A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of facilitating a session for 7th grade girls while my coworker was out of town. Something I really enjoy about working with young people — and black girls in particular is that I see a lot of myself in them. Thought processes, mannerisms, and of course boy drama entertains the hell out of me.
As I was facilitating the session, questions about my personal life came up and I didn’t mind answering.
“Miss Kia are you married?”
“Do you got a boyfriend?”
“Well danggggg. You must be lonely! You ain’t got no man, nothing”
We laughed. They didn’t mean it in a disrespectful way. Hell, when I was about 12 or 13, I felt the same way.
I asked, “Why I gotta be lonely just because I don’t have a boyfriend or husband?”
They didn’t really have an answer. I didn’t expect them to.
It’s something interesting about what we teach girls about finding fulfillment in other people, particularly boys. It starts young. And then those girls grow up into women who think they “need” to have a man or kids just so they won’t be lonely.
So when you don’t have those things, what exactly does society paint you as?
I pondered on that for weeks. But instead of questioning my own self-worth, I decided to think about what type of messages are we communicating to our daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, etc. ?
What lessons should we teach to the generations after us, so that they can make better decisions (and mistakes) than we did?
LESSON #1 – YOU DON’T “NEED” A RELATIONSHIP TO BE WHOLE
I remember when I was about 12, and I got in trouble by my mama because I wrote in my diary about how I wanted a boyfriend sooooo badly lol. Like, I’m not sure who’s son rejected me or wasn’t paying attention to me but baby, I just felt as if my life wasn’t complete if I didn’t have a boyfriend lol. My mama sat me down and explained that I didn’t need to have a boyfriend to validate me. And THAT, that is a message I wanna yell from the mountaintops to the ears of every little girl that I know who grows up under the male gaze. Meaningful connections with others are important, but you don’t have to spend your whole life pining away for it. And you’re not a weirdo if you don’t yet desire (or never desire) those things either.
LESSON #2 – BENCHMARKS ONLY EXIST IN YOUR MIND
“By 25 I should have ______”
“I wanna be married by ______”
Benchmarks. As a 25 year-old, I’m not sure why having all your shit together by this age is stressed to us by society, but I am learning that putting benchmarks on WHEN you should accomplish your accomplishments is bullshit.
This is not to be confused with goal setting, because making realistic, obtainable goals is important of course BUT life does happen. When we push the narrative on girls that they need to have this and that by the time they are a certain age, they’ll likely work their whole lives trying to obtain it, but what happens if she doesn’t? What will society say about her then? What is she going to say about herself? Let’s make sure we tell our daughters to worry only about the things that she can control and whatever is meant for her will happen in its own perfect timing.
LESSON #3 – DEFINE YOURSELF FOR YOURSELF
So many big and little girls don’t know who they are yet. They haven’t went through the process of destroying themselves and later building themselves back up over and over again. When we are in that state of unknowing, we rely on outside forces to tell us WHO we are, HOW we should act, dress, think, etc. Young girls such as the 7th graders I mentioned earlier in the post are quite impressionable. If I stress nothing else in this post, I want us to teach our girls that being an individual is key. Like Audre Lorde said, we have to define ourselves for ourselves and I think the best way to promote that to our daughters is by modeling that behavior of individuality. Let them know that it’s okay for them to be different. Let them know that it is okay for them to stand out from the crowd. Let them know that society will try and force them to conform but they should always push back and stand firm in their own beliefs, fuck who doesn’t agree.
- When you were younger, in what ways did society pressure you to conform to certain standards or beliefs?
- Why do you think girls are trained on how to be partners for men but boys aren’t trained to be partners for women?
- What do you think when you see a highly successful woman who is unmarried, single, with no children? What does society say about her?
- What lessons would you want your daughter or other young girls in your life to know?