Ep. 81: Creating Genius
Janice Kaplan, NYT Bestselling author, most recently of The Genius of Women, discusses why 90% of the population thinks only men can be geniuses. Janice and Andy cover what we can talk to and teach our girls about to empower them at a time when we need more geniuses than ever!
Full Show Notes
If your daughter was a brilliant pianist—as good as Mozart, say—wouldn’t you want her to encourage her in pursuit of her talent and passion? Of course! You’d pay for lessons, organize recitals, and help her blossom into the artist she was born to be. Imagine if instead you decided for her that music wasn’t what she was supposed to be doing, and she better leave performing and composing to the male sex. It would be heartbreaking for her and a waste of talent and skill! Still, this is exactly what happened to Nannerle Mozart, who was, a musical prodigy by age 15, told to go home to be married in her teenage years instead of following in her brother’s footsteps.
Fortunately, something like this would probably not happen in the 21st Century. However, the sad truth is there are still innumerable obstacles facing women of all ages, from toddlers to teens, that are almost too subliminal to notice. The stigmatized expectations of women are internalized by girls at a very tender age, and without the proper guidance from parents, these perceptions can seriously hurt girls’ self esteem! They might even give up on their dreams and settle for whatever they’re told is “right” for them.
There are very few geniuses in the world, but the fact that so few women geniuses are recognized points to a deep-seated bias against women at large. To better understand some of these harmful stereotypes and discover what parents can do to debunk them and support their daughters, I spoke with Janice Kaplan, author and co-author of fourteen different books, including The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World. In this book, Kaplan dissects what it means to be a “genius” and why it is that women are often overlooked in the running. Her takeaways are a great starting place for any parent looking to raise confident, enabled, and successful young girls!
Kaplan argues for the importance of looking at boys and girls in the same light in all aspects of their development. Young boys, she claims, are often given higher expectations and pushed harder than girls in subtle ways parents might not notice. For example, when boys face a problem, they’re told to “man up” and find a way past it, while girls might be told to look for success elsewhere. This might seem insignificant, but this kind of discouragement seriously impacts girls’ sense of ability and self-worth! According to Kaplan, it’s crucial for parents to instill the same sense of resolve in boys and girls alike to teach girls they’re capable of all the same feats.
Likewise, girls need to know they have the same opportunities as boys. Your daughter’s princess costume might bring her joy and be adorable, but does she know it’s just as acceptable to dress as an astronaut? A scientist? Media and pop culture are constantly reinforcing the view that women have a different place in society as men, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Parents play a key role in reinforcing the idea that girls are just as valuable in society as boys, and Kaplan tells exactly how! In our interview, we also cover topics like:
- How to lead girls away from self-deprecation
- Why appearance still matter, and how to defend against it
- What to uniting factors of women geniuses
- The importance of being a positive mentor
I had a wonderful time talking with Janice Kaplan, diving into the research she found and all the interviews she had with literal geniuses! For some incredible advice on what parents can do to create a supportive world for young girls, tune in to this week’s episode. I know you’ll love it!
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Word-for-word examples of WHAT to say to your teen
1. Put a stop to self-deprecating language:
“Hey, the words you use are really important and I just noticed you saying [x, y, and z]. I think you’re great and I wish you would not talk about yourself like that. I know you don’t necessarily mean it, but it gets in there.”
Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Dissect Disney:
Janice is very anti-Disney because many of the classic princess stories don’t leave room for the heroines to be geniuses. For example, in Disney’s telling of The Little Mermaid, lead Ariel gives up her talent, her singing voice, for a chance to win the love of a boy she doesn’t even know (and in fact, she was the one who saved him from a shipwreck).
In a note or on a piece of paper, write down three Disney movies your teen watched most as a child. For each movie, jot down the basic plot. Now, what are the overt and/or subliminal messages that those movies are giving? Come up with at least two messages for each movie and try to go deeper than simply “love conquers all” or “good triumphs over evil.” Look to the plots you jotted down to get an idea of what the messages may be for each movie.
2. Who Are You Challenging?:
3. “Hello, Boys and Girls!”:
About Janice Kaplan
Janice Kaplan is the author of fifteen books, including the New York Times bestseller The Gratitude Diaries and her most recent book The Genius of Women. As the Editor-in-Chief of Parade, the most widely read publication in America, Janice worked with major political figures including President Barack Obama and interviewed stars including Barbra Streisand, Matt Damon and Daniel Craig. Janice was deputy editor of TV Guide magazine and executive producer of the TV Guide Television Group, where she created more than 30 television shows that aired primetime on major networks. She began her career as an award-winning producer at ABC-TV’s Good Morning America.
Janice has appeared dozens of times on TV shows including Today, Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, and CBS This Morning. She is a popular speaker at conferences, conventions, and events around the country where her inspiring, funny, and energetic talks win raves. Janice graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and won Yale’s Murray Fellowship for writing.