7 Things We Need To Start Teaching Girls In School

Flickr / Seattle Municipal Archives
Flickr / Seattle Municipal Archives

While it would be wonderful if every girl were given this kind of knowledge at home from her parents, we all know that some of the more important lessons are simply going to slip through the cracks. Perhaps in-between the Algebra and laughably ineffective Health Ed, we could have a few of these points driven home by a cool, perceptive teacher. (I’m thinking a pretty, relatable young woman who is always happy and smells like candles. Basically Miss Honey wearing Anthropologie.)

1. Being beautiful is the least of your worries.

In all of the rush to convince every girl that she is ~*~a BeAuTiFul pRiNcEsS bUtTeRfLy~*~, we often forget to tell them that being good-looking is a constantly moving goal post which will never leave you truly fulfilled. “Every girl is beautiful.” Yes, okay, that statement is as meaningless as it is pandering, and it only puts a band-aid on the bullet wound that is telling girls their worth lies in their beauty. How many women have gone without ever developing a personality, sense of humor, career goals, or personal projects — all because they knew that the most important was to look pretty in a new dress? And even if you are the kind of beautiful which makes everything else in your life just magically fall into place, that is only going to last for so long. What are you going to do for the decent chunk in your life where you are no longer the belle of the ball? It’s time to start teaching girls to get over being good-looking, and get focused on being good to be around.

2. Masturbation is normal and healthy.

I’m not saying the teacher needs to slam a Hitachi Magic Wand down on her desk and start telling the girls which One Direction video shows the most of Zayn’s bare torso, but we need to get over the fear. For boys growing up, masturbation falls somewhere between a gross-out joke and a rite of passage. It’s private, but they all do it, and everyone knows it. Girl masturbation, however, is all caught up in these gossamer strands of gender roles and purity myths and confusion about what a clitoris actually is. And that’s ridiculous. Masturbation needs to be, for girls as much as it is for boys, a normal thing that people do because it feels good. It doesn’t need more justification than that. Because right now we have women who are entering middle age without ever having experienced an orgasm, and it’s hard not to make the connection between our cultural ambiance of “Don’t masturbate, girls, or God will put a pox on you and your nail polish will prematurely chip for the rest of your blasphemous lives,” and not knowing how to get off. It has to stop.

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3. Never, ever buy fashion magazines.

Unless her goal is to spend the rest of the day oscillating between all the gorgeous things she cannot afford and all the ways in which her physical appearance is unsatisfactory, it’s probably best that she stay away from the glamour magazines. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying “style,” per se, it’s important that we start teaching girls that a lot of “fashion” (as an industry) is built around keeping girls feeling ugly so that they will buy things. (Not to mention all the images which represent airbrushed ideals of things which are impossible for a real human to ever look like.) In fact, let’s get every girl a subscription to Model Train Enthusiast Monthly, just to boost her spirits!

4. Your sexuality is about you, and not about what boys think of you.

Whether she is being told that she is a slut for enjoying sex too much and carrying it out with an unacceptable number of partners (or, hell, just the wrong partner at the wrong time — high school politics are cruel and senseless), or that she is a prude because she refuses to go “all the way” with someone who believes that he is owed the act, she should know that these petty judgments mean nothing. As long as she is enjoying sex, being healthy, using protection, and being honest with her feelings and the feelings of others, she should not give a single solitary fuck what some petulant little boy has to say about it. Once she becomes aware that no matter how she handles her sexuality, she’ll never be able to win everyone’s favor, she’ll be more inclined to see sexual pleasure for what it is: something that everyone is entitled to, and for which there is no need for shame. Much like fried chicken. She should embrace sex just the way she embraces a spicy bucket of Popeye’s — purely.

5. Focus on your independence as much as you can.

We’ve done enough damage over a huge amount of recorded human history when it comes to teaching women to depend on men — financially, emotionally, socially. It’s time that we start teaching them, in no uncertain terms, that independence will be their best friend and biggest accomplishment. Whether or not they end up sharing their life with someone — and sharing the burdens that come with it — is irrelevant. The point is that they should have the choice. Girls should be able to go to a first date at a fancy steakhouse and pick up that check without thinking twice while the guy does the fake-out to his jacket for his wallet. They should be able to purchase a house that will provide them with stability and security regardless of relationship status, and fill it to the brim with mewling cats if that’s what they should desire. The point is that they can make these choices for themselves because they do not have to answer to anyone, nor do they believe that they are incomplete until someone comes along and defines them.

6. Be kind to your fellow woman.

We must remind our young women that every time they utter “I don’t really like girls, I hang out with boys because girls are catty bitches,” an angel bursts into flames. They deserve to know.

7. Worry about being healthy, in every sense of the word.

While it’s almost an inevitability that the fashion industry and advertising and the harsh looks of their peers will eventually infiltrate their sense of self, we must tell girls that their health is what is most important, and not looking a certain way. Their goal should involve eating well, treating themselves often, and getting exercise. It should involve having open, giving relationships with people and feeling confident in their own ability to achieve what they want. It should involve being strong and well-rounded, and full of energy. It should not involve staring at a picture of Miranda Kerr for 45 minutes, swearing off junk food for the rest of their natural lives, and then proceeding to take an entire pint of Chunky Monkey to the face because, fuck it, they'll never be beautiful anyway. Unless we start reminding our girls that it's about balance and happiness, and not about flat stomachs and superficially fulfilling relationships, they are destined to have a love-hate relationship with just about everything that gives them pleasure.

And no one deserves to feel that way about curly fries. TC mark

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

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