What Feminism Looks Like

I have to admit something of which I am not proud. Almost ten years ago, after a not-so-glamorous but otherwise healthy pregnancy, I delivered an amazing baby girl. When the doctor, knowing that we were leaving this surprise until the end, excitedly stated, “It’s a girl!” I responded,

“WHAT?!?”

Now, let me clarify. I was perfectly happy with either a boy or a girl; I had just prepared myself for a boy. Everyone who pulled out any old wives’ tale had declared I was having a boy. I have an older brother and three stepbrothers. Of all my cousins on one side, there are all boys except for me and my awesome Meaghan. Even I, myself, was a tomboy.

But three seconds after I realized the circumcision discussion was moot, I distinctly remember this rush of anxiety at the thought of bracing my girl for the world.  I had prepared to raise a feminist son, but I wasn’t prepared to raise a feminist daughter – a woman who knew her worth, a woman who was tough-minded but knew not to walk alone at night, a woman who was proud of her body but knew how to protect it, a woman who valued her intellect even if the world didn’t.

I was reminded of this internal conversation today at lunch with a colleague in the final weeks (days?) of pregnancy and a colleague fresh off her honeymoon, who has already received ten questions about when she is having kids. We talked about how we each had to defend our decision to or not to take our partner’s name, yet our husbands never received those questions. We talked about how open everyone is in their opinions of epidural or not, baptism or not, breastfeeding or not.

And all I can think is: this is 2014. Why are we still telling women what to do and shaming when they choose for themselves?

I am now incredibly honored to be mother to two rockstar girls, who could not be more different or more insanely awesome as sisters. Everyday, I try to show them what feminism looks like. I show them how much their daddy and I try to clear the way for what they want their life to look like. I know we are getting it right most of the time. While watching Dora the Explorer, Dora called to her friends, “hey guys!” and my then 4 year old said, “They aren’t all guys; Isa the Iguana is a girl!”

photo (32)I also try to show them my path to feminism: education, working full time, married to my best friend, and being a mom. I even have the damn white, picket fence. I also show them women who have chosen not to be a mom, who’ve stayed at home to be with their families, who’ve followed their passions on their own. I am honest with them about the struggle, but also share the joy about being a girl.

A few weeks ago, my oldest and I were talking after her final health class at school. As with everything, I asked her about the information she heard and wanted to hear her questions and reactions. She matter-of-factly sighed and said, “girls have to deal with a lot more than boys, don’t they?”

Yes, baby girl. The superhero capes come with a cost.

 

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