What's a girl worth?

Monday, 26 September 2011

The problem with "worth" is that it has become difficult to accept that it might be inherent, rather than dependent on following sets of rules and scriptures, academic achievement, jobs, relationships, looks, possessions and what others think of us.

At different times in our lives we struggle with different facets of these issues and on our bad days we might start to feel like we're somewhat lacking in worth. We might feel like that all the time. People in our lives might make us feel like that. Terrible things might have happened to us that make us feel like that. And it's difficult to turn this around, I know.

What are you worth?

1. In my little world One of the great trends in blogging/online writing in recent years, to the extent that I think it's become a cliché, is the Faux Angsty Post Because I'm In My Late 20s and Society Quite Obviously Hates Me Because I'm Not A Responsible Adult, Married With a Mortgage and Climbing The Career Ladder. I say "faux angsty" because it's usually very evident that the writer is actually pretty happy with their life and just kind of likes the idea of looking like they're sticking it to the man, rather than just being your average urban middle class hipster.

If you let it get to you though, it will - and suddenly your worth will be bound up in how much you've achieved in your career and what you've got in your house and what sort of wedding you're going to have. It's whatever expectations society's currently pushing. What your parents expect of you. What the media's telling you. If it's not the Wedding Industrial Complex, it's the body beautiful or the look that this blogger has or the hair that this other blogger has or what the other women are saying on that forum. If it's not your friends and acquaintances it's the way that porn and exploitation has infiltrated culture to the extent that a girl's worth is measured by one thing only. Rachel Hills recently posted on Tumblr saying:

"Thought: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc make people feel more crap about themselves than any women’s magazine ever did."

That could be a long, long essay.

What's a girl worth - and how much does it depend on her looks, her possessions and her lifestyle, her relationships and her sexuality?

2. In the church Sure, you might be told that you're made in God's image and that He sees you as a "princess", but how many of us know that reconciling our worth with the things we hear and the impressions we get can be really, really hard? On one hand you've got the lists of scriptures assuring you of your worth in Christ, on the other you might be getting all sorts of messages about how your worth relates to the way you dress, whether you're single or married, how many children you have and how they behave. What you do at church, how often you're there and how holy you act. In some churches, your worth might be bound up in how well you're seen to be submitting to your father or your husband, because only they can facilitate a connection between you and God. And when you don't follow the rules, bad things happen.

Bad things that might not be as bad as getting disowned by your family or thrown out of the church (although they might be), but as "small" as doubting your calling because you don't know if it's right for a woman to want to do that, or doubting what God's saying to you because it means stepping outside the box that the church so often creates for "the fairer sex". One of the feelings I've seen most expressed by women and girls in my years as a Christian is that they're "not good enough", whether that means God's standards or the church's standards or other people's standards. Why is this - and are we doing enough to deal with it?

What's a girl worth - and how much does it depend on how much she follows the rules and projects a certain image?

3. Out in the rest of the world The fact is that the world is not a good place for girls and does not recognise their inherent worth. Their worth continues to go unnoticed when they become women. If it is noticed, it's quantified by the extent to which they follow rules, keep in line with society's expectations, don't rock the boat and don't push for change.

Women perform 66 percent of the world's work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property.

What is the worth of girl according to society when she can't get an education, when she risks death or injury for going against her family's wishes? When she risks being sold, trafficked at a time when there are more slaves than at any other point in history? When she has to drop out of school with the advent of puberty because she doesn't have access to sanitary products? When she's an unwanted child purely due to her gender, so that she's aborted or abandoned at birth? When she must marry at the age of 11 or 12?

What is the worth of a girl when she becomes a woman and has no legal rights and cannot vote? When she is excluded from gaining skills she needs to earn money? When she cannot access healthcare when she is pregnant? When the police will do nothing if her husband beats her? When she is the face of global poverty? When the armed forces and the authorities are complicit in her rape and abuse? When she and her daughter must go hungry because it is more important that her husband and her son eat?

What's a girl worth? We know that the answer is "so much", but this is not a reality. Half the world. Made in God's image. As potential bearers of new life, the future of humanity. With the power to change society, change culture for the better, turn around economic problems, assure a better life for their families. With the power to lead, learn, educate, nurture, support, raise up, influence, complement, break boundaries and set the world alight - through being who they really are and doing what they were born to do. Not conforming needlessly, not suppressing and not laying aside their dreams.

How much are you making the girls and women in your life aware of their worth and helping them to achieve their best?

And I mean, REALLY? And it's got to be more than a few platitudes in a blog post or reading some article by a lifestyle guru. What's a girl worth to you? Do you truly believe she's worth investing in? How can you show her that she is worth so much more than gender stereotypes, than a second-class citizen, than her relationships with men? In a world that doesn't do this very well at all, we need more people to help girls understand and come to terms with their worth.

This post is a contribution for Tamara Out Loud's call for responses to the question "What's a girl worth?"

Further reading: The 10 Worst Places to Be A Woman and The 10 Best Places to Be A Woman.

Image via Samyra Serin's Flickr.


Anonymous said...

I love your challenge to go beyond blog post platitudes. That will make all the difference between this collection being just another internet meme or a catalyst of real change.

merry said...

It's an excellent piece. Thanks.


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