Girls Inc. has a great list up on how to support girls’ rights through talking and listening:
1. Tell a girl she’s great because of what she does and not because of how she looks.
2. Tell a girl it’s okay to brag about something she’s good at.
3. Tell a girl it isn’t “yucky” to play in the mud, hold a snake, or get sweaty.
4. Tell a girl it’s okay to get angry and to express it in a healthy way.
5. Tell a girl you’ll assist her efforts in leadership by offering to help raise funds, driving her to and from meetings, and pitching in on letter-writing campaigns.
6. Tell a girl there is no such thing as Prince Charming and that most women will need to work most of their lives to be financially secure.
7. Tell a girl she should gather as much information as she can from many reliable sources before she makes an important decision.
8. Tell a girl it is never her responsibility to make other people feel happy, loved, or secure, and that saying no is always an option.
9. Tell a girl about the mistakes you’ve made and what you wish you had done differently.
10. Tell a girl to think in terms of nutrition, health, and strength and to banish the word “diet” from her vocabulary — and tell her you will do the same!
11. Ask a girl what she finds interesting and troubling in the magazines she reads.
12. Ask a girl about her favorite television shows — what roles does she see girls and boys/women and men play? What roles would she like them to play or are missing?
13. Ask a girl what she wants to be when she grows up and talk about what she can do to reach her goal.
14. Ask a girl her point of view on current events and listen actively while she tells you.
15. Ask a girl how her social life is going — is she getting support from friends, are people pressuring her about choices she makes? Listen to what she has to say without getting upset or judgmental.
Number 14 stands out for me. Empowering children, and girls in particular, by considering their ideas legitimate is most important in my mind than telling them your ideas (although if you have good ideas, that’s a great plan too!). Number 1 reminded me of this brilliant piece of dialogue from the film Little Miss Sunshine (full of feminist awesomeness, I assure you):
Olive: Grandpa, am I pretty?
Grandpa: Olive, you are the most beautiful girl in the whole world.
Olive: You’re just saying that.
Grandpa: No! I’m madly in love with you and it’s not because of your brains or your personality. It’s because you’re beautiful, inside and out.