You may have seen this story and its accompanying pictures about the 13-year-old girl who hunts with a golden eagle, an activity traditionally done by men in Mongolia. I showed the pictures to my 9-year-old daughter and had the following conversation:
Me: Esme, what do you think of the pictures of the girl hunting with an eagle?
Esme: They were cool. It’s amazing that they come back and don’t fly away!
Me: Why do think she is the only girl that hunts with an eagle when it’s something that only the boys do?
Esme: Those other girls probably don’t want to do it. She is probably the only one that likes it. The boys probably all want to do it.
Me: Would you like to hunt with a golden eagle?
Me: Would you be scared?
Esme: No! Because I would have an eagle, duh!
Me: What would you ask Ashol (the huntress) if you could meet her?
Esme: Is it fun hunting with an eagle? Does your eagle enjoy it?
Me: Do you think she is as good at hunting as the boys?
Esme: Probably, because as is usually the story, there are only a couple of girls who do something that a lot of boys do, but the girls usually are better.
Me: Why do you think there are only a few girls who do things like this?
Esme: Because most girls don’t want to do other things like stay home and draw, play with a puppy, or ride their horse*. I am going to go eat now, bye!
On one hand, I love the fact that she perceives a world where girls don’t hunt with eagles simply because “they don’t want to.” On the other hand, clearly she is already forming opinions and attitudes about what girls systematically do and don’t like. Apparently, this includes forgoing the opportunity to hunt with eagles. You and I, of course, know there are lots of reasons why girls aren’t participating in eagle hunting, including why girls are taught that it is not something they “want” to do. We see this same pattern in places like the STEM fields where girls disproportionately decide that they “don’t like” math, engineering, computers etc. As a parent, I wonder what I can do, what conversations I can have with her, how I can guide her without preaching.
To that end, we’re welcoming you to submit conversations that you’ve had with your daughters or young women in your life regarding their aspirations, dreams, education, and potential. For a previously-posted conversation, read Jessica’s attempts to help her daughters dream.
*This is part of a coordinated, long-running campaign on Esme’s part to get a horse. It is her version of the Red Rider carbine-action 200-shot Range Model BB Rifle.