“What are girls made of?”
That’s the question this Nike commercial asks.
“Made of flowers and rings, gossip and marmalade, that is what our girls are made of,” is the response in a traditional song that the young girl in the ad responds with. The audience nods approvingly. But she soon changes things up, inspired by strong, impressive female sports stars, and the lyrics pack a punch:
“Made of iron, and of striving, and of self-dedication, and of battles, this is what our girls are made of. Made of perseverance and of grace…made of passion and of heart, and of dignity, …made of strength and of fire …made of accomplishments and achievements, this is what our girls are made of.”
Ok, ok, so putting to one side the fact that this is an ad for a multi-million dollar global corporation, the video itself is very stirring, and I liked it. The question it poses: “What are girls made of?” made me think, because the answer didn’t come readily to me. What are girls meant to be, if not just themselves? It seems that girls either hear the message that they must be quiet and docile and always ready to please, or that they need to be dominant and all-powerful and do everything and achieve everything. That is, of course, an exaggeration of the extremes, but it made me wonder what advice girls should be hearing.
So, created together with other members of the Catholic-Link team, plus friends and family – dads, moms, uncles, aunts and teachers – here are our offerings of advice for young girls; the things we would like our daughters, nieces, and students to know.
Of course, much of this advice can definitely be applied to boys as well, we’re not denying that. But there is something good in acknowledging that each of the sexes need their own specific approach and advice, tailored to them and responding to the pressures that the world places so heavily on their respective sex. This post, and the advice below, we offer merely as a starting point. It doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, neither is it all-conclusive. Rather, it is an invitation to think and pray about the problems, their roots, and the vast array of situations out there. In reading the advice, what do you think it is important for girls to know? And what would you like your daughters, nieces, goddaughters or students to know as they grow up? Share in the comments below!
“You can excel at many things; happiness and satisfaction of heart will come when you find God’s mission for your life and excel at that.”
“Looking back on my own girlhood, I wish I’d been better exposed to and taught to love gentleness. Or maybe it’s better said: ‘protected from the messages of Girl-power’, which I see ever more forcefully pushed upon girls nowadays as a no-brainer, in a necessary, aggressive and defensive way.”
“My main thing would be to try and help my daughters to realize that we judge ourselves by our intentions, but judge other people by their actions – once they know that then they have the beginnings of empathy.”
“Not to worry about trying to conform to other people’s expectations (especially peers). It’s ok to be a little weird!”
“The importance of self-discipline. Willpower and motivation and talent will only get you so far, but if you have self-discipline you will go far.”
“I want them to know that they can do anything they put their mind to. I want them to know about the whole world and how amazing it is. I want them to be aware and accepting of difference. I want them to know that they don’t need a handsome prince to sweep them off their feet. I want them to know that they are enough and they have value in this world whatever they do.”
“That your attitude is your greatest freedom.”
“I would like my daughters to know that it is important to be strong and soft at the same time. And that this might be a life-long work in figuring this out, but it is important nonetheless. That when you recognize your humility before a loving God, you do have the authority in you to stand up for yourself when things are wrong, to fight when you or others are treated unfairly, and not to let others steamroller you. But, it is important to know the gift we have as women of softness and compassion. To be dignified in standing up for what is wrong. To know that forgiveness does a better job than revenge. That kindness is not weakness.”
“To accept help, and to ask for help too. That’s not weakness. Even if a boy helps you!”
“That Our Lady is the best role model and the best mother you will ever have. Better than even me, as their own mother.”
“That they don’t need to conform to peer pressure. As a teacher, I see so many gaggles of girls at school whose only interests appear to be their phones, their makeup and the opinion of their peers. The biggest cause of conflict among them is falling out over real or perceived bitching and back-stabbing (“She said this … and I heard she did that”). It’s a constant, exhausting process of trying to unpick what was really said and meant, as opposed to what they interpreted. I want my daughters to know the certainty of being loved, particularly by me as their dad. Research shows that girls who have strong relationships with their fathers have greater confidence in themselves and are less influenced by their peers.”
“Try not to worry so much about what other people think.”
“I want them to know their worth, especially in this day and age, where the worth of a woman is often defined by how much like a man she is (and that’s often how much like a man’s negative traits).”
“I want my daughters to know that beauty on the inside leads you along a wiser and more wonderful road than beauty on the outside! And I want them to know the importance of being true to yourself, not trying to conform to those around you. And finally, the importance of confidence in who you are and where you are going.”
“I would want my daughters to have wisdom – that ability to look at the world and the situations around them and to make objective decisions, regardless of what the majority is doing.”
“I would say to teach them to always stay close to our blessed Mother.”
“I’d like my daughters to have compassion; not to look away when they see a homeless person, not to close their eyes to the suffering around the world, not to walk past a person in need – and then to find their own personal way to help alleviate even the smallest amount of suffering in some way.”
“And without all of these accomplishments- you are enough!”
“Sports are a competition, but life is not. Leave the need to be the best, and victorious, on the field. Know your gifts and don’t feel the need to be good at everything. Use and recognize your own strengths without feeling the need to compete with the strengths of others.”
“I would tell them that they are infinitely loved.”
And finally, some advice from the saints:
“The level of any civilization is always its level of its womanhood. In as much as woman is loved, it follows that the nobler a woman is, the nobler man will have to be to be deserving of that love. That is why the level of any civilization is always its level of its womanhood.” The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen in: “Women Who Don’t Fail.”
“Love our Lady. And she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle.” St. Josemaria Escriva