The Power of mother daughter relationships and your own awareness.
I find myself constantly amazed and yes, even frustrated, by the degree to which we, as moms, are unaware how strong our mother daughter relationships can be.
It is as if the wise old adage, ‘The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world,’ has been wiped out of our consciousness or at the very least, is buried under layers of societal messages about what’s wrong with women.
Think about it. How often do you hear a woman answer almost apologetically with, ‘I’m just a stay-at-home mom’ when asked what she does? (These women who have the financial ability to have the single job of being a mom is becoming increasingly rare). How have we collectively lost sight of the power attached to the ability to grow life in our bodies, feed that life from our breasts and the seemingly endless capacity to nurture and guide that life as s/he grows in the world (and by the way, this last part applies whether we actually birthed that child or not)?
There are many answers to the how and why of this phenomenon – enough to fill many volumes. The short answer is that a few thousand years ago, in a deliberate attempt to dis-empower women, the status quo message that the female body is shameful, weak and dirty was born. The consequence of this message? Well, in this part of the world specifically, there is the staggering number of eating disorders among girls and women among other indicators that we hate our bodies. On a broader scale, there is the disturbing reality that gender-based violence kills one in three women across the world and is the biggest cause of injury and death to women worldwide, causing more deaths and disability among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war.
Go ahead and read that a couple more times if you need to. I know I did.
While this is a horrendous reality to contemplate, there is some really good news, ladies. WE, as mothers, have tremendous power when it comes to shaping the realities of the world because the hand that rocks the cradle does indeed rule the world. We just haven’t been consciously exercising our ability to do so for some time now.
If you’re ready to create a more balanced, gender equal and ideally, egalitarian society overall, here are just a few things YOU, as a MOM have the power to do to get started:
1) Start by developing your own awareness of messages that chip away at a woman’s value. We are bombarded daily by political, religious and media messages that tell us we are less than. I highly recommend that you watch the new documentary Miss Representation as well as the Killing Us Softly documentary series as soon as you can. These will begin to heighten your awareness and suddenly you will notice these messages in every aspect of your life. Most importantly, you can start saying ‘NO’ to them.
2) As your awareness grows, share your knowledge! You can do this really quickly and effectively by planning a screening party of the above noted documentaries and invite the women of your circle and their daughters. There is strength in numbers and if we want to change our current reality it’s going to require that we unite in our common purpose. Imagine the strides you will make if you invite fathers and sons, too!
3) Be the woman you want your daughter to become. This is the number one piece of advice I give to the mothers I work with (and my own constant reminder as the mother of two girls). Really stop and think about the self-value and self-respect you want your daughter to have – and then model it every moment you can. This is reflected in the way you speak about yourself (including your body) and the way she sees the men in your life interact with you. If you tolerate being treated as inferior, this will become her learned reality of what it means to be female.
4) Teach your son to be the man you’d like every man to be. Honestly, this is an area in which I believe we need a great deal of work. We have so much power to guide boys to become whole, balanced human beings who truly value and respect women. This is infinitely easier when we choose to co-parent with partners who understand how detrimental the ‘man box’ is for our sons and our daughters. Please see Tony Porter’s TEDtalk for a brilliant summary of the ‘man box’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=td1PbsV6B80).