Being Female in Today's World- Part 1

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The subject of raising girls in today's world conjures up many thoughts, proven by MANY conversations I've either been a part of or have eavesdropped on in public. It's rarely a boring conversation!

I had lunch with some people at work the other day that I don't know. When the subject of raising daughters came up, one of the ladies said the funniest line, as she summarized her thoughts on raising her own daughter. She said, “When my daughter was 9, I said ‘I can’t do this’; when she was 11 I considered sending her to boarding school; and when she was 13, I considered going to boarding school!" That's a good summary of a fairly common thought!

Recently in preparation for my talk at a local church on the value of being female, I asked a question on my Facebook page "5 Things" to see what women had to say. I asked the question: One of the values or benefits of being female is _________:

Some answers you gave: 
  • giving birth and giving life
  • we are caretakers yet taken care of
  • we are emotional creatures and life would be meaningless without emotion
  • having such strong, raw emotions-sometimes it hinders, but mostly it helps me to experience life in the truest sense
  • motherhood
  • the innate ability to be compassionate
  • nursing a child
  • we are strong- stronger than we think
I add to that that we are creators, receivers, have power, are able to nurture, we have an intuition, an inner desire for relationship, we hold families together, and are able to go deep with the Lord.

Everywhere I go, I hear people say “OH NO” to raising girls in today’s world. Why? The reasons seem to be the dangers, it’s hard to control what they do in a culture so immoral, the pressures so strong and the role models so low. Raising girls is expected to be hard. But I say that’s the wrong point of view.
Let’s talk for a minute about how females are viewed in our society. First, there is so much gender confusion in today’s world. Knowing the value of why God created males and females has always been important, but it's becoming increasingly important. The strengths He gave each are important.

When I say “how females are viewed in society”, I’m talking about culture in general-  the culture we live in- the news, the media, the movies and books, the music, the culture in schools and on social media, etc. Not necessarily how you are living your life. How our culture portrays females slips in, no matter how protective we try to be, so it’s good to understand and think through these issues with our girls, as is age appropriate. I am generalizing in the broadest sense.

Think of baby girls- they are everything sweet, cuddly and princess-y. Girls are talkers and fun and frilly. As they grow into toddlers, we talk about how smart they are, what they are learning.

The elementary years are adventurous years, where they try new things and find new talents- maybe sports, leadership in school clubs, music, drama, art, being smart, enjoying life. Somewhere toward the older elementary years, the worrisome thoughts creep into girls' minds about looks, girl drama, mean girls and sometimes the confusing, yet fun subject of liking boys! Many adults look at these girls as though they are way too young to possibly be worrying about any of these subjects, but the young girls are definitely feeling the stresses early.  Thinking about looks, popularity, boys and how to deal with drama.

 As teen years hit, many in our culture have a view that teen years are going to be certain way. There is little we can do about the fact that girls become high maintenance, hard to get along with, sassy to parents and into things such as friend drama, dating, immorality, partying, etc.  We sometimes fall for this! But I disagree that it's a given. 

As adults, sometimes we are afraid of these years and are reactive instead of proactive.  We may assume the worst and expect things to be hard. We may put up with negative behavior in girls because “that’s the way girls are”. We put on our “YIKES” hat and think we can’t affect our girls in this stage. I believe that is so untrue!

People rise to the level of expectation. God never said the teen years have to be a terrible experience. They may have some difficulties and have rough periods, but we don't have to expect the worst and toss up our hands. If we consistently teach godly principles and have those as our standard, maybe some drama can be saved. We can concentrate on character at each stage and have that be our guideline. It certainly doesn't mean that the years will be a breeze, but we can prepare for them way ahead of time. Actually, the young years are the training ground for how teen years will be.

The biggest problems  in teen life become – who are my friends, do I have a boyfriend, and do I look good? The value of being female begins to show up as “how do I look, and am I desirable to guys?” instead of who they are inside, what they are gifted with.. what we see. Their view has often changed since childhood.

What’s interesting, in talking with many tweens, they feel tremendous pressure to grow up too fast. It’s easy to assume they want to, but when I've asked, almost 100% say they would rather remain young longer, and just enjoy being a kid. Who knew. 

As we grow older, the value that society largely puts on adult women is still in our looks, our youth and our sexiness. Like that’s the biggest aim we should have. That feeling gets transferred to our kids very young. The Girls 101 workshops we've done with girls as young as 5th grade prove that they have thoughts of self loathing about their looks and their size already. Negative thoughts don't necessarily go away as we get older, we just mask it differently. Some women have gotten beyond it, and don’t see their value in looks. But the pressure of perfection and our looks is very prevalent. The Lord helps us through that as we mature. We can get beyond it.

Even the mean girl stuff- that doesn’t always go away with age either. Women are either our biggest hindrance, or our biggest support. There is nothing more powerful than a group of women who support each other.  Women who aren’t competitive is a beautiful thing. On the other hand, little is as destructive as mean women. 

As adults, there are varied expectations of women. Either we are expected to get a degree and make good money and compete with men, or we are to be the best stay-at-home-super-mom there is, making everything from organic sources while blogging about it. But we are to be busy and excel at whatever we do, regardless of what we choose. AND, we are to stay desirable no matter what happens; stay young, keep our body in shape after birthing several children, etc. Whew!

Older women- do you feel expected to be available, to help raise more kids (grandkids), to afford this, work here, volunteer there, be good moms and grandmas? Maybe it’s finally time to live your dreams, when in reality you are tired from making everyone else’s happen.

I don’t think all of these negative assumptions society makes about females, or that we put on ourselves, is how God intended us to be when He designed us. I don’t think He made us to be difficult and competitive. 

I think we misunderstand femininity and expect too little.

Maybe we are just misusing our strengths!

In Part 2, we will take a look at:

What should our focus be then? What are the strengths God gave us as women?

Stay tuned.

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