A reflection by student staff member, Marie, on her personal journey to becoming a feminist and beginning the process of raising her own daughters as feminists.
As if it weren’t hard enough to finally get the hang of navigating through the world as a “failing feminist” (see previous post), I now have to figure out how to raise my two young girls as feminists. The necessity to empower my girls to be strong minded individuals who respect themselves and their bodies has been weighing heavily on me lately. The #metoo movement has played a significant part in bringing this awareness to the forefront of my mind. The online movement, (even though it technically began almost 10 years ago) has exploded into a worldwide hashtag, and is helping to shed an entirely new light on the importance of respect, consent, and especially accountability surrounding sexuality, and sexual misconduct. It has given a voice to women from all walks of life, who felt voiceless for a long period of time. This break in silence, and rise of empowerment is impacting society in places where change and action are finally taking place, and people, especially women, are being heard. The entertainment industry has been affected tremendously, (beginning with allegations against Harvey Weinstein), and has long since traveled all the way to the top of society: The White House. In today’s day and age, it is slowly beginning to seem like there is no longer any authority or entity that is safe, or off limits to scrutiny. Unfortunately, this is rightfully so.
Primarily due to the tumultuous political climate and the heightened awareness of women’s rights, I am now thinking ahead about how I am going to “properly and effectively” start teaching my daughters the basics of feminism. Sounds simple, right? But what kind of feminists am I trying to raise? Do I make that decision for them early on, or do I wait for them to come into their own, as women, and decide for themselves? Obviously I want them to make their own decisions, but I am at a loss as where to start.
I first thought that these life lessons would be simple. After attending my first 3-year-old Peter Pan themed birthday party and overhearing my daughter being told “No, no sweetie, you want to be Tinkerbell, not Peter Pan,” I swept in quickly to rectify that situation. (Side note: it’s a bit ironic for someone to tell my daughter this misinformation, given that Peter Pan was actually played by a woman, and multiple times at that!) It was on the way home from this birthday party that the realization set in: I need to begin to model the ideals of feminism, which to me include gender equality (and equity), liberation from sexist role patterns, reproductive justice, and basic human rights for all. After putting the kiddos to sleep, I began to research how to parent feminist children. Let me tell you, the vast amount of websites, blogs, “what to do” and the “what not to do” options were overwhelming to say the least!
Are these suggestions really what I want to base my teachings off of? I’m not really sure. I mean, I am not quite sure that I am not the type of woman, let alone mother, who is going to “celebrate” my daughters’ first “menarche.” I am also not ready to bring either of my children on a Child Protective Services visit to show them the kind of work that mommy the social worker does when she is not at home. I am all for empowerment, self-advocacy, self-love, and promoting self-worth. I am not sure how in the midst of these things, I am going to teach them how to properly garden or teach them about “the rhythms of the earth” as was encouraged by some of these parenting articles.
After bouncing around from different blog posts to articles that offer advice on how to become the “Perfect Feminist Parent,” I have ultimately decided that I am more than capable of coming up with my own list of how to raise my daughters! With the wealth of knowledge that I literally gain each and every time I spend time in the Women’s Center, combined with the ever so valuable information that I have collected during my time here as a GWST major, I think I’ve got this.
Here’s a few things that I’ve decided will be my basic guidelines to start off this process, as well as serve as gentile reminders to myself:
- Teach body positivity
- Teach consent, teach consent, teach consent
- When talking about the body actually use the anatomically correct names
- Carefully monitor the words that I use when talking to/describing my girls. Only use worlds that build them up, not tear them down
- Never stick to “gender norms”
- Most importantly: Allow my girls to be who they want to be.
I realize that this is going to be an ongoing, everyday task. I also realize that along the way, mistakes will be made- by myself and by my children. In life, nothing is perfect. I for one most definitely have learned this throughout my existence. However, it is what you do to re-create, or change these imperfections that shape and transform your life experiences. I am super excited to help create a path in which my children can follow. I am even more excited to see the paths that they create on their own.
*****(Did you know that there is a student organization on campus called Parents Club? If you are a student at UMBC, and a parent, the Women’s Center highly recommends you check out this exceptional resource!! AND…The Women’s Center lending library has a small (but mighty) children’s collection of books that the feminist kiddos (and their parents) might love. Come by and check it out!!!)****