Should girls be parented differently than boys? – My Thoughts on Caitlin Flanagan’s Girl Land

You know the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, it’s true. Kind of. When it comes to real books, the kind you get from a library, you have to judge books by the cover, well, unless you’re smart and have done your homework to find great books before you actually go to the library. But that’s not the point, for me at least.

When I go to the library, I usually don’t go with a plan. I go with children, so I usually have 10 minutes to look through the adult aisles.

I look when I go, for books with interesting book covers. I judge books by their covers. Going through route, I sometimes get lucky. But sometimes I don’t.

Girl LandWhen I picked up Girl Land by Caitlin Flanagan, I judged the cover.

“That ‘s a cute little girl. Oh, wait, what’s she doing with her shirt? And why is she posing like…(read back cover) Ohhhhhhh.

Girl land. It’s that place that marks the passage from girlhood to womanhood. It’s marked by menstruation, diaries, sex, other girls, and boys. Girl land, argues Flanagan, is “psychologically intense” and reflective and confusing and emotional.

Even without any quantitative data to support her, often, reaching claims, I was with her because her girl land was my girl land. I was with her when she talked about a girl’s bedroom as her “sanctuary,” fraught mother/daughter relationships, and bad tampon ads.

I was with her until the end of the book. That’s where Flanagan presents all the bad of what girlhood has become in modern times with the advent of cell phones, girl power, and thongs and then proposes, in the end, some “rules” on how parents should raise girls.

Her rules are “simple” and geared towards the idea that our daughters need more protection than our sons. O-kay.

Our daughters need more protection and more limits, limits on their Internet usage because as Flanagan argues, “Taking away the Internet connection in her bedroom is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a daughter,” Flanagan proclaims because girls without bedroom access to the Internet are free from pornography. They can dream and write in their diaries. Why? Well, because a) they will then be free from pornography b) able to dream and write in their hardbound diaries, and c) their sexual bodies are preyed upon gremlins in the media. (I’m only kind of kidding on that last one).

Should girls be parented differently than boys? Flanagan says “yes.” And I say yes, too, for different reasons. I really wished I lived in a world where girls and boys were treated equally, but I don’t. Beauty is the mark of a wonderful girlhood and ambition seems the mark of a wonderful boyhood. And that’s tragic, I think, but very real.

So in my world I live in, I think girls should be raised to focus on more than beauty, to value the allure of princesses but not buy into the myth of a prince someday. They should be raise to believe that their bodies are valuable and in their possession. They should be raised to believe that they can do anything. I think boys should be raised to know these things, too, and that it’s okay to cry, play with dolls, and wear pink. Boys should be raised to value women and their bodies and to believe that they matter.

What do you think? Should girls be raised differently than boys?

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Jessica lives in the Washington, DC metropolitan area with her husband and two girls. Once upon a time, pre-motherhood, she did many things as a “serious-looking” woman who managed to successfully balance a reality TV addiction with a career and academic pursuits. She's now a serious-acting woman whose primary job is raising her children. She writes, reads, fantasizes about minivans, and takes midday naps. She enjoys (among many other things) dancing to 80s music, photography, laughing out loud (at, usually, inappropriate moments), and writing about writing, being a writer, and becoming fearless on her blog Jessica F. Hinton

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