Am I Doing it Right? Raising Strong Daughters
By Kristin Crites | @KristinACrites
I am trying to raise my two daughters to be strong, independent feminists. Am I doing it right? This isn’t a rhetorical question.
Seriously, am I doing it right??
I like to think that I am a strong and smart feminist. I have two degrees in which I have studied feminism, gendered communication, and case law regarding gender and sexuality in depth. And I always wanted daughters and thought I would be well positioned to help them navigate our certainly-sexist, often misogynist society.
Then I had them.
And every day I question my own institutionalized sexism. I ask myself a dozen questions and grapple with a series of tricky answers: How do I raise my daughters to be “girly”, but strong? How do I raise them to be empathetic, but with the ability to say no? How do we discuss things like “no screaming in the house”, but “scream like hell if someone grabs you”? How do you be polite, yet trust your gut and learn to take care of yourself first and foremost?
Again, not rhetorical. How do we do this?!
Because, while things are better for our girls than they were for us, it is still not ideal. Yes, we have cartoons and kid shows depicting the value of girls like Doc McStuffins and Moana. We also still have Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck portrayed as the “handy helpers” who bake cakes and babysit cats instead of working on cars in the garage with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy a la Mickey and the Roadster Racers, the newest iteration of Mickey Mouse.
We read books like Rosie Revere Engineer, Princesses Wear Pants, The Paper Bag Princess, and Ladybug Girl. My girls are bruisers. They run like mad, skin their knees when it’s warm enough to play outside, and climb to the highest point of the playground while mom has a panic attack. My husband and I kiss their skinned knees and tell them to dust it off when the scrapes are minor. We play dress up and carry around Elsa dolls, and make sure we say please and thank you. I am trying to raise well-rounded girls who trust themselves, and are strong enough to stand up for themselves.
However, I know my girls, along with every girl out there, will have an encounter someday with an adult or authority figure who sends a message--implied or overt--they are “less than” simply because they are girls. It could be an off-handed comment, an unwanted physical advance, a slightly lower salary; sadly, the message may take a thousand heartbreaking forms.
And when that inevitability manifests itself in my daughters’ lives, will I have prepared them well enough? Will they know how to fight back, to shut it down, to rise above?
Maybe my anxieties about this is simply the reality of being a mom, and in particular, a feminist mom. Like many of us, I have lived the life I fear our girls may be doomed to live, and I want nothing more than to protect my daughters from an ill-fated destiny.
I am doing my best to expose my daughters to more examples of the life I want for them. I engage them, even at this young age, in discussions about the Women’s March, #MeToo, #TimesUp, and Pinned by Pearls. I take my girls with me when I vote for women candidates or candidates who support women, equal pay, and women’s rights. I surround myself and my girls with strong women. If they can see it, they can be it. Finally, I want them to see me standing up for myself, and for all women.
I alone cannot change the world for my girls, but I can be their biggest supporter. I can raise my girls to be feminists by example. And when the time comes, as it inevitably will, for them to face down that “detractor”, all I can do is hope it has been enough.