Childrearing

How The ‘I’m So Happy I Didn’t Have A Girl’ Mentality Hurts Girls

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“I’m so happy I didn’t have a girl,” is often expressed by parents for a slew of reasons. An offhand comment about eating disorders or body images issues has a tendency to prompt the phrase from even the most progressive of mothers. Conversations about safety can trigger the same reaction, as the general understanding among parents is often that after a certain age boys will be safe while girls will more or less always be sitting ducks for assault or abduction. The phrase is also known to surface during discussions of sexual health, as while throwing a pack of condoms at a boy is considered sufficient, girls need additional conversations about how to prevent untended pregnancy, how to negotiate unwanted sexual advances, and how to determine when they’re ready to even have sex.

All scenarios tend to make parents regard their son, or multiple sons, with a particular satisfaction at knowing that they have bypassed an additional set of parenting “nightmares” by virtue of having boys. But by repeatedly confessing “I’m so happy I didn’t have a girl,” many parents are implying that these particular issues surrounding safety, sexuality, and self-esteem are somehow innate to our daughters — and not the way our culture treats them.

By citing girls without making any reference to external factors like sexism, misogyny, and sexual objectification,  well-meaning parents are failing to acknowledge the societal subtleties that consistently treat girls as “too complicated,” “too much of a bother,” and with “too many issues.”

Girls undoubtedly need more from their parents to successfully navigate the skewed terrain that will be presented to them in their lifetime. But unless you’re willing to finish that sentence of “I’m so happy I didn’t have a girl,” with “because it allows me to be less of a parent,” the confession serves no purpose but to blame girls for attitudes and perceptions of women that — collectively– they have no hand in.

Girls need strong parents who are willing to scale the walls of anti-woman prejudice with them and help them reinterpret the messages that they’re repeatedly told about women’s places, capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Girls need guardians who are dedicated to consistently giving them the tools to resist and understand the cultural conditioning that will be aimed at them from cradle to grave. And if parents are not committed to those responsibilities, then perhaps that’s what they should say instead.