Why I am Raising a Feminist
For a long time I didn’t think of myself as a feminist. I didn’t really think of myself as having labels. I knew I was stronger than most men I had been around. I was bigger. I was more assertive and outspoken than most women. Even though I never changed my name when I got married it never occurred to me that I was a feminist. I just knew what I wanted and I wasn’t afraid to speak up for it. I didn’t know that doing these things made me different or exceptional.
I had strong female role models. My mom always worked and her job was just as important in the family as my father’s. They were both professionals and I never heard my father talk down about my mom working or try to convince her that her place was at home. She was his equal. I had my aunts: crazy, funny, insanely protective and fierce women who taught me that you could be both sexual and strong. One was not mutually exclusive of the other.
So at a young age I knew I could be just as smart and just as important as any man and that I could be strong and sure of my body and in command of my sex life. These revelations didn’t just magically come to me, but they were ingrained deep enough that by the end of my teenage years I was a mold that had been firmly set.
That truth has not always been passed on to women. Even as direct and assertive as I am I cannot say that I’ve never been touched inappropriately or that no man has ever groped me. It would be a lie.
That is why even now I’ve had to talk to my daughter about permissions, about body control, about good and bad touches. I’ve had to explain to her that she keeps no secrets from mommy and that no one is allowed to touch her in a bad way. She has to know that if she tells me something important that I will listen and I will believe her. I will not tell her that boys will be boys or that is just how things are. I will not ask her if she is sure that it was a bad touch. She knows the difference by now and it is my job as her mother to listen and respect her.
I’ve had to constantly tell her that she is strong and smart and that she can do anything she wants. I hold my tongue when I want to caution her because I know that she will learn the most through trial and error and she is not fragile simply because she is a girl. I encourage her love of dinosaurs and outer space just as much as I have tea parties and watch her care for her furry babies. I know that both of these diverse interests will help her live a full life.
As the news about sexual assault and groping broke there were a torrent of women who started to share their stories of being assaulted by men in their lives. I know that my main goal as her mother is to make sure that she knows when she decides to have sex it is something that needs to be up to her. It is my hope that she will not feel pressured because the other person is stronger or richer or more popular or because she thinks she owes them something. If anyone touches her without permission she has to fight back. Like a wild, caged, vicious animal she should fight.
She should know that her mother worked to dismantle the system, that I spent my days encouraging her to think for herself and to question authority and to fight for what she knew in her heart to be right because those were skills she would need her entire life. I want her to never be afraid to be assertive because she might be seen as a bitch. I want her to love herself no matter what because having self-esteem and self worth is the best way to make sure that you don’t ever do anything you aren’t comfortable with.
Most importantly, I’m raising a feminist because I know no other way to be. The truth I denied for many years is that I have always been a feminist. I have always fought for equality and I have never thought or considered myself to be less than a man or defined my value on the kind of man I could attract.
My hope is that she spreads this truth among her friends like fire, that they see her strength and compassion and hope and love and know that feminism isn’t a bad word. It isn’t the scary villain out to smash your worldview.
No, feminism is my grandmother going back to college after she had raised her family because it was something she always wanted to do. It is my mother working in the sciences in a time when there were hardly any women in the field. It is my father telling me I am just as capable as any boy. It is my aunt point blank stating that I don’t have to laugh at shitty jokes just because a man tells them. It is my husband cooking every night because I am crap in the kitchen. It is every woman who ever felt like there was more to life than the role she’d been assigned and tried to do more. It is every man who respects women’s rights to body autonomy and equality. It is what we should strive for every single day.