Can Girls Benefit From Absent Fathers?

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Here’s more empowerment and encouragement for single moms and their daughters.

Remember my post about alternative narratives? If not, read it here. I’m revisiting the idea of alternative narratives because I know people have firm beliefs about the negative effects of growing up without a father. The media has so effectively distributed a single story about children raised without fathers that people miss the whole, evident truth. This is such a complex issue, and I admit, there aren’t many (if any) studies on what I’m about to say. I’ll address the lack of academic/scholarly/scientific study in another post, but first, let me offer some possible, even if a bit contrived, benefits of growing up without a father. Forgive me for focusing on girls, but as a female, it’s what I’ve thought about the most. If you want to read some of my ideas about boys with absent fathers, go here.

Many people say that girls have issues because they don’t have a father to tell them they’re beautiful.

The problem I see with that belief is that validation is still external and still from a man. It reinforces the idea that a man has to validate your beauty, whether he’s your father or not. One thing girls without fathers have the opportunity to learn, is that no man, not even a father or father figure, should be the determining factor in how you feel about yourself.

Another belief perpetuated especially by conservative thinkers is that girls raised without fathers won’t know how to interact with adult men, and thus won’t make good wives.

I think what these people are really saying is that these girls won’t know how to be submissive to adult men. I split my argument two ways. 1) If this happens, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Being strong and assertive can be excellent qualities when done correctly. 2) It might be that the girl can be submissive to an adult male, but only if she really wants to, only if he’s deserving, not just because he’s an adult man. Submissiveness is about humility, and anyone can learn to be humble with a father or not.

Then there’s the story that girls without fathers will end up in abusive relationships, often with older men (meant to replace their missing fathers), and engage in a vicious cycle of self-destructive love affairs.

Well another story we could tell is of the girl who sees her mother as an example: a mother who is single because she refused (and refuses) to be in an abusive relationship, because she expects and demands love and respect, not just romance. I like to tell this story because it is my own. My mother’s example is the reason I was okay being single, therefore not falling into the trap of trying to fill a void with unhealthy relationships with men.

Remember that these are additional/alternative stories. They are by no means the limit. What stories do you have to share about girls growing up with absent fathers? Any of them counter to the usual mainstream narratives we hear? Please share them with us!

Peace and Love from Sarah L. Webb

What’s in your hand?

Colorism: Mama, Mama, Can’t You See?

I’ll start with mother.

Before children recognize themselves in mirrors, they recognize themselves through their mother’s eyes.

My heart breaks when I hear stories of mothers consciously or subconsciously conditioning their children to adopt the attitudes of colorism, to adore light skin and despise darker skin, adore light eyes and think little of dark eyes, adore straight hair and hate kinky hair.

Visit the new site ColorismHealing.org

Previews of Dark Girls the movie, the responses to it, and life observations reveal that too many mothers are complicit in their children’s pain. Several women describe their most potent experiences with colorism as experiences when their mothers failed to validate their beauty. As adults hopefully we learn to validate ourselves. Young children, however, must be trained to do so.

 

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My mother is light skinned. She won’t admit this, always claiming that she never saw herself as such and always identified with darker skinned people. She does acknowledge, though, that she is lighter than my brother and me.

My mother tells me how she has always loved going out in public with us and telling people “these are my kids.” We joke about how people rarely assume this fact due to the skin color difference, and she always makes a point to directly state it.

My mother is different from the women who are only proud to show off their children if their children are fair skinned or have a certain hair texture.

My mother intentionally combated the outside influences and negative messages about dark skin. She was not only aware of colorism; she had the courage to attack it head on. Just knowing that she in some way understood the struggle of a dark skinned child helped me endure the struggle. Knowing that no matter what happened with everyone else I could always go home and feel accepted and loved, probably saved me from the extremes of pain that other girls have gone through.

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So don’t trip if your dark skinned friend, cousin, sister, or coworker agonizes over skin color and the biases people hold toward certain skin tones. Don’t be perplexed about why she doesn’t “just get over it, and just love herself.”

Instead, ask her about her relationship with her mother. Ask her how many times she heard her mother tell light skinned cousins how pretty they were, without acknowledging the very daughter that waited in her mother’s shadow. Ask her how many times her mother told her to stay out of the sun. Ask her how many times her mother told her not to wear certain colors. Don’t judge her, she’s had enough of that. Just hear her story.

If you are a mother, do an honest self-evaluation. Do you make comments around your children that might instill colorism in them? How often do you tell your children they are beautiful? How often do you compliment their dark skin tones? Do you act like colorism doesn’t exist? Have you dealt with your own color complex so that your children can have healthy esteem for themselves and for others regardless of skin color?

With love, from Sarah L. Webb

Visit ColorismHealing.org