Tuesday, September 23, 2014

“Mom, did you know some kids don’t know about gender equality? Ugh. It is so annoying.”

my Righteous Babe in her fave "someone call the girl police" shirt
This seems to be a constant source of annoyance for my older daughter and her personal mission in life. We have nicknamed her our Gender Equality Warrior Princess. Ever since kids started teasing her about her running shoes when she was in first grade (story here), she has been painfully aware of gender stereotypes in this country and the limitations they try to put on people. It bugs her. I am bugged, too. Her dad is, too.
She made this shirt herself to spread her
gender equality message.

There are a lot of problems when it comes to gender inequality and gender stereotyping.  They range from day to day little things that the girls face in school to larger problems that adult men and women have to deal with in jobs, politics, and health. How we are treated and how we are expected to behave are still defined by gender. For my older daughter, that becomes an annoying problem because she wants to think and act beyond those boundaries. She wants to make decisions for herself based on her own personality and preferences and does not think she should be limited by something as arbitrary as gender.

For the last three years, she has been coming to terms with how her classmates want her to behave and accepting that when she follows her heart, they won’t always approve of it. We have a saying in our house: “Not everyone likes broccoli.” Every person has different tastes and won’t like the same things. We can’t change our tastes to suit the tastes of the people around us, and we can’t expect them to change their tastes to suit ours. It is not always an easy thing to do, being true to herself in the face of snarky girls who mock her for not wearing nail polish or sparkly clothes, but she perseveres.

For her father, the journey to feminism was a bit different. He thought he was a feminist until he had daughters and a wife. Then the tiny little prejudices started showing. They seep in because they are such a strong part of culture. It is hard to avoid absorbing some assumptions of who should do what or who is capable of doing what. He has grown to be a gender equality warrior along with his daughter, and I think, like my own dad, it isn’t because he is the father of girls, but simply because he is a father. He doesn’t care about gender equality because he is a feminist in the sense that he thinks females need to be defended but in the sense that he loves his children and wants them to have access to all their dreams and to be free to be themselves. If we had sons instead of daughters, he would want the same for them. He is a feminist in the sense that he wants all people to live to their full potentials.

That is why I am so excited about Emma Watson’s speech to the UN. For my Gender Equality Warrior Princess, seeing Hermione standing up - her voice shaking, but still speaking up - telling the world to look at gender, “as a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals,” is powerful. It is empowering. It is reassuring. It is telling my daughter she has been right all along and she is not alone. It is saying, “you can like fairies and hockey, and that’s ok, and I stand with you.” It is also supporting their dad. It tells him his role as a father is valuable, and his emotions are valuable. It tells him, “you can love your daughters just as much as your wife does, and that’s ok, and I stand with you.”

I love that speech, and I love the He For She campaign. I hope it reaches many people, but even if it doesn’t, it will reach my daughter and help her. And as a mom, that makes me happy. 

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