March 19 – reviving ophelia

238/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. We value physicality in girls yet mentality in boys. You may say you don’t but for most people it’s a default to focus on physical attributes when talking about their daughters (“you’re so cute” “my pretty girl” etc) and mental attributes in regards to theirs sons (“wow, that’s so clever” “you’re so smart”). Only the very enlightened of us use those latter words to describe their daughters without focusing on their physicality. I wasn’t so enlightened until I read the chapter on fathers and daughters in Mary Pipher’s “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls” a book mainly aimed at mothers of daughters. I was the dad who told my 3 year old daughter how pretty she was and how cute she looked and rarely focused on her intelligence until I saw that she was modeling her outfits and carrying purses and looking at herself in the mirror. The chapter in the book saved me! It mentioned that however the first significant male (aka father) values the daughter is how she will value her worth especially with other males. I was devastated that I was responsible in creating this image that she had. I started consciously valuing her intellect and focusing on things that she created rather than what she looked like. When she asked me how she looked, I would throw it back on her – in essence, the onus was for her to be happy with her appearance rather than seek the approval of a male. I also consciously made comments in regards to the overly skinny, overly male-reliant, overly appearance-obsessed females in the media to get her to think in a different way of what it was to be female. I have an amazing, strong, independent daughter who focuses on her mental attributes much more than her physical attributes. If I had anything to do with it, it is all because of what I learned from Mary Pipher. I have touted the merits of this author many times over to fathers of daughters and mothers who have fathers of daughters in their lives.  She changed the way I parented and if this gratitude post has that same type of affect on other fathers, I’m so very happy for their daughters!

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