By: Linda Brodsky, MD.
What do we really want for our girls? In my mind, we want them to experience a world that welcomes their dreams, their agendas, and their unique gifts.
That world doesn’t yet exist.
So what do we do? Well, we can moan and groan, and cry foul. Or we can try to give our little women all the tools and encouragement we think they will need. Or we can change the world by changing the way we think about women and how they behave.
Women think differently. Women communicate differently. Women learn differently. Women build relationships differently. Research firmly supports these assertions. But what research doesn’t do is to help us to positively contextualize and then to capitalize on these differences. And it is imperative that we do this for ourselves, and more importantly for our girls.
From birth we are taught that being “different” is not a good thing. Most of us go along with what others are doing, so as not to be-different. Case in point. A 7-year-old second grader came to my office with chronic cough, asthma (on many medications), restless sleep and recurrent sinus infections. We determined that acid reflux was coming up from her stomach and irritating her airways. I began to talk about lifestyle changes, such as not eating late, before bed.
“But she has soccer twice a week from 6 – 8:00 pm, and she eats when she gets home and then goes to bed.”
“Do you mean to say that a second grader participates in a sport that regularly keeps them out until 8 pm?” I responded.
“That’s the schedule they gave us, and if she doesn’t participate she will feel left out. I have asked them to change but they won’t.”
I was astounded that a very smart mother would give in to a schedule she herself knows is bad for her daughter. I am all for sports, but keeping a second grader out until 8:00 pm on school nights playing soccer is a very bad idea. It disrupts eating and sleeping patterns. But I also could see how difficult it was for this mother who did not want her child to “be different.” “Normalizing” behavior in our culture means being more like everyone else and being less different than everyone else. Normal is good, most of the time. But being different is also good, when it counts.
Normal behavior in the greater world is mostly defined by male models and male built structures. And it is time that we stopped trying to fit our girls into these models and structures because they won’t fit comfortably. Why? Because girls are different—in the way they think, learn, connect, and communicate.
So we need first to recognize when the world is a raw deal for our girls. And then we have to change it so that it fits their needs. That’s a tall order, but it is doable, if everyone gets involved and makes it happen. Culture change occurs when there are enough people doing it differently that “differently” becomes the new normal.
Let’s take up each of these areas—learning, communicating, thinking and relating—in turn to see how we can help our girls be different for better and not for worse.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Linda Brodsky, MD is a pediatric otolaryngologist and founder of Expediting the Inevitable—an organization dedicated to revolutionizing the culture and growth potential of the healthcare marketplace by better engaging women physicians. She invites you to join her crusade to bring about the full, fair and flexible integration of women physicians into the healthcare workforce for the benefit of everyone. Join her at www.expeditingtheinevitable.com.
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