Little Girls, Big Feelings

I am having BIG FEELINGS about needing to eat a donut right now. I saw a picture of a jelly donut covered in sugar and now it's imperative that I eat one at once. I'm very easily influenced by pictures of food, you guys. You know when you're watching late night TV and it's just one food commercial after another and you're like, who are these commercials for? It's me. They're for me. The food imprints in my mind like I'm a small, angry werewolf who can only be sated by french fries and juice. Am I the only one who gets late night juice and smoothie cravings? I think maybe it's because I don't really eat super sugary food, so it's what I crave in place of like, a candy bar. Anyways. That's not what this post is about.

I came upon this article by Soraya Chemaly a couple days ago and it really resonated with me. I figured I'd include it in my Friday links but after thinking on it a bit more I felt that it was worth it's own discussion. In it, Chemaly discusses why it's so important for girls to be taught that it's okay for them to feel anger, and how important it is to help girls find appropriate outlets for it, as opposed to stifling it. We only need to look as far as the election to see how women that speak their minds or their anger are still perceived as shrill bitches, while men are applauded for being leaders. It's no wonder girls and women suffer high rates of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

The effects of not being able to express their anger follows girls into adulthood, it affects them socially, psychologically, and physically. It affects their jobs, their romantic lives and how they in turn parent their own children. Chemaly states,

"By the time they are teenagers, many girls’ feelings of anger have been shunted into contorted shapes that no longer fit the standard (read male) ways that we think of and understand anger."

The damage is done early, and the consequences are severe, with suicide rates for teen girls tripling in recent decades, and a huge uptick in girls suffering from depression and anxiety.

So how do we reverse this? How do we let girls express their anger in a healthy way? I don't have all the answers for you because it's something I struggle with myself. But I think in the same way that we now know it's unhealthy to tell boys not to cry, we need to let girls rail when they need to rail. The words ladylike, delicate, and quiet should leave our vocabulary when telling girls how they should behave. When a girl is upset, ask her to identify what she's feeling specifically. Help broaden her emotional vocabulary, and instead of telling her to calm down, find active solutions while allowing her to feel what she's feeling. Reinforce that what she's feeling is legitimate. Open up a dialogue. Don't dismiss a teen's feelings as hormones.

As long as girls are told to keep quiet about their feelings, there will be no equality. In the same way that if boys are told they can't cry and be sad, they'll forever be trapped in a cycle of toxic masculinity. The quicker we take steps to break down gender norms with kids, no matter how insignificant or trivial it may seem, the sooner we can take steps towards an equal society.