Do you treat your sons and daughters differently?

Here is another excerpt from my upcoming book: Wake up Sleeping Beauty: Protect your daughter from sexism, stereotypes and sexualization.  Feel free to comment below. 

by Maureen F. Fitzgerald, PhD (2015 copyright)

Strategy 1: My Sweetie Pie. Are you treating your daughters and sons differently?

“They [parents] instruct girls and boys differently, they offer each different play materials and opportunities, but most important mothers and fathers model different behaviors, skills, attitudes and abilities.” Selma Greenburg

Research shows that parents treat baby girls very differently than baby boys. Although we might notice it, we don’t see the full extent of the differential treatment, understand why we do it, or recognize the harm it causes.

In my first year of university I learned about the astounding “pink diaper research.” In this study, college researchers invited parents to come into a room and hold various babies, none of whom were their own children. Unbeknownst to the parents, babies were dressed in pink and blue diapers at random. Some baby boys were in pink diapers. Some baby girls were dressed in blue diapers. The researchers then observed the parents interacting with the babies.

The results were remarkable. Those babies dressed in pink were typically held more carefully and described by the parents as fragile, sweet and cute. The babies dressed in blue were held more firmly and described by parents as sturdy, healthy, strong and alert.

In another experiment, researchers asked male and female parents to play with toddlers. The parents did not know the gender of the child, yet when the child was labeled as a girl, “she” received more cuddling. When the child was labeled as a boy, “he” was encouraged to be more active and to play with typical boys toys. One study found that fathers not only played with their first-born sons more than their first-born daughters, their play was completely different. They were more physical with sons, tossing and lifting and more talkative with daughters reinforcing the fragility of girls.

This type of differential treatment begins long before a baby is born and shows up most obviously in the birthing wards of hospitals. Here are a few examples of words used by complete strangers:

  • Oh boy, this guy is strong willed
  • Oh sweetie pie, you seems so unhappy
  • He’s going to be a real lady killer
  • She’s so gentle
  • She’s going to be a real looker
  • That’s the squeeze of a quarterback

Parents also bring up their boys and girls in radically different environments. The places we create for girls are softer, duller and often less interesting than the spaces we provide for boys. Girls bedrooms are often smaller and neater. In one study, researchers took and inventory of bedrooms of children below the age of two and found that boys’ rooms were often filled with sports equipment, moving vehicles, building kits and tools. Girls’ rooms were filled with small furniture, dolls and kitchen utensils. The boy’s sheets were blue while the girls’ sheets were pink and yellow.

Although we do not know the full impact of this type of conditioning, we know that by treating girls in this manner we are instilling in them certain expectations and behaviors. Imagine this type of socialization going on every single minute of the day for every single child. It’s no surprise that our boys and girls develop so differently.

What to do:

    • Recognize that we often treat baby girls and baby boys differently
    • Notice how we hold, speak to and play with baby girls
    • Watch how we adorn baby girl’s bedrooms and other environments
    • Question why we treat babies differently on the basis of sex alone
    • Wonder how this behavior might be holding your daughter back
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Wake up sleeping beauty – how we hold girls back

aqua-bulbI have been writing furiously all week on my new book (due in October) and I wanted to share a bit with you. Its all very exciting the way topics flow into place. Here is an excerpt. Enjoy.

Wake up Sleeping Beauty: Protect your daughter from sexism, stereotypes and sexualization.  

by Maureen F. Fitzgerald, PhD (copyright)


“I’m a perfectly good carrot that everyone is trying to turn into a rose. As a carrot I have good color a nice leafy top. When I am carved into a rose, I turn brown and wither.” Mary Pipher

You are likely holding your daughter back. You are probably preventing her from reaching her potential and limiting her opportunities. It’s not really your fault. No one ever told you about how our whole society, especially parents, places expectations and pressures on girls to such an extent that they grow up much smaller than they could be.

As a result, too many girls are afraid, timid, and don’t speak up. Many don’t try their hardest, are anxious and harm themselves. This is not because they were born weak, insecure or over sensitive. This is because our whole society pressures girls in millions of tiny ways making them feel as if they are not quite good enough – and it’s killing them slowly.

The good news is that we can change this. But first we have to see what is really going. We have to admit that we live in a world that treats girls badly and we have to take responsibility for our role in it. Then we have to promise our daughters that we will do everything in our power to change things and will not allow fifty percent of our population to grow up stunted. It’s not only cruel to girls but from a societal perspective it’s insane.

This book describes the world of raising girls and shines a light on the many tools we use to hold girls back. More importantly, it provides practical ways to dismantle the expectations, pressures and barriers that we place in front of our daughters so girls everywhere can be truly free.

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Stop political donations if you really want democracy

Think about this: the only people who get elected into politics are those with lots of money. The only people with lots of money are those who already are rich (through their own income, investments or through inheritances) or have rich “friends” who give them money. If we really wanted more “regular” people in politics the first thing we would do is stop this. Simply say no donations. Last week I read an article: “Political parties remain unaccountable…each year they collect millions but don’t report the sources of their money.” This is wrong. Let’s do something about this.

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Right livelihood can work in Capitalism

DSC06020I am reading a great book ” Be the Change” by Ed and Deb Shapiro. It is a collection of writing from some amazing people. One article is by Steve Demos who borrowed $500. to start making tofu 30 years ago. He recently sold the company for $295 million. He says that right livelihood means doing business that is “good for me, good for you and good for everybody who touches it.” He shared profits with his employees, he built an amazing company and customers love him. I am trying to follow his lead.


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We need a different kind of self defence for women

Life Balance

Life Balance

I attended a self-defence course recently put on my the local police force. An amazing group of female officers volunteered their time to teach us how to prevent and deal with vicious attacks. They were great, but I felt something was fundamentally wrong. In effect they were teaching us how to “act as mad as we could” so we could fight from that “place of rage” by kicking, kneeing and scratching (good skills for sure!) I found it almost impossible to get really mad so I began asking this: What if we tapped our deepest feminine power instead? What if we trusted our deepest knowing and instincts around danger? I mean surely we bring intelligence and wisdom. I once again felt that I was being told that I was wrong (as a female) and had to change to protect myself (like a man would). I asked them to call me but have not heard yet. I think there is a better way to truly empower women, I am just not sure how. Any ideas?


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Tom Lawson Chief of Defence would have been fired in private sector

By now you may know about the outrageous and sexist comments that emerged out of Canadian Chief of Defence Staff General Tom Lawson’ mouth last week. He suggested that men are, “biologically wired, and there will be those who believe it is a reasonable thing to press themselves and their desires on others.” Yes that is what he said. Men are unable to control themselves. OMG. If this is from a senior official then this explains why everyone in the military is so confused about rape. Meanwhile in Australia the opposite occurred when Lt General David Morrison’s message “respect women or get out” got 1.5 million views. Is is so difficult for our Canadain military to simply say that treating women badly is wrong? Do it now.


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New female premier of Alberta brings in most powerful law

As a lawyer, I know that THE most powerful laws are those guaranteeing democracy. The BIGGEST barrier to democracy is corporate and union and “rich people” funding politicians. This is because in our system you can actually (through media) buy yourself into being elected. This is wrong. Premier Rachel Notley as her first act as leader introduced “Bill 1″ last week promising to ban union and corporate donations to candidates and political parties.This is why you elect women.

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Minerva has a great program for women leaders

The Minerva Foundation is now accepting applications for Women Leading the Way™ – a distinctive, hands-on, leadership training program for women who want to have an impact in business, government and community. Cohort 5 starts September 2015. Cohort 6 starts January 2016. For more information, call Jo-Anne at 604.683.7635 ext 228 or email Or go to: Minerva Leading the Way Program

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Read this beautiful article on male privilege – by a man

This is such an amazing article written by a man who understands how differently women are treated and how much more women need to do to simply be safe and accepted. I notice he is a social justice teacher. This type of article really helps build empathy….the secret tool to deep change! Male Privilege

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Please provide feedback on my girl’s books

Teen girlsHere are the “working” titles of my upcoming GIRLS books. Please tell me what you think. They are going to press during the summer…all fingers crossed


  1. Stop Sexing Me! Protect your daughter from sexism, stereotypes and sexualisation.This book describes the ways in which parents, teachers, and the media hold girls back. It provides practical strategies for parents and girls to not just build resilience but also shift the culture and mindsets that holds girls back.
  2.  Mean Girls: Stand up to cliques, bullies, peer pressure and popularity by empowering girls in a radical new way.This book describes why girls suffer so much from relational issues and shines a new light on the pressure-filled world of girls that is not only causing them to act out, but also shut down. It provides practical and easy ways to empower girls and at the same time challenge a sexualized culture that holds girls back.
  3.  Gritty is the New Pretty– Raise confident, courageous and resilient girls in a man’s world.This book provides practical strategies for raising girls’ self-esteem and resilience in a culture that pressures them to be pretty and perfect. It intelligent and practical strategies to be used immediately.




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