I spent some time in DC this past week for my oldest daughter’s basketball tournament. Let me tell you, it was both enlightening and also quite difficult to be in our nation’s capitol during this election year. I spent a lot of time listening and not a lot of time talking—I am intelligent enough to know there are countless situations where you know you will not be heard, the conversation could get contentious, and it is not worth it to open your mouth around people who are committed to misunderstanding you. I also believe that I learn more about the world and the people who inhabit it by listening as opposed to talking, so I zipped my lip, tossed away the key, and spent a LOT of time thinking about my daughters and what I want for their future and the future of ALL the daughters….
I want my daughters to be strong and powerful AND compassionate. When they speak, I want people to listen to the WORDS they are saying, not judge the validity of those words by the body or face that is saying them. Their wardrobes should be comprised of clothes that make them feel confident and comfortable, whether or not other people “approve” of their wardrobe selection. I want them to know that NO means NO and boundaries matter and consent is key. It’s okay to be tough as nails and it is equally as okay to be empathetic and show emotion. I want them to refute the double-standard. I want them to know that nobody benefits when they play small or act like chameleons. I want them to be comfortable enough in their own skin to be authentically themselves every minute of every day. I want them to know that people won’t like them, but how they feel about themselves is the only thing that matters. I want them to take the time to uncover their truth and then to stand authentically and unabashedly in that truth. I want them to never, ever bash another woman for her choices. I want them to know that choosing to have children or not is a very complicated decision, but their worth as a woman should never be measured by that decision. I want them to know that they may eventually come upon the choice to mother or to climb the corporate ladder or to try to juggle both—each is a personal decision and there is no shame in any of those paths. As far as I am concerned, lifting other women and girls up is the only thing that matters. I want them to know that the only person I want them to be better than is the person they were yesterday. I want them to know that gender roles are arbitrary and they are free to bust through those stereotypes at full speed. I want them to love whoever they want to love and marry whoever they want to marry—as long as that person treats them with respect and kindness. I want them to be their own strongest advocates and to advocate for the people who may not be able to advocate for themselves. I want them to have consensual sex…LOTS OF IT…and I want them to know their bodies well enough to know what brings them pleasure and what they are not interested in trying. I want them to know that hate is a learned response and I want them to not be tolerant of the hatred that is rampant in our society. I want them to confidently and unabashedly use their voices for positive change. I want them to be uniters and not dividers. I want them to see the world. I want them to know that their place isn’t in the kitchen OR in the bedroom unless they damn well choose to be there of their own volition and derive joy from being in those places. I want them to know they never “asked for it” and they never “deserved it”—the victim should never be to blame. I want them to know that they, and only they, should have a say about what happens to their bodies and to fight tirelessly to retain that right. I want them to be relentless in the pursuit of what matters to them. I want them to have the confidence to walk away from unhealthy relationships, unfulfilling career paths, and unstable marriages. I want them to laugh. I want them to play. I want them to dig deeper and not take things at face value. I want them to know the world is much bigger and more beautiful when you view it live and not on a screen. I want them to be open-minded and tender-hearted and to listen intently when others share their viewpoints. They don’t always have to agree, but they should always be respectful in their disagreements. I want them to know that it is okay to make their own money, have their own nest egg, and plan for the future. I want them to know there is more to life than the conventional path, but there is also nothing wrong with the conventional path if that is the one they choose. I want them to know that most of the answers to everything lie within. I don’t want them to have to bust through any ceiling…I want there to be a world where no ceilings exist in the first place. I want them to know that they don’t NEED make-up, Victoria’s Secret, cellulite-free legs, perfect breasts, or enhanced lips to be a real woman—there are no ideal beauty standards. I want them to know that the world will market to their insecurities and make them feel less than because being insecure and having low self-esteem is a money maker—when women are comfortable in their skin fewer companies have the ability to make a profit off you. I want them to be healers and to notice the beauty around them because it is too easy to become cynical and judgmental. I want them to know that the world truly benefits when strong, intelligent, powerful women are prevalent in society and I never, ever want them to allow themselves to be stifled or pigeon-holed. I want them to wake up every single day and say “I matter. I am worthy. My voice counts. I can do that.” I want them to understand that education is paramount. Love is louder than hate. And violence begets more violence—it is never, ever the answer.
All this being said—and even more importantly—I want our daughters to be able to model all of the previous sentiments (and more) without being labeled:
On the rag.
Just a pretty face.
A baby mama.
Or any other disgustingly derogatory term used to describe, demoralize, and discount girls and women.
It’s time for a new dialog. It’s time to keep fighting for opportunity over oppression. I am going to keep fighting for these things: with my wallet, definitely with my vote, and with the way I model my life. The old, sexist rhetoric never really fit and was always designed to keep women down—it definitely has no place in the modern world. Women aren’t a threat…and like Mao Zedong says, “women hold up half the sky.”
Thank you to the women (and men) who embody this and are blazing a trail and setting the example. You know who you are and I am so, so grateful for you!