Many people question how we can actually make a change in our society that helps women and men become more equal and I think the solution is simple. Raise your children to be feminists.
I was raised a feminist. And I didn’t even realize it until the subject generated so much buzz. It’s a hot topic and almost everyone has had a conversation about it.
But what does that mean to raise my children like that? Should I never give them razors to shave their legs? Should I tell them to never trust men? Should I always encourage them to be as masculine as possible?
Here’s a fancy secret:
Oh, but Heather, you’re 19. What do you know about raising children?
Well, I know that you should always have an endless supply of ice cream for bargaining and tears and a solid collection of Disney movies so obviously I’m very qualified to give advice.
But really, I’d like to give a big shout out to my parents for the things they’ve taught me to help me feel comfortable in my abilities.
Here are some key facts I’ve been taught growing up, many of which I never thought were that special but they seem to be a good starting point for the ideas that should be put in anyone’s brain.
1. Girls can be good at science and math.
Actually, in my house no one was good at math, but I think that had more to do with our boredom with the subject than lack of ability.
Recently there have been some ads like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP3cyRRAfX0 one. That showcase how often girls are discouraged from pursuing STEM interests. In our house we were all about doing science experiments and we enjoyed, and were praised, for doing well in science classes.
Side note: I was also praised for having a writing talent and it was ALWAYS my choice to pursue a career as a creative. (My parents tried and failed to convince me to be an engineer. The really stressful, banging my head against the wall, writer’s block days I question why I didn’t choose that path.)
2. Girls don’t have to be silent.
Quiet women don’t really exist in my family.
Being taught that your ideas can be creative and unique and smart and worth listening to really shapes how much you’re willing to speak up.
If something or someone makes you uncomfortable, say something. If you think you have a good idea for a project, say something.
You have just as much right to say something when the time is right than anyone else in the room does.
3. You can be compassionate and not be seen as soft.
It’s okay to care about people and it’s okay to express your emotions. Doing so does not make you weak.
The world would probably be a better place if more people took stances of empathy.
Liking makeup and owning four different kinds of curling irons and various combs and brushes doesn’t make you a priss. (It probably just means you grew up in the south and your momma wasn’t going to let you out of the house unless you brushed your bed head.)
Beauty standards don’t have to be everything, but there is a lot of value in putting on a shirt that’s not wrinkled and a pair of real pants. People take you more seriously when you care about how you look, even if your style isn’t the same as theirs
4. Do things to make yourself happy not to please other people.
How you dress, how you speak, how you act, and what you want to do with your life are your decisions and your decisions alone.
If you want to drape yourself in pink glitter or camouflage, it’s your choice.
If you want to be a teacher or a construction worker, it’s your choice.
If you want to be quiet and reserved or loud, it’s your choice.
As long as you’re not hurting anyone with your actions, you can do whatever makes you happy.
5. Girls can take care of themselves.
I don’t think I’ve ever been taught that I can’t do something by myself just because I’m a girl — well, maybe walking by myself at night but that’s a whole other rant to be had.
I can change a flat tire.
I can carry my own boxes when I move.
I can open a jar by myself.
The idea that women need men for trivial things like this is ridiculous and should probably be a little offensive to men that that’s all they’re useful for.
I can’t kill the spider, but whatever. No one’s perfect.
6. Tears don’t make you weak.
One of my favorite quotes is, “The cure for anything is salt water — tears, sweat or the sea.”
Now I’m not personally a big fan of crying but one of the best pieces of advice my mother has ever given me is that sometimes a good cry fest makes you feel better.
It’s not a sign of weakness. Let the salt and Kim Kardashian-level ugly crying face happen and then move on.
7. You can be anything you want to be.
I’ve touched on this a few times already but I feel like it needed its own point.
Being a girl doesn’t limit the things you get to do in life.
You can want to get married and stay home with your family one day AND aspire to have a career.
Stay-at-home moms are rad. Being in charge of a company is rad, too. Women that do both deserve an award. And if you choose to do one and not the other, you are not less than in any way.
8. There are many other things you can be in life that are much better than being pretty.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents have always told me how beautiful they think my sisters and I are, but we always were complimented on our brains, our humor, and our wit much more often.
I think this has more benefits the older you get because you’d really be amazed how many adults like to use the insult, “yeah… well …she’s not even pretty!”
Who cares? She’s got a degree in neuroscience I think she’s okay with her life.
And on a super related note, being smart or athletic or whatever you are doesn’t take away from beauty so you shouldn’t believe that either.
9. There are A LOT of men on your side.
There’s some kind of idea that’s out there that teaches people that all feminist hate men, which is really ridiculous, because the majority of men support women’s rights. (One time my dad proclaimed that he would never shop at Macy’s again because they don’t support equal pay for women.)
Being a feminist doesn’t mean you hate men. It just means that you think you should be on the same playing field as them.