Princesses And Their Dark Side: Why The Concept Of Being A ‘Good Girl’ Is A Faux

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By Srishti Singh:

I recently happened to read ‘The Dark Side of Girls Success in School’ by Tara Sophia Mohr. The article focusses mainly on the academic success of girls at school and the effect it has on their careers and decision making later on. The writer says that we as a society raise our girls to be ‘good’. And though there is nothing wrong with being good, this very teaching of ‘goodness’ has a long term impact on them when they enter the workforce. As I read the article, I felt I could relate with almost everything mentioned in the article.

While at school, I was the quintessential ‘good girl’. I listened in class, did my homework in a good handwriting and submitted it on time. I ‘learnt’ up my lessons and did well in tests. Somehow, the focus was always on being good and learning (mugging) things up. The art of questioning was discouraged as that’s not what ‘good girls’ do. They take down notes, learn them up and do well in tests (that don’t really matter later in life).

The worst part was I didn’t even realize I was doing it wrong in the first place. I saw all the girls around me doing the same, my parents or teachers never pointed it out. So, I figured I was right. And I continued my ‘hard work’. Learning up dates in History, solving the same problems over and over again, practicing diagrams. Of course, it helped me in my Board exams, but the use?

Sometimes I wonder if the society has been engineered in a way so as to discourage thinking amongst women. Is the whole ‘reward the good girl’, a faux created in schools so as to prevent young women from thinking and making themselves capable of taking up leadership positions later in life?

What else can possibly explain the problems we, as girls face in our academic life? While preparing for the prestigious IITJEE entrance exams, at times I would be be the only girl in the coaching class. That ‘goodness’ failed me in those classrooms. After nearly ten years not questioning and thinking, I was lost. And being a minority in those classes didn’t help either. Regardless to say, I failed to get a seat in those ‘prestigious’ colleges.

And its not an isolated story that I’m ranting out of frustration of any sort. There are many other girls out there who have wrongfully suffered. While I was lucky enough to get admission into a fairly decent engineering college (currently pursuing EEE), many other girls like me were forced to settle for courses that aren’t as promising in terms of career prospects as STEM subjects. What was then the use of being ‘good’? Mugging up things uselessly when the time spent could have been spent in doing better things like trying new ways to solve a math problem or learning how to code?

Well I guess, Laura Vanderkam had similar questions in mind when she wrote the ‘The Princess Problem’. In the article she mentions how girls are raised in a manner that they end up lacking the internal locus of control-or the belief that they can make their own way in the world. Is this also the centre of the ‘good girl’ problem? Yes, indeed. For most women, the focus is on- being good, not questioning or being aggressive in classrooms, being disinterested in technology, taking up traditional ‘women’ careers, or (if into male-dominated professions) being content with low salaries cause after all they are just ‘contributing’ to the family. Yes, years of toil and training so that we could contribute. All this for being a princess?

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7 comments

  1. Pingback: Women in Unconventional Roles – Scientists | The Indian Economist

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  3. saurabh

    @7395631b0c5c291e48741db15f60a2c4:disqus i disagree with you that since career prospects in history are not great, so girls shouldnt attempt to take up those subjects.i agree that situation in india is not favourable for these disciplines………but if someone can take up that subject and study without worrying about whether he/she will be able to earn bread and butter from it; then i see no harm in it….i come from a middle class family but if my dad had loads of money i would be pursuing history..instead i had to study engg in iit……..i think now that if i am able to make it big in future;i would encourage my kids to take up these subjects..so if a section of the population(read women) has an inclination towards liberal arts.i see no harm …..if they have the comfort and cushion of their husbands and other relatives..its an advantage…….and i dont think that if u pursue liberal arts with passion and strive for excellence;you can earn enough to make a living and become independent……as i see competition is much less intense in these fields one can easily pursues higher studies abroad and then become an academician here…..also u might not agree with me on the aforementioned points but u would definitely agree that india needs people in lliberal arts…..there is a max exodus of people towards engg here……so plz dont discourage whoever is still going there.

    why women are not there in iit s
    1.) a majority of the junta in iit is from the middle class……Even though its changing still most of the parents in that section set high aspirations for their male child and ignore the girl child as far as education is concerned…..i neednt elaborate…..its well known
    2) i am not sure but maybe girls have better aptitude for other subjects rather than mathematics….its too general a statement but i do find most of my female friends screaming that they hate mathematics
    3)definitely what you wrote about not questioning is true…..science as a subject begs you to question…..nd women right from childhood are raised to be meek and lower their voice in every day life.i guess that spills over into the classroom too……i am sure parents dont directly want their child to be not questioning in class room

  4. The awesomest person alive

    @7395631b0c5c291e48741db15f60a2c4:disqus Bravo! *potty five!

  5. Joydeep

    I dont understand why the author related the core of the article to being a good girl? First of all who stopped one from questioning? I have studied in decent government schools my entire life and have seen girls topping classes and getting into IIT as well. They even had enjoyed their life to some extent. Please do not blame your lack of understanding and intention to do well on the fact that gield were discouraged to be leaders. In fact no one was ever encouraged to become leaders. And finally solving mathematical problems and learning historical facts might be boring and useless as one would only mug up dates and facts but History do teaches us the very essence of our existence and a lot more.

    • srishti

      ‘I dont understand why the author related the core of the article to being a good girl?’well,i guess you misunderstood what the core is.please temme how many girls you know getting AIR within 100 in JEE.plz temme how many IITians call these girls girls and non-males(yes,that does hurt one’s self esteem) and plz temme how many girls have made phenomenal changes/innovations/development in their respective field.Core of the article is not related to being or not being a good girl.The core is we raise our girls differently.
      Also,with all due respect there is no lack of understanding on my part or intentions for that matter.If you read/watch a few biographies of women on top,i think you’ll get a better understanding of what the article is about.
      And finally i’m not discouraging solving maths at all.In fact,i’ve tried to encourage it.Yes,i mentioned history(or humanities) because humanities in general are seen as ‘pink’ subjects.Also,i agree history teaches us a lot.I myself am into historical fiction.But,given the current situation in India,career prospect in History isn’t that great.
      So,finally,being or not being a good girl is not the core of the article.The core is that most girls raised and educated,so that they earn enough to contribute to the family.When you’re brought up with that idea,that there is someone(husband/father/son) to take care of you and you’re just contributing,you tend to become complaisant.
      I hope i could clear your confusions and deeply regret that the article was misunderstood.And thank you for your valuable feedback :)

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