It bothers me to hear people calling my daughter cute and pretty all the time.
It’s true that she is. I tell her, “Hi, gorgeous!” every day.
She is also so much more than that. She is alert and curious and friendly and sensitive. She is assertive and determined, like her mom.
She is brilliant and she is a fighter. I don’t want her to be seen as anything less.
In Loveable, Kelly Flanagan writes: “Whenever we arrive at a place of wanting something better for the people we love, we can be sure we have arrived at the place of our own wounding – the desire to prevent pain for the ones we love always arises from an empathy embedded in our own painful experiences.”
My own experiences? It is infuriating when I hear limits and labels placed on me.
In kindergarten I remember chasing a boy around the playground, yelling, because he had told me I couldn’t be President.
In high school I left a party, fuming, because boys insisted on playing a rap song about women in the kitchen cooking and cleaning.
At my first job a male colleague sat across from me at a meeting, eyeing my legs and smirking. I told my boss. She set up a meeting so I could tell him how that was not acceptable.
When I hear men call women “girls” or “chicks,” I point out that this is not OK.
I have been told by men that I’m taking it all too seriously, that it’s not a big deal. They don’t get it. People don’t limit and belittle them because of their gender.
The words we use are powerful.
I have read about how to talk to girls: ask what they are reading, avoid commenting on their appearance. I agree with everything I read.
I also find it hard to do. It is hard to set new patterns. I am working on it.
Then I think of what I say to women. I know I compliment their appearance. Do I ask about what they are reading? Do I ask about their dreams?
Do I assume I know what their dreams are? Do I put them in a box? Do I stick to asking about their dating – marriage – babies status?
How do I use my powerful words?
This weekend I wrote an acrostic for Alicia.
First I wrote words in Spanish that mean beautiful and sweet. Linda, cariñosa.
Then I crossed them out. I wrote:
Active, fighter, intelligent, capable, independent, loving.
Strong. Fierce. My limitless daughter.
Food for thought:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's suggestions for how to raise a feminist (especially #s 5-8)
How to Talk to Little Girls by Lisa Bloom