I want to raise a daughter so I can watch her grow up believing that she can be whatever she wants to be, and not have to answer to anyone as to why. I want her to play house, carry baby dolls, wear an apron and idealize whatever Martha Stewart character is on TV before 4 PM if that’s what feels right for her. I want her to embrace her curves and liking makeup and wearing tulle if that’s what makes her feel most herself. And I’ll be damned if I let anyone tell her she’s taking steps backwards for feminism for choosing to love those things.
But if she leans more towards jeans, baseball caps, and climbing trees and finds herself wanting to be more Mowgli instead of Jasmine in all that teal and eyeliner, trust me I will fuel that fire. I’ll watch her paint the word “tomboy” across her forehead but I will never allow her to feel that her lack of an interest in baking has anything to do with femininity. I will encourage her to jump through fields, to run and fight and play “like a girl” because that means just like her. I want her to get her hands dirty and I will allow her to express herself in whatever way feels best for her.
I want to raise a daughter who never feels like she can’t do something because of what someone scrawled with “doctor handwriting” on a birth certificate. I want her to grow up never to hear the words, “But don’t you want to be a lady?” thrown her way when she talks about her dreams and aspirations. I want her to grow up believing that she can, that she will accomplish anything. I want her to never feel limited or smaller than she is. I never want her to hear the words “fairer sex” and think, “Oh yeah. Me.”
But when she comes home and feels like she wants to cry because a someone didn’t check yes and instead left the silently cruel blank box, I want her to know that it’s okay. I never want her to feel that by holding in her emotions she is stronger, she is better. I never want her to be worried about exposing herself and I never want her to equate feelings with weakness. I want her to know that “being a girl” means nothing, but “being able to express yourself” means everything.
I want to raise a daughter who knows that her sex does not define her. I want her to know that her ability to make people scream and whistle in the street when she wears a skirt has nothing to do with her legs, and everything to do with their own issues. I never want her to think, “I should cover up,” unless that sweater is being grabbed for her and absolutely no one else.
But, if she wants to use it, if she finds her body to be tool she wants to wield, I will be there to guide her with knowledge, a level head, and without judgment. I will be there to teach her about herself and to never shame her for feeling the need to explore. I will promise to always listen, to never jump to conclusions, to be silent when silence is required but to speak up when she needs to hear something. I will never shame her for any of her choices and raise her not to think of her sex as something to hide, but something that is magic.
I want to raise a daughter who is validated in existing on this earth as a woman. I want her to grow up not just saying things like “girl power” and “I can do anything” but to grow up actually believing those things.
I want to raise a daughter who is not afraid to walk home alone at night. I want to raise a daughter who does not grow up thinking she should be quiet and never hears the word “bossy.” I want to raise a daughter who is never ashamed to tell someone want she wants in bed or thinks she can’t say no and have it be a complete sentence. I want to raise a daughter who never thinks, “I’m just a girl.”
But that’s not entirely up to me.
It’s up to us.
And it all depends on how, collectively, we will want our daughters to be raised.