When I chat to my two daughters, 13-year-old Lily and 10-year-old Clio, we cover all the usual topics: how their school day went, what’s for dinner, why can’t we get Honey, our dog, to behave.
But throughout the course of our conversations, lots of other, slightly trickier subjects also crop up: like why is Miley Cyrus naked in her latest video, but for a pair of Dr Martens? ‘I mean, I get why she’s sitting on a wrecking ball,’ Clio has said, ‘because that’s what she’s singing about. But why she doesn’t she have any clothes on?’
From time to time, Lily has also wondered why every year at her primary school fair there is a ‘beauty’ tent for girls to get their nails manicured, when boys never have to bother about how they look.
So was I pleased when, the other day, Clio asked me why Rapunzel just didn’t cut off her own hair and make it into a rope to get down from the tower, instead of waiting for a prince? Am I delighted that Lily’s favourite game as we wait in tube stations is ‘spot the model whose been airbrushed’? Frankly, yes.
Does it make me a humourless, ball-breaking man-hater? Am I brainwashing my poor little girls with politically correct feminist theory? Some people might think that. But I believe I am simply encouraging my girls to open their eyes to a world which might otherwise give them deeply unhelpful messages about who they are, and how they should feel about themselves.
My daughters are not weak and defenceless – and neither are yours. But in a world where many pubescent girls say they are more worried about getting fat than their parents dying or the outbreak of nuclear war, my view is that our daughters need help to work out why so many of their gender think this way – so they don’t end up thinking like that too.
They need to know that, in the words of the late Anita Roddick, there are over 3 billion women who don’t look supermodels and eight who do.
Because if our daughters are allowed to believe what they see all around them, they will be fooled into believing they have failed before they’ve even begun.