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Entrepreneur Mom

with Aliza Sherman

If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.

To learn more about Aliza, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! and her website, www.mediaegg.com.

boys are doctors, girls are nurses, mom is freaking out

Categories: Work/Life

14 comments

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?

Wrong.

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?



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14 comments so far...

  • 1) Dora counts.

    2) Who buys her books? I have always made it a point to buy diverse books in terms of gender roles, race, etc. They are out there - but you have to be concious of what you want when you shop, not after you bring it home.

    3) Is her pediatrician / GP a woman? If not, why not? Here again, know what you want before you go shopping.

    SKL  |  March 9th, 2010 at 8:09 pm

  • Another thing. In my opinion, it’s not as important to teach little girls that they can “be” this or that, as showing them that they are smart and brave and can solve big problems. If you look at it that way, possibly a lot of the movies and stories she reads have females in empowering roles.

    SKL  |  March 9th, 2010 at 8:13 pm

  • I agree it isn’t important to teach little girls what they can “be” but I do think it important to break down the assumptions that they CAN’T be something.

    My daughter comes home from school with these ideas from other kids and I find it important to say “well gee, auntie T is a lawyer”. To give her examples of people she knows seems to work.

    I’m especially pointed about it if it is something in the past she said she was going to be and then someone told her she couldn’t (like the vet; she as for the last year decided she wanted to be a “doctor for animals”. Then somone at school told her she couldn’t be, only boys could. So we had to nip that one right away. Luckily we know female veterinarians!

    Mich  |  March 9th, 2010 at 9:56 pm

  • I recommend The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
    http://www.amazon.com/Paper-Bag-Princess-Classic-Munsch/dp/0920236162

    My daughter for a long time wanted to be a police officer, so she could speed.

    Enjoy!

    Donna Chmura  |  March 12th, 2010 at 1:24 am

  • Better a brilliant nurse than an arrogant frustrated doctor!
    I grew up with no option about what books to read (I’m 44). It wasn’t the books but the attitude of my mum (who was a ballroom dance teacher - oooohhhh, so girly!) that made me believe I could be who I wanted to be. In the end I chose nursing and am also a midwife. But, I ride a motorbike, direct theatre plays, am an actor too, i knit, i read books about dangerous places to visit, also books by Irvine Welsh, i love American Psycho and Gnomeo and Juliet, my husband is a nurse…
    Don’t fret about the books - just support her in her choices.

    Chantelle  |  November 29th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

  • Toward the Stars directed me here; I find your situation very common because it is so hard to find books and dvds that appeal to girls and also show equal gender roles. I have made a point in our daughter’s lives to put them in situations that promote equality. They have a female, African American doctor. The preschool we chose was a co-op that had a very diverse group, from single mothers who had struggles to large families that were well off and at least five different ethnic groups included. And when possible I request male teachers, not only to show my children that gender does not dictate your occupation but also so that they have an opportunity to interact on a professional level with men. Unfortunately, I don’t think the glass ceiling is going to break soon and I want them to have the tools to crack it for themselves.

    JennH2o  |  November 29th, 2012 at 12:12 pm

  • The Gingerbread Girl is a good book for the holidays (we also have the Gingerbread Boy book) The Girl’s book is the second in the series and the girl learns from her brothers mistakes (he got eaten) and is able to out smart the fox.

    Also, Dora counts.

    For princess movies, Mulan is a family favorite - we love that Mulan is strong and brave and saves all of China. The Princess in the Frog is also good with a strong female character. We haven’t seen Brave yet in our house - heard about a scary bear scene so waiting to see it on DVD - but have heard it is the best create your own destiny Disney movie so far. :)

    Keep looking you’ll find some out there…

    Amanda  |  November 29th, 2012 at 1:07 pm

  • Aliza - just wanted to let you know that I a nearly identical converstaion with my mom when I was about her age… I never did become interested in medicine, but I am an Engineer, as is one of my 2 sisters. The other stuidied biology and works in medical device sales. I had a SAHM and a Dad who taught history and can’t say I had any female role models until maybe my math teacher in my senior year of high school. I don’t know exactly what my parents instilled in us, but then, as now, I believe I can do and be whatever I want if I work at it hard enough.

    i wish I knew what their secret was as I struggle to find balance for m 4.5 year old daughter inthis over princessified world… and 2.5 year old son for that matter.

    Shauna  |  November 29th, 2012 at 1:19 pm

  • Gabrielle  |  November 29th, 2012 at 5:16 pm

  • One thing we do in our family is drive a little farther and wait a little longer for doctor’s and dentist’s appointments, because we choose only female doctors. It is inconvenient, but I hope it will offset a bit of the mass of other information they are getting.

    Kindra  |  November 29th, 2012 at 6:47 pm

  • It’s amazing how we can give our children the same strong messages over and over again that they can be anything they want to be but all around them in our culture are messages that counter our own. I started a clothing line and online store called “Handsome in Pink” just to give my kids a strong message that they can wear and feel empowered by all day long. Check us out!

    Handsome in Pink  |  November 30th, 2012 at 12:57 am

  • Why do people think being a doctor is a step up from being a nurse?! Doctors and nurses do different things. I’m a nurse. I know. I have absolutely no interest in being a doctor. I want to be in the thick of it, caring for the patients. Nurses do not get enough credit for what they do everyday. They had “hero day” at my daughter’s school today. She went as a nurse!!
    Hurray for your daughter for wanting to be a nurse!!

    Cindy  |  November 30th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

  • It is so unfortunate that even-though there have been a lot of socialization changes in terms of gender roles, still toys and adults (parents, relatives, teachers) promote stereotypical images of girls and boys that by the time they are adults they learn that they are total opposites to each other instead of complimentary to one another.

    In my view a child is a child and should not be discriminated upon race, ethnicity or gender. The toys, books etc should be based on important aspects like construction, fantasy, skills development and by no means they should project stereotypical images that do not fit into our todays’ society.

    Its sad when a 3 year old girl all she wants to become is a princess and a 3 year old boy a doctor or a fireman. It is up to us the adults to get educated first, to question some of these images ‘ready to feed minds’, and try to overpass our fears (our boy not becoming a gay and our girl not loosing her femininity which is based on sex, mothering and luxury) in order to have our own view about certain matters, instead of just accepting and passing such views from generation to generation without resistance.

    Danae Harmandas  |  December 1st, 2012 at 11:58 am

  • Check out the following:

    Toward the Stars

    A Mighty Girl

    Princess-Free Zone

    and

    Pigtail Pals, Baseball Buddies

    No matter how old your daughter is now, the brilliant people who run these excellent organizations and companies have something for her– and for you. They are fantastic resources full of ideas, stories, and suggestions.

    Lindsay  |  December 2nd, 2012 at 10:09 pm

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