We’ve all been there. Or at least, I’m guessing all us women have.
Daddy’s Little Princess. And Daddy’s Little Girl.
The one who is a Little Girl until she is in her late teens, her twenties and even her thirties.
Well, according to my dad anyway.
“You will do what you are told until you are 30. At least 30. I don’t care about the age of 21,” he said with all his patriarchal, empowerful authority.
“You are my daughter and you will do what I say.”
A few years later on, it was “You spent your time trashing around.”
Wow. From Daddy’s Little Princess to an abhorrent sex-worker in one easy step.
So why is it that women are brought up from a very early age with the idea that they are a princess? Or at least that they should be treated like one not just when they are young, but throughout their life?
It is hardly helpful is it? For most of us, we are not going to become a real princess. There is a vast shortage of royal princes in the world and in most cases they don’t look at marrying commoners from a working-class background.
So it must be about imagery. That women should be worshipped, looked after, and more importantly – behave themselves, because one day, their prince will come and marry them.
And their prince will look after them, and give them a luxurious life. First we do what daddy says when he looks after us as a little girl. Then we swap daddy for our prince, and he too will look after us.
Of course we all know that women are totally incapable of looking after themselves. Hence they need a man, to guide them in life, to pay for them, to provide for them – so long as they are suitably subservient and do as they are told.
Life is a fairy tale. At least it is for women. Indeed it is. Or at least sometimes I can’t believe it is true. Not quite the same thing though is it?
What is wrong with telling young girls that they need to make their own way in the world? That their main aim in life should not be about entrapping their prince ie the richest, best-looking man available? Best-looking doesn’t really come into it to be honest. Money makes even the ugliest man look attractive.
Why bring girls up with such a false impression to believe that they will have an easy life ahead of them? Who knows what fate is going to throw at them? It is unlikely to be a prince though.
And why give them the illusion that they are someone special? They may well be Daddy’s Little Princess, but to everyone else they are just Ann, or Beth, or Carol. Just another girl who grows up into a woman.
But they don’t always grow up into women do they? Alas, not just daddy, but society in general continues to refer to adult women as girls. Both men and women continue to infantilise women throughout their life.
We women are denied our maturity. We are not grown-up. Unlike men of course. To put it very simply, we are inferior, unequal, and childlike.
And we all buy into that too. I was brought up to think that nice girls suddenly turned into ladies and that women were sort of, well, rough and undesirable. Better still of course, was to be called a girl all the time. Because that suggests you look so young, and pretty, and all the men appreciate your youthful looks. And it is just so important to look pretty for the men.
One of the first books I read about feminism pointed out how early in life we start to treat boys and girls differently. I’m not just talking about the colour-coded clothes or the different types of toys. (Incidentally I had a lot of building-type toys which were ace fun, and a physics-and-chemistry set too).
What made an impression on me in this particular book was the description of the way adults respond to little boys. They pick them up and show them the world through the window, because that is where they are going to make their impression in life. And they need to learn at a very young age that they are going to go out into that big wide world and they don’t need to be frightened of it, because it is there for them. In fact it is their world. And when adults meet little boys, they ruffle their hair, and play little fighting games – because little boys are tough, and they will grow into big tough men.
What do we do with the little girls? We cuddle them. Nurture them. Protect them from that big nasty world outside. Because when they grow up they won’t be able to manage on their own. They will need a man. And even then, we still treat them as the little girls they really are.
Wrong. We can manage on our own. But it would be a damn site easier if we weren’t disadvantaged by being brought up with ingrained, sexist, patriarchal values designed to keep us in our (inferior) place. And not treated as little girls when we have reached the age of maturity.