I got into this book shortly after reading A Brief History of Misogyny by Jack Holland. While I expected some connection in the books, I didn't expect that Raising Empowered Daughters by Mike Adamick would be a strong anti-misogyny book. I expected tips on how to raise my daughters, not a book that thoroughly challenged patriarchy and how society as a whole treats women.
I got the latter book, and I loved it.
Let's look at a few high points...actually they may be better labelled as low points for society in general.
When we looked at Boys & Sex one of the themes was the male locker talk that continually focused on domination of women. Adamick also approached these ideas as he highlighted that boys call each other "pussies" as a derogatory term. This equates something not good for a man to be with being female1.
From birth patriarchy acts violently to boys as they have to cut off parts of their emotional being to fit within accepted male emotional expression2. You can't cry, be stoic. The only emotions that are allowed to be expressed are aggression and violence. Anything that's "feminine" is the worst thing a boy could be3. This comes back to haunt men later as they have the emotional depth of a scummy pond and have a hard time relating to a mature strong woman.
We also show gender traditions in the clothes that are available to boys and girls. Adamick talks about standing in the boys clothing area and looking around. You'll see super hero's, predators, and other things that show boys they can be aggressive heroes. Girls on the other hand get slimming clothes, cute dinosaurs4 and are shown in general that they are nurturing and passive prey5.
We see "sexy" norms in children's shows as well6. Yes we may have a female hero, but note the extra slim waist of Kim Possible. Not her clothing must be just a bit sexy with her stomach showing. Even our female heroes show you have to be sexy to be a female. It reminded me of the YouTube video below where the girls armour is a bikini, as women only are attacked in a very few places in video games.
Or this one
Next we also limit men in clothing in a way we don't limit women. If a women crosses gender traditions and wears boys clothes, they're awesome. If a boy does the same thing and wears clothing that is traditionally female, they are shamed and thought of as odd7. Of course a woman would want to associate with men, because men are awesome. But no boy would want to associate with being a girl, because girls are terrible.
Then we come to the media we consume as again. When main is the lead character of the movie they are on screen 2x as much as female characters8. This may seem fine since they are the lead character, but don't ask about a female lead then. If the lead is a female, she is on the screen about even with male characters. Even the background characters skew male, with only 18% of them being female9. We may live in a world that's about 50% female, but the media we consume doesn't bear out this reality.
As a society people show that misogyny and assault are not important enough compared to other topics. The election of Donald Trump (and the millions of votes cast for him in the recent election) show that we don't care he's sexually assaulted women10 and that this shouldn't disqualify him from the presidential spot. When it comes to women in power if they have any type of passion they're labelled as emotional and not fit for leadership, while Trump regularly shows us his tantrums online. Adamick rightly says that you can't cast a vote for Trump and say that you care about women and girls11 as anything but sex objects around for male pleasure.
When I looked at The Underground Girls of Kabul I came to the conclusion that we may say we're better at our treatment of women in North America, but we're just better at hiding it. Adamick highlights a 2015 UN working group that found a sexist society in the US that most dictators are trying to get to12. It's nice to see confirmation that my thoughts appear to be correct, and totally horrifying at the same time.
For the past year we've had the underlying stress of COVID sitting on top of us. We walk around worrying just a bit about our jobs and our family and those we love. I know many people that say this stress is tiring and continues to grind them down just a bit more. In the second week of December we found out that in BC we won't be allowed to get together with our family at all on Christmas, and it felt like a blow to the stomach as it added back just a bit more stress.
As bad as this is, there is an end in sight and that's not the case for the background stress all women have to deal with. Women are always trying to figure out how to diffuse situations with men so nothing bad happens to them verbally or physically13. This includes constantly checking on how they dress so that they don't "invite" sexual assault in the form of words or actions14. I can't count the times my wife as been running in the summer and has been whistled at, or someone makes a comment about her tights needing to be just a bit more sheer so someone could see her underwear. As appalling as these comments are, it's more appalling that the men around at the time don't say anything about these comments being sexual assault.
If you think these comments are just "appreciating" a woman, STOP. You're wrong there is no discussion on this in any fashion.
So, what does Adamick suggest we do about our misogynistic society? To start, we don't need to be saviours we need to be decent to the women around us15. We need to be decent and accepting of the men that have feminine gender expression. We need to be the decent people we tell ourselves we are.
Men, when you hear a friend comment on some lady's appearance stop and tell them it's not okay. Show your boys that it is okay to express other emotions outside of aggression.
We've got a long way to go, and you need to help take the steps in that direction.
Yes, without reservation. This is an anti-misogyny book that is hiding a bit as a parenting book. I found it didn't so much offer me parenting advice as it challenged all the little ways I've been socialized as a man that are incompatible with valuing women. I've been working to change my language and to point out shows that sexualize women. I even stopped watching a few series I was enjoying because of the language that reinforced masculinity by equating the weak men with female body parts.
Purchase Raising Empowered Daughters: Amazon