer ones have nothing to fear — but this is far from the truth and certainly not a laughing matter.
Not only do women have to worry about getting attacked by strangers lurking in the dark, but abuse at the hands of their own husbands is unfortunately a rather common occurence as well.
Sad but true
The harsh reality is that when my daughter is a little bit older, as her mother I will have to sit her down and have an honest and open talk with her not just about the birds and the bees, but also what to do during worst case scenarios, basic self-defense techniques, and how to ignore any negative remarks about the way she looks or presents herself.
When a boy becomes a man, he is told he can do anything and even conquer the world — but when a girl becomes a woman, she will always have to be onguard and prepared to protect herself from it.
Do you think girls have it harder than boys during and after puberty? Are you more worried about your daughter than your son? What was the worst thing you personally experienced when you reached puberty? Tell us by leaving your comments below!