I think I’m a feminist. In some circles, that’s worse than a 4 letter cuss word, so I’ve never really labeled myself as such. But I figured out recently there’s no denying it. I’m a feminist, and really, anyone who believes in gender equality is technically a feminist. So if you think men and women should be have equal legal rights, wages, opportunities, you’re a feminist. Sorry to break it to you.
I believe in equality in the above arenas and more. In ways that even some of my female friends, who do believe in the above, would still raise an eyebrow at. From the mundane things like being very biased towards TV shows with strong female characters, being aware of which shows have strong female presence in the writing and producing room, to refusing to change my last name (I love hubs’ last name, but I love my original one too). From avoiding telling my daughter that she’s pretty, and teaching her that “Mommy doesn’t care about pretty”, to teaching her what I do care about: kindness, being a good listener, hard worker, funny. I also make sure to insert words that I am not sure many moms use as adjectives to describe their little girls: strong and tough.
The Princess Dilemma
I also avoid “princess” shows, including Disney classics. I feel conflicted in this resolve at times. I don’t have this figured out. I mean, where does one draw the line? I myself enjoyed The Little Mermaid, but if you look deeper at the message of that movie, and ignore the great musical numbers, it all boils down to doing everything possible to get a boy. Cringe-worthy message. What makes me feel even more conflicted is that my daughter is so girly, and she LOVES princessy/girly things.
My husband is dismayed but I can see it’s her personality, and there’s no reason she can’t be strong and tough without liking girly things too. But still…I”m careful with what I let her see. Although I know I can’t protect her forever. For example, one particular weekend (she’s only allowed TV on weekends), she begged to watch a princessy show. I let her watch this old-fashioned Thumbelina movie on Netflix while I cooked dinner. It was horrible.
The girl literally couldn’t do a thing to save herself. Everyone was the savior, and she was a hopeless damsel in distress. I am not even exaggerating. She was all sorts of creatures’ object of desire, and they were passing her around to please themselves, only to discard her when she was no longer useful. Hopeless, useless creature.
So what should I have done? Shut it off? I decided I would take that moment to bring to her attention how sad Thumbelina’s actions were. I brought up questions like, how come she couldn’t find a solution to her own problems? Why wasn’t she stronger and tougher…I have to admit all this looked like it was going over my 4 year-old daughter’s head, so I ended up heckling Thumbelina. Hey, like I said, I am not perfect and don’t have this all figured out. I was also still trying to cook dinner at the same time.
Little Girls Can Grow Into Insecure Women
I know that what I say matters. How I view the world matters. How I treat her matters. The same goes for her Dad. We hope to give her empowering messages. I don’t want her dieting at 5 years old (we’ve heard this happening!), or think she’s not thin enough, tall enough, or think she needs a man to be happy. I know plenty of grown women who have these issues. I”m not gonna put the blame squarely on their ubringing. At some point, once you’re an adult, you get be responsible for yourself. But I know that it’s better to implant these empowering messages now, rather than later.
I have tons of issues with my body. I avoid letting that filter down to my daughter. I have grabbed my naked belly in front of her and said nice, positive, funny things about how it jiggled, and how it carries babies…and whatever wacky things came into my head. I never express my negative thoughts about my body to her, and I do my best to praise myself sometimes (I don’t over-do it, I”m not a narcissistic cow). I also try to foster a good relationship with food. I try to highlight fruits and vegetables, water and protein and do my best not to villify carbs. I caution her against too much sugar and junk food, but I don’t ban it with the zeal of a fanatic. I ask her to “listen to her tummy” and stop eating when she’s full.
Will this solve all the future problems of insecurity? I’m not sure. So many more messages will reach her, not all of them nice. Some of them are designed to make her feel bad about herself. But I try.