I am the father of a seven month old daughter. I am a massive geek and I hope that my daughter enjoys the things that I am passionate about. But my question today is around body image. I am sharply aware of the body issues that many women face, and I was wondering if you could give me some advice on ways that I as her father can help to fight those negative influences that women have to deal with.
As a father of an infant daughter, I want her to be her own person and grow into a confident happy adult who can make her own choices and feel comfortable in her skin.
I want to use the universe of science fiction and fantasy to share with my daughter stories that we can both love as she grows. So I wanted to ask you about characters in sci fi that I can look to and what in your opinion makes them great role models. Also things I can look for in the future when new characters and shows appear.
I know that this may be a broad question but I would appreciate any response
It sounds like you are a great father already, and I’m glad to hear that you are thinking about how to raise your daughter to be confident, sure of herself, and comfortable in her skin. As you point out, body image issues can be a big source of anxiety and suffering for many women and girls (as well as for some men and boys) in our society. So much focus is placed on how a woman looks, that it can be difficult for a woman to feel comfortable and not self-conscious of her body.
In general, I think the best way to help women and girls deal with body image issues is to focus less on how women look, but rather, to validate them for who they are. Parents can help their daughters develop healthy self-esteem by focusing on their daughters’ passions and interests, talents and abilities. If a girl is creative, athletic, intelligent, or a good friend, these attributes, rather than her physical ones, can be emphasized and encouraged. If a girl also wants to take care of her body and to feel good about how she looks or how she dresses, that is great too. Taking care of one’s body boosts confidence for both women and men. However, it is important for people in general to value themselves for more than their looks. When you validate your daughter for who she is, when you take an interest in her interests and encourage her to engage in activities that boost her confidence, she will learn that she has value, regardless of her looks.
I also appreciate your interest in exposing your daughter to sci-fi and fantasy with strong female characters. Good female role-models are those who are smart, confident, and honest, and who can fight their own battles without always having to be rescued. It’s also ideal if they are not dressed in an overly-sexualized manner, as that is what tends to reinforce body image issues. Although there are many comics and sci-fi movies that seem to glorify skinny women in revealing outfits, there seem to be a growing number that do not. I have a few ideas for you, and I’d like to invite community participation for this one, because I’m sure I’m not aware of many good ones.
In the Star Wars universe, Padme (especially in Star Wars: the Clone Wars) can be a great role-model, as she is a wise leader, and she dresses in a classy, rather than sexualized, manner. The female Jedi in general, including Ahsoka Tano, are focused on their missions, rather than on their looks. When I think back to some of my fantasy favorites from childhood, I think of the character Sarah from the movie Labyrinth. Sarah had to use her intelligence to outsmart the Goblin King, and she learned that when she trusted her own instincts, he had no power over her. I also think of the Meg Murray character in the Wrinkle in Time book series by Madeleine L’Engle. Meg was one of the first examples of a strong, female protagonist in a science fiction book. The companions of Dr. Who are also typically smart and adventurous, without being sexualized. In the Harry Potter series, Hermione is the smartest of her group of friends, and the series emphasizes her intelligence, rather than her looks. When your daughter is old enough for The Hunger Games, she might appreciate Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is clever, smart, tough, and confident, and although others may focus on how she looks, she doesn’t seem to think much about it. I’m sure there are tons of great examples I don’t know about, and I would love to open up this conversation to the Her Universe community. I encourage community members to comment with your favorite strong, confident, smart, female role models from science fiction, fantasy, and all things geek.
At any rate, FanDad, I’m glad that you are thinking about this right now, and with your help, I hope your daughter will grow up to be thoughtful, like her dad. If you share your excitement and passion about sci-fi and fantasy with her, I also hope she will share some of your passion for it as well!
Wishing you all the best,
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