One of the funny things about our era is the proliferation of special days in honor of this or that. Mothers and Fathers, of course, have had their days for some time. That turned out to be such a boom for florists that they and others have promoted Grandparents’ Day, Secretaries’ Day, etc. Special interest groups have also gotten into the act with such things as Earth Day, Martin Luther King Day, and now, Take Our Daughters to Work Day.
The originator and still the sponsor of Take Our Daughters to Work Day is the Ms. Foundation for Women, a feminist organization. The idea appears to be that, in school, teenage girls are operating at a disadvantage compared to boys. The Ms. Foundation claims that teenage girls suffer from low self-esteem due to gender stereotypes enforced by teachers and other school staff. In addition, the girls are depressed by their own “focus on appearance.” Take Our Daughters to Work Day is supposed to refocus the girls’ attention on their career potential, and to lift their self-esteem by paying special attention to them on at least one occasion per year. Unfortunately, the Foundation also provides materials for indoctrinating the boys who are left in school without girls for the day.
Do girls really need a Take Our Daughters to Work Day? By now, I’m sure you expect me to say that this is a bad idea that will corrupt our girls and make ranting feminists out of them! Well, that is always a possibility, but it depends on the people who are guiding the girls through the event. Handled properly, however, I think Take Our Daughters to Work Day could help to get the girls’ minds off of their adolescent concerns (and such worrying does not help them even a little). That would free their minds for thinking about what they are supposed to be trying to learn in church, school, Girl Scouts, etc. In short, I’m not condemning this program out of hand.
What I am saying is that the feminists at Ms. Foundation have some wrong ideas about the causes of low self-esteem among teenage girls. Therefore, they are proposing a solution that does not address the real problem. If there has indeed been a decrease in girls’ self-esteem in recent years, it is not caused by traditional “gender stereotyping.” After all, with the success of the feminist movement, has gender stereotyping become more or less common? If, as seems obvious, it has become less common, any effects of it (such as lowered self-esteem among girls) should have become less common also.
What, then, is the cause of the claimed loss of girls’ self-esteem? Perhaps it is the result of the feminist teachings that girls have been subjected to for most of their lives on television, in magazines and newspapers, and in most schools. The feminist goal for girls seems to be that every one of them will have a career outside of the family. What else can it mean when they write phrases like “in the year 2000 or 2010 when women will comprise half of the total work force?” If half of the population will be female, and half of the workforce will be female, it stands to reason that all of the women will be in the workforce.
I’m convinced that many of our teenage girls still cling to the hope that they can be full-time wives and mothers. In spite of all the feminist propaganda, I believe that most of today’s generation of women would follow this lifestyle if their families’ outrageous tax bills had not forced them to take outside work. Performed conscientiously, the housewife’s work is at least full-time, and one of the most honorable of professions. At her best, the full-time housewife is the anchor of a healthy family; and we all know that the healthy family is the anchor of a free society. In spite of this, feminists have made the roll of wife and mother the least honored of careers. How do we expect a girl to react when she is continually pressured toward a career other than the one she really wants; when her hoped-for career is denigrated as a barbaric relic of the fifties and earlier? She would probably be at least confused; most would suffer a loss of self-esteem.
There are all sorts of honorable professions for men and women. If Take Our Daughters to Work Day can help some girls to examine more of their options, I say more power to them. But we need to do something to counter the underlying assumption that “work” for a woman has to mean having a career outside her home. Perhaps we need a Housewives’ Day to celebrate that ancient and honorable occupation that only a woman can handle.