Creating Peace Through Balance

How a Photo Captured the Moment My Niece Learned She Was Not Equal

Since 2017 has been the year of women rising up in the reclamation of their sovereignty, I have become hyper-aware of the subtle ways in which messages of inequality are being purveyed.

Today, the fire department visited my niece’s preschool. They gave the kids cool gold sticker badges and firefighters helmets. Red to the boys, and pink to the girls. Cute, right?

Image © Hamza El-Falah/Unsplash

No, and here’s why. It’s in the seemingly innocuous things that young children start
to form ideas about who they are and their place in this world.
Real firefighters in her area don’t wear pink helmets, they wear red. Only the boys were given “real” ones, based on color. These seemingly small discrepancies are the ways that young girls start to receive messages of being less-than. We, as a society, reason these actions away and make excuses for them.

I am not generally one of those people who gets crazy about gender-specific marketing and gender stereotyping. I like to think that most women are smarter than that, and I quite like my pink razors (though I do not like paying the 35-50% markup from the non-pink ones.) I also quite like the color pink, when I choose it.

Traditionally, women who have an opinion, the desire to express it, and the strength to stand by it are given labels like difficult, bitch, stubborn, know-it-all, more trouble than she is worth. We are taught to be quiet, be polite, and not to be argumentative. The message we’ve received is desirable=silent.

The #metoo campaign has shown us just how many of us have been violated and have stayed silent—for many reasons. “I asked for it by dressing a certain way or standing too close, no one will believe me, I will be looked at as damaged if people know.” Most of us are fairly sure that no one has ever said these things to us out loud—but these messages came from somewhere.

Where do we learn these things? We adopt them from he subtleties of  the “innocent” actions that people take from the time we are very young children. It is time for us to look at equality on the micro-levels and treat our little girls—with words and actions—like they count, like they are just as good as the boys, and like their dreams are valid.

I’m glad that I sat with Kali when she was raised in me the moment I saw my incredibly smart, adorable, and strong niece in a pink firefighter helmet. It’s not just about her. We’ve all been handed the pink helmet. It’s time for each of us to hand it back.