As a father’s rights advocate, I’m the first to grumble and complain about news stories that decry the lack of female role models in contemporary culture. The reality is quite the contrary, as far as I can tell: the male/female pendulum has swung far towards female rights, towards canonizing women, particularly where parenting is concerned. It’s all over our movies, TV and literature: men as immature cads and potential rapists, while women are nurturing mothers-to-be. Not always, but it’s something that arises frequently even on non-media controlled sites like Facebook.
Still, with a 16yo daughter who is just starting to get both curious and anxious about college and what she should study, I’ve been spending more time thinking about the role models she has in her life. Specifically, I believe all boys should have strong, successful male role models in their lives, and all girls should have strong, successful female role models in their lives. It’s good for boys to know successful women, and vice versa, but what I’m contemplating is giving them role models that can be potential answers to their internal questions of “who could I be when I grow up?”
They’re growing up in a Mario Bros world where boys still do battle with the bad guys to rescue Princess Peach, a little cutie who apparently has no ability to fend for herself, particularly against the evil Bowser. What I don’t want is for my girls to grow up thinking that they’ve victims who need a man to rescue them because there’s another man who’s the bad guy. Or, in real world terms, a man to manage their households or lives, to earn enough money so they can have nice things, to be happy.
So while there may indeed be some good female role models that appear in the media, the real question to me is whether my daughter has good, successful female role models in her life, and living in Boulder, Colorado, there are a lot of what we call “trust fund babies” who volunteer for charities, dabble in jobs, work one day/week and rely on trust funds, money from their parents or from family businesses or familial wealth. Exactly the women I do not want her to see as role models, actually.
I am blessed to have lots of successful women in my life, friends and family who have indeed made their own ways in the world, either run their own business, are key players in other companies, or are just happy with how they’ve managed the balance of their work and the rest of their lives. And happy is what it’s about, after all. Still, my personal measure of success is tied to the cliché phrase stand on their own two feet. That’s what I want for all of my children, for them to be able to make their own way in the world and to achieve happiness either solo or with a partner.
My goal for this year, therefore, is to make sure my teen daughter not only meets some of these women but has a chance to talk with them about their jobs, their career paths, what they studied in college, and how they have – inevitably – journeyed down unexpected avenues along the way.
My vision of a role model isn’t a celebrity, btw, or a star athlete. Most of the truly successful people I know are surprisingly low profile and if you didn’t know their backstory you’d have no idea that they’ve done marvelous, admirable things in their lives, with more yet to come.
So if you’ve had an interesting and inspiring journey to your own success and are willing to chat, let me know. It’s time for her to start meeting more people in the world, start finding out just what an adventure she’s heading into as she comes closer to graduating high school in a few years. And don’t be surprised if I start bringing her to networking events and workshops. It’s time…