If boys will be boys, then girls will be bitches. That’s if you believe what you hear.

Mean girlsA while ago, Mad Cow here at The Real Mum’s Blog debated the notion that boys will be boys – or at least that most boys will be boys most of the time. She then opened the forum up to anyone who would like to draw a comparison, if there is one to be drawn, to girls and what they will be.

I have three daughters, aged 10, 11 and 15, so I feel that I am imminently qualified to give it a red hot go.

If boys will be boys what will girls be? Based on what I hear my friends, my family, the media and the woman at my local supermarket checkout say, apparently, girls will be bitches.

I’ve heard an otherwise loving family member call her 3 year old daughter a bitch because she was acting like, well, a three year old, the check out chick insists all 12 year old girls (specifically and especially her 12 year old daughter) are bitches, and I’ve seen particular TV shows – think Real Housewives, the Batchelor, Farmer Wants a Wife – all designed to bring out and highlight this apparently intrinsic, unavoidable female trait. It’s everywhere.

When my husband and I discovered that we were expecting our third daughter, the overriding reaction from other people was that of sympathy. Particularly sympathy for him. Poor guy, imagine a house full of girls. You’ll need a bigger shed. Wait ’til they’re all teenagers. Ad nauseum. This sentiment has been a constant in my life with three daughters and when I also tell people that one of them is 15 – a teenager!!!! – they all, pretty much without fail, ask in a voice akin to one they’d use to ask you how the chemo treatment was going, “how is it?”. They ask it with a hesitant trepidation, almost wincing at what they imagine my answer will be.

How is it?   ‘It’ (meaning my daughter) I answer, is completely and utterly, unequivocally delightful.

Here’s the thing. I fully believe that the hideous and widespread belief that girls will be bitches is definitely not true for all girls, and in fact is not even true for most girls, but rather for a small proportion of girls who simply manage to get a shitload of attention. Negative attention. It’s the squeaky wheel syndrome. They are the most obnoxious group, so they stand out.

I recently saw an interview with a group of girls who were that year graduating from Wellesley College in New York. The interviewer (Oprah) was so impressed with how intelligent, thoughtful and self possessed they all were that she exclaimed, a little naively, “Why have I not met girls like you before? Where have you all been hiding?” They patiently explained that they had been doing their high achieving, harmonious, non-bitchy thing all this while, but that from a media perspective they are dead boring. Imagine the headline: “Girl studies hard and passes exams with flying colours!” Yeah, nuh. Girls behaving well is not a headline. Girls behaving badly on the other hand……

Feeding into this misperception are the mothers of this (as I see it) minority group. They complain long and loud to anyone who’ll listen about how awful their daughters are. And in so doing, add to society’s perception that bitchiness is overriding and all pervasive in that gender.

There’s an old schoolyard comeback that I used to use as a defence against teasing, ‘it takes one to know one’. I wonder if that might apply in this situation? I wonder how much of the offending behaviour is being modelled unconsciously by we mothers? It’s easy for us to find ourselves commenting on other women’s outfits or hair cuts, of talking to one friend about another friend on the phone, within ear shot of our daughters. Maybe it’s time we took a good hard look at our own behaviour before we start casting dispersions on our children.

The reason I know deep in my soul that girls are essentially just as lovably flawed as their male counterparts is because I have found a secret society of mothers who also believe this to be true. We find each other in dark corners at school functions and furtively talk about how proud we are of our blossoming teenage daughters and their lovely friends. And there are lots of us, but you’d never know it because if we were to share,  it would just come across as shameless bragging. And it’d be weird. ‘Hi, how’s it going? How are the kids?’ ‘Yeah good, my daughters aren’t giving me the shits at all.” See? Weird.

I asked my Year 10 daughter to give me an estimate of what percentage of girls in her year level are the bitchy ones. She figured it’s about 20%. That means one in every five girls is a vocal, disruptive, pain in the arse. While it’d be ideal if absolutely everyone could just play nice, 20% is hardly the majority. It’s just that at times it feels like it is.

So if boys will be boys and girls will be girls (not bitches), what does it mean to be a girl? Well, in my experience, most girls can be many things and those things can be described as either positive or (negative).

I prefer the positive.

They can be nurturers (little mothers); effective communicators (loud and talkative); good leaders (bossy); mindful of consequences (know it alls);  persistent (naggers); have a heightened sense of fairness (sticklers for detail); are multifaceted (complicated) and studiers of human behaviour (bitchy). And a million other things.

I’m sure your daughters have their own unique sets of characteristics which on a good day makes your heart melt with love, but which on a bad day makes you want to run screaming into the street. If we could try to view all girls through the good day lense rather than the bad day one, then maybe we could start concentrating on their many positive traits and everyone could finally stop calling them bitches. Please!

 

My youngest had just started school and I knew I wanted to work again, but I felt lost and didn’t know what I wanted to do after all those years as a stay at home mum.
Gabrielle helped me understand what I thrive at, and it became clear to me what I did and didn’t want to do, going forward.
I felt understood and seen as a whole person. Thank you.

Elise, 42

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