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It’s time we stop fear conditioning girls

The New York Times ran a column Saturday highlighting the idiotic trend of teaching girls it is “cute to be scared.”

In our society, girls are cautioned where boys are encouraged. Often, when a girl plays sports, her parents warn her to be careful on the field because she could get hurt playing roughly. When a boy does the same, he is patted on the back and told, “Go get ‘em tiger.”

This “fear conditioning,” as the columnist called it, is not something many parents even realize they partake in. Parents have a nurturing nature, which causes them to yell out warnings on the playground and wince when they notice their child too high on the jungle gym.

Caring for and protecting your child is not something to be ashamed of. However, it is time for people to thoroughly examine their parenting style.

A study in The Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology showed parents across the board cautioned their daughters more often than their sons when playing on playground equipment. In fact, where parents cautioned their daughters against certain activities, they would coax their sons to face their fears with specific instructions on how to go about the task.

Parents know the world is more violent towards women, and this knowledge more than likely plays a key role in instilling caution in their daughters. According to, one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence.

Yes, being cautious is a good quality to possess. However, when studies like one from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America show women grow up to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders twice as often as men, there is a serious problem.

Other studies, such as one from the University of Otago in New Zealand, show boys and girls are equally likely to develop an anxiety disorder up to age 11. However, girls are six times more likely to develop one by age 15.

What sparked this dismal change? Social conditioning. Young children learn what they should and shouldn’t do based off of what their parents teach them. By high school, those parameters are firmly set, and the repercussions of the child’s upbringing begin to show.

The world is a dangerous place, and yes, unfortunately, women do have more to fear from it than men because of the twisted society we live in. But that means girls should learn to be careful walking alone at night, not fear going on adventures or taking risks.

Being involved in rough sports, having bonfires and playing in the woods are some of the best parts of growing up. Will there be injuries? Of course. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.

There are exciting opportunities available to those who know the world is their oyster and have the confidence to tackle new situations. How many women find themselves reading books on female empowerment or watching inspiring self-help videos? Women recognize there is an issue and are desperately attempting to change it.

If we grew up knowing we were capable of anything, our adult selves would not struggle to cast aside a timid nature. Everyone is going to face fears in life. Those capable of persevering in spite of them are the ones who will ultimately succeed. 


Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.