Lately, I’ve been hearing and reading about little girls who want to be ‘fierce’, or mothers who want to raise their daughters ‘fierce’.
“What does that mean?” I asked one child innocently.
“I can do anything!” she said with a huge confident grin and pumped her arm in the air while she kick-boxed with her foot.
“Yes you can,” I said with a huge smile.
“I can do anything,” is so empowering. It isn’t the first time it’s making the lips of youngsters. Forty-one years ago UN proclaimed 1975 as the International Women’s year. The chosen theme song was Helen Reddy’s ‘I am Woman’.
“I am woman, hear me roar” took to the airwaves, raising the consciousness of everyone who heard it.
“Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman”
That little girl today is a product of generations of women that followed Helen’s empowering call.
I decided to approach some local mothers and grandmothers to understand what they thought about a little girl proclaiming “I am fierce. I can do anything!” This was not a formal study by any means; it did, however, lead to some stimulating conversations!
Everyone agreed that the statements were empowering. They liked the intent, but politely hesitated before commenting on the choice of words selected.
The big stickler for most of the women I spoke with was the use of the word ‘fierce’. They felt it was negative, combative and warlike. They felt it unintentionally gave permission to girls, and boys to be aggressive in their behaviour and, in certain circumstances, violent and hostile towards others in order to push through life’s challenges or obstacles and to go after what they wanted.
The women that liked the word ‘fierce’ weren’t thinking of aggression and violence when they saw little girls using the word. To them, fierce meant spirited, energetic, fearless and take-charge; someone who was tough, head-strong and would be able to fight their way through all that life had to throw at them.
“I want that for my daughter too, but in a different way,” said one mother when I explained to her the ‘intent’ behind the word ‘fierce’. “I want my daughter to be strong, confident and independent; I want her to be able to take on life’s challenges with courage, resourcefulness and resiliency.”
Only one young mother raised a question about the statement “I can do anything.” She wondered if these words were setting up a child to experience unrealistic expectations and entitlement. Life wasn’t an entitlement – it was a privilege. It was about working hard and being able to skillfully handle rejection and opposition without becoming overly devastated or acting out in anger and violence.
I bet if I’d been able to invite all these lovely ladies to my home at the same time, we would have had such a fun afternoon together! For all their different ways of expressing it, for all their different natures, they all seemed to want similar things for their daughters. In addition to what’s been stated so far, they wanted their daughters to be (their words, not mine):
- Caring and compassionate
- Respectful and considerate toward others, regardless of who they were
- Daughters who will not shy from speaking-up for themselves and others; speaking their minds assertively, not aggressively.
- Accepting of other people as they are; non-judgmental.
- Daughters who are not ashamed of who they are, but rather loving their own unique selves; loving themselves wholly for who they are and what they looked like.
- They want their daughters to understand that who they are is valued. It’s not because of what they make, where they live, what they have or do not have.
Above all, they wanted their daughters to be happy.
I’m grateful for the mothers and grandmothers who took time from their busy schedules to delve deeper into the subject when I asked my question (s). I enjoyed each of our conversations and found myself enlightened by their insights. Thank you all.