What does this even mean? I guess I have been a good girl because I have been a good person, but I know that the connotation of this phrase is much more weighted. It has the patriarchy written all over it. It is dripping with sexual undertones. It screams cultural gender norms at me. This is not a phrase I ever use with my daughter. It is a phrase I would employ in the presence of a dog and even then, I would prefer to use the dog’s name.
I understand how it can be an automatic phrase used when parenting. It is a seemingly simple phrase that kids can understand. But good and bad, boy and girl, black and white are not simplistic opposites. They are very nuanced and complex terms. I am not saying that I know what would be a better alternative. In parenting I am really just trying my best but mostly making it up as I go along. All I know in regards to the phrase “good girl,” or more specifically, “be a good girl,” is that I do not use it.
Usually I have written about a topic before we talk about it on the podcast. This episode was improvised. Honestly I do not remember much of what was said except that the reason I never use the “be a good girl” phrase, is because it is confusing. Be a good girl means do not do bad things. Why not just say “don’t do…” fill in the blank? I also never use this phrase because I do not want my daughter to equate actions that are seen as “bad” as descriptions of her character. The action may be bad, but she is not, therefore she does not have to be a "good girl" or be anything really. She can just be herself.
In Spanish there is no phrase that is used in parenting that is the exact translation of "be a good girl." We say "portate bien," which translates to "behave well." I definitely use that phrase often, but I don't use it as a threat the way my mother would use it, engaging a stern voice and a severe gaze. Rather, I use it as a friendly reminder.
Do you find yourself using the phrase "be a good girl," with your daughter?
What are you really trying to say when you use this phrase?
Is this something your mother said to you?
Would love to hear from you!
Wendy writes blog posts that turn into conversations for the Mamá Cita Podcast.