How Dads Can Help Prepare Daughters to Counter Sexism

Apr 10, 2017

I don’t know Casey Affleck personally, but I have always admired his work. Sadly, he’s not the first actor to be accused of sexual misconduct in the workplace. He probably won’t be the last, either. And according to statistics provided by The Canadian Women’s Foundation, 43 per cent of women polled in 2014 indicated they’d been sexually harassed by a co-worker.

As a 44-year-old father of an ambitious, optimistic, seven-year old daughter, I know that catchy lyrics and girl power slogans aren’t enough to protect her from sexism in our society. Sure, we tell our daughters they can be anything they want, do anything they want, that they’re the equal of any guy — but how do we prepare them for the realities of gender inequality? 

Let her know it’s ok to disagree with someone, even an adult, and that her voice matters.

Raising a strong, confident woman who can stand her ground against injustice is part of a dad's job, and here are some of my suggestions from personal experience:

Be Involved

Go to the parent-teacher meetings, the ballet classes and the birthday parties. Let the adults in your daughter’s life — and your daughter, by extension — know that you’re aware of who they are, that you are a strong advocate for her and that you will raise hell if she’s harmed or mistreated. 

You'll Also Love: Embracing 'Kiddo' — Talking to Kids About Gender

Use Play to Help Your Daughter Practice Being Assertive

When we play pretend, my daughter’s alter-ego is a feisty, cape-wearing princess from the Planet Glitter. Role-playing has helped my daughter develop more confidence in her own voice. It’s also a safe way for her to practise asserting herself and to explore different scenarios she may experience at school, in the playground, or with peers at a sleep over. 

Encourage Your Daughter To Be Vocal

Let her know it’s ok to disagree with someone, even an adult, and that her voice matters. Your daughter may be the quiet, shy, responsible type who’s easily overlooked in a noisy classroom. By encouraging her to speak her mind now, she’ll be more comfortable expressing her thoughts and opinions later.

Don’t Solve Her Problems, Just Listen

When my daughter was six, every day, on the way home from school, she would fill my ear with all the challenges of having three best friends. Over time, I realized that she wasn’t looking for me to solve her problems. She just wanted to confide in me, and to know that I supported her.

If we practice listening to our daughters when they’re young, it’ll be easier for them to confide in us when they’re older.

Walk The Walk

Treat other women the way you’d want your daughter to be treated. You can’t teach your daughter to stand up for herself while belittling the other women in your life. Our behaviour towards our wives, mothers, sisters, neighbours, coworkers and all women matters just as much as how we treat our daughters.

Are you a father raising a daughter? Share your own ideas on how dads can help fight sexism in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

Article Author Anthony King
Anthony King

Read more from Anthony here.

Born and raised in Toronto, Anthony King is a freelance content writer, with a background in English literature from the University of Toronto. When he’s not ghostwriting SEO blog articles for local businesses, you’ll finding him playing his broken guitar, working on his novel, or playing superhero ninjas with his seven-year-old daughter.

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