I am a female entrepreneur with a tech company, a working mom with a 3-year-old daughter, and I try to instill good feminist values in my little girl. I tell her all the time that she can be anything she wants to be when she grows up. How she got it into her head that she couldn’t be a doctor is beyond me.
My 3-year-old loves playing doctor with her dolls and her stuffed animals so for Christmas I bought her the closest thing to a doctor’s kit that I could find in our small community - a Melissa and Doug’s veterinarian kit.
“You be the patient, mommy, and I’ll be the nurse,” she told me recently.
“Why not be the doctor, baby?” I asked.
She laughed at me as if to say “Crazy Mommy.”
Then she said, “Girls can’t be doctors, Mommy. Only boys can be doctors.”
Long pause. Mini internal freak out.
“Honey, girls can be doctors, too,” I assured her.
“Oh no, mommy, they can’t. Girls can only be nurses,” she replied.
“Sweetie, boys can be nurses, and girls can be doctors,” I explained.
She laughed and laughed. “You’re funny, Mommy!”
Where did I go wrong?!?
After a few more exchanges, I realized that I could not convince my little girl that she, indeed, could be a doctor if she wanted to be one.
Once the initial shock of my obvious failure as a feminist mom wore off, my next thought was who can I blame? Who told my little girl that she couldn’t be a doctor and that her only option was nurse. I was ready to march right up to them, get in their face, and tell them they better never, ever tell my daughter she can’t be a doctor if she damn well pleases.
Can I Blame the Princesses?
I have yet to figure out who told her girls could not be doctors, but then I began to scrutinize the books and DVDs on the bookshelf. Somewhere in the dozens upon dozens of books and movies, there had to be some images of women in non-traditional roles, right?
I found representations of women as mommies, teachers, camp counselors, princesses, queens, fairy godmothers, witches. No doctors, no travelers and adventurers (unless Dora counts), no female construction workers or female truck drivers or female scientists or female heads of Internet companies. Okay, she’s only three, however, I was floored to realize that the majority of female characters in the media she is consuming are animals and mostly mother bears and mother seals and mother ducks, etc.
I know there are feminist fairy tales, but what are some of the other books out there for a smart little girl who should believe she can be anything?
What are the books you’re reading to your kids to let them know they can be anything?