We stood in line at the toy store as my daughter jumped and bent over in frustration because I was not going to buy the expensive doll that sat within eye shot of where we stood.
Although she knew I wouldn’t budge, she batted her long eyelashes and attempted to persuade me in a sweet voice to buy the doll. All her efforts were in vain and I calmly pointed out to her why her desired purchase was not a smart buy. As the conversation rolled on, a young woman jokingly said to me, “You’re raising a little diva there.”
And a chill went up my spine.
I smiled and shook off the comment, but I so badly wanted to share with the woman my thoughts on that word: “diva.” Because I hate it.
To me, the word is right up there with “bitch,” the “C word,” and other derogatory words that we use to describe a woman that doesn’t play nice. Even though we don’t look at the title “diva” as a swear word, it kind of means the same thing. And while society is straining to enter a new age of equality, using words like diva, or engaging in “diva” behavior, is not doing anything to push equality along. If anything, it does more harm than good to the equality cause.
When you think of the word “diva,” what comes to your mind? Here’s what comes to my mind. A spoiled starlet that cares very little for other’s needs. A person that is more concerned with what she wears than what is happening around her.
If a star is late or gives a degrading answer, we say, “Oh, she’s such a diva.” We give the title to stars such as J-Lo, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey. I do not know any of these women and I am sure that many of these so-called “divas” give their time, money, and fame to causes around the world.
But I do not want my daughter to be a diva.
In fact, if my daughter grows up and becomes a self-proclaimed “diva” or is proclaimed so by others, then I will be disappointed in my efforts as a father. My desire for my daughter is that she cares little about her wardrobe and looks, and cares more about others — especially those in need.
Sometimes I feel that I am losing this war. From an early age, toys and media have shoved their idea of the ideal woman in front of my daughter, trying to convince her that all things pink are for girls and that her world should revolve around fashion, puppies, ice cream and going to the mall. Before I get too carried away and have everyone rolling their eyes, I will say that these things are not totally wrong. There’s nothing wrong with wanting dolls that take puppies for walks and there isn’t anything wrong about wanting to look your best. I love taking my daughter out to get her nails done. But there has to be more to her than that. And I don’t want her to be so wrapped up in herself that she believes the world is here to serve her.
There’s another problem, though. Words have power, and historically words have been used as a way to deny women equality. And we perpetuate that problem when we use words like “diva” to de-legitimize women and degrade them. It’s easy to discount and devalue women if you think of them in terms that suggest they are something other than equal persons. (And isn’t that what the term “diva” is – a title we bestow on women when we don’t want to remember that they are people). We live in a selfish society, and the desire to be a “diva” only perpetuates this downward slope towards a “it is all about me” mentality.
So let’s ditch the term diva. Let’s stop labeling women as such and let’s stop pushing our daughters to be “divas.” There are amazing women out there for our daughters (and sons) to look up to. My daughter can sing Taylor Swift’s songs, but I would much rather have her be like her mother, Melinda Gates, Sunitha Krishnan, Arundhati Roy and Malala Yousafazi.
Or better yet, herself.
A version of this first appeared on One Good Dad.