Warning: This may feel like a rant, so it can be completely disregarded if you don’t feel like reading anything potentially fueled by my passion for equal treatment of men and women. Conversely, it may NOT feel like a rant if you, too, are impassioned by the need to find greater equality for men and women.
A few weeks ago I came across a little video-picture-thing on FB about “what it feels like to raise daughters.” It was posted by a News-Media site called YourTango, which I have never heard of before and don’t really know what its viewership is like. The photograph showed an adorable little girl throwing money out of a white-framed window. See a screen shot of this image below.
So, the image could imply that girls are frivolous spenders. It could imply that little girls are merely little people who throw things they don’t understand the value of. It could imply a lot of things, I guess. I’ve heard moms and dads alike claim that little girls end up costing more money than boys over the years, as if someone is sitting around calculating the cost of their children (I’m sure there are people doing this, but I don’t see the “value” in that– I don’t see how it makes a difference to anyone living outside of, let’s say for the sake of argument, a place like China). Nonetheless, I’ve heard things like this:
“Girls buy clothes, shoes, and bags,” or “Girls spend all your money because they like expensive things,” or “You pay to send girls to college, and then they just wind up married, at home, raising the kids.”
These are actual things I’ve heard said to me at one point in time or another. Though these quotes are over-generalized statements, I’m not generalizing or paraphrasing when I quote them. I can name the people who have said such things to me at one point in time or another.
So, here I am, a SAHM, raising my children, sitting on multiple college degrees, and collecting no salary to care for my kids each and every day. Then I see this image about raising daughters. I see a cute little girl with her cute little hat and her teeny tiny hands, tossing bills out of a perfectly framed white window. Then I start to sift through the comments on FB. The comments I read below the image were, perhaps, more interesting than the image itself. Lots of commentors griped that the image was meant to be funny and anyone who saw it as sexist or offensive needs to relax and laugh. One guy commented that he put 6 girls through college and four of them got married. What that comment is intended to suggest is subjective, but the fact that it was made is interesting.
“My daughter would have to throw the money with both hands,” another commentor wrote.
“You need to laugh and enjoy the cute things in life,” another wrote.
“It is funny. Not sexist. Not deep and meaningful. Just part of life that always appears more expensive than we would like.”
The last comment made me laugh a little because if a person needs to defend something as “not sexist,” it is probably kind of sexist.
When I saw the image I felt immediately offended. I thought it was blatantly unnecessary. I thought that even if it was intended as a joke, it was a failed attempt. I know how to take a joke, but I can also distinguish between what is and isn’t one. At the same time, I realize that it’s attempts at “joking” about these kinds of things (in this case, issues of gender roles and sexism) that finally gets discussion going about the issues. This little teeny tiny picture is not the end of the world, but it’s also another teeny tiny reminder about how people can’t distinguish between what is and is not offensive. And it prompts a discussion like the one I’m trying to have here….
Here’s my thought on things: the money spent on raising children, boys or girls, doesn’t have to be wasted. I recognize that it costs money to raise a family and budgeting dollars and cents is a part of life. But if we want to talk about wasted money we should look at the caregivers who choose how they can spend money on their children instead of the children who “spend their parents money.”
Even beyond the argument about what counts as wasted spending and doesn’t, let’s get back to the sexist issue here. The bottom line is that no one would ever have created a meme or a post or an image of a little boy throwing money out the window. That hard fact is all it takes to assess what makes this image sexist.
I believe in free speech, and I think everyone can laugh at things that are funny, but making a blanket that it feels like girls are throwing your money out the window is hurtful. What is money wasted on? For a woman such as myself, the first thing that comes to mind is my education because this is something women are fighting for in countries across the world, and it’s something we still argue over even here in the US. Aside from wanting a voice and a place in society, women want the right to an education. In the US, we have that right, but we are sometimes ostracized when we don’t utilize our education in a way that is deemed “the right way” to use it.
Whether a woman decides to raise a family or enter the work world seems completely irrelevant to me when it comes to assessing the value of education. A woman can do whatever she wants, as can a man. But it is still perceived that if a woman wants to stay home to raise her family, a college education is too much money to spend. I understand that education is expensive– but that is a problem someone needs to speak to our government about. I feel adamantly that everyone deserves the right to higher ed, and whether that means two, four, five, or eight years of education (depending on the degree(s) you want to earn), it should be available. The fact that higher education is not more affordable only goes to show that we are not placing a high enough value on access to learning.
Further, anyone who chooses to stay home to raise children benefits from higher education because raising children to be productive, thoughtful, though-provoking, compassionate critical thinkers is no easy task. It is among the most multi-layered, demanding, multi-faceted challenges in the world. There are plenty of crappy people out there. But maybe, if everyone had the opportunity to access psychology, anthropology, science, math, ethics, philosophy, poetry, etc, there would be fewer crappy people. Or at least better informed, self-aware crappy people. Because parents are the ones responsible for shaping and forming great people. And if you’re not a parent, every single interaction you have with young people is forming and affecting them in some way. What better way is there to shape and form young people than to do it with an educated, well-formed, well-shaped mind? I wouldn’t call that a waste and I wouldn’t think of it as throwing money out the window.
Now it sounds like my post is about creating affordable higher education programming in the US more so than it is about sexism…..I digress.
I can take a joke. My main point is more so that maybe, just maybe, I was educated at one point or another just enough to take notice of the things that disturb me. I can voice truth over rubbish and try to pave the way for my own children. If I were to have a little girl, I would never want her to feel like raising her was a waste money. I wouldn’t want a little boy to feel that way either. I just want everyone to be more mindful about the fact that jokes are supposed to be funny, and offensive crap that lands on FB is not funny just because it gets reposted as “funny” a ba-jillion times.