In a cultural environment increasingly focused on aesthetics, where girls are told not to do things at the risk of damaging their real social capital – their looks – they are ultimately set up for dependency on men for the rest of their lives.
Growing up as a gender non-conforming girl is difficult, as you are constantly fighting societal expectations as to how a girl should act but how a girl should look. Boys are rarely chastised for putting themselves in dangerous situations the way that girls are, whether intentionally through participation in accident-prone leisure activities (sports, hobbies) or unintentionally via risky manual labor.
Your mileage my vary – I’m sure there are many girls who are taught how to use a lawnmower, or use a chemistry set, or repair a sink. However, girls doing manual labor is generally considered a hallmark of being a member of a lower class in European nations. At the very worst, it’s considered a hallmark of queerness that quickly spirals downward into biogtry, with the erroneous assumption that any girl who participates in masculine activities is a lesbian and that being a masculine lesbian is not something that any girl should aspire to be.
We see this historically. Women’s bodies that are shaped by manual labor – muscular in ways that are not lithe, scarred from occasional accidents, rough and sweaty from the practice of doing work – are often put down as rough and masculine. Women’s bodies that are meticulously maintained to the point where maintaining that aesthetic becomes a form of artistic labor (that is unrecognized as labor) are considered ideal.
Ultimately, this mentality is holding women back. As things stand today, women are increasingly independent of men and gradually shedding the idea that they exist only as bargaining chips in the exchange of power between cisgender men. So why are we not teaching our girls to do the same things we expect our boys to do?
The idea of maintenance and manual labor being men’s work doesn’t hold up when examined. For example, consider changing a flat tire on a car. Are women’s bodies incapable of lifting and moving the parts required? Are women incapable of learning how to screw together parts? Most people would answer with a resounding no.
Do women not drive cars, and therefore have no need to know this information?
So why aren’t we teaching our girls how to change the oil in their cars? What parts need to be maintained? How to fix things themselves? The answer is uncomfortable for us to recognize, but the truth is that such activity has for so long been coded as masculine that a woman who is capable of doing those things and has the body to prove it is considered, by society, to be unattractive to men.
But what does this teach women? Should they remain dependent on men so that they can remain attractive? Should men expect women to be immaculate and appeal to their own aesthetics? The answer to both of these questions is obviously women should not, and men should not. The assumption that all little girls will grow up into heterosexual women is as false as the assumption that queerness is something that is marked by a girl’s adoption of stereotypically masculine traits. Even if we ignore this, the second question remains, and no free individual in a modern society should be encouraged to maintain a mentality in which they are helplessly dependent.
The solution – allow and encourage girls to be independent.