My mom did everything for her children. She got divorced to show us that we should escape unhealthy relationships, she used her free time to work harder, she went back to school when she could afford it, and she didn’t eat except for the scraps we left over. Despite all this, despite her sometimes homeless, always poor upbringing, she was somehow privileged enough to teach me that women are powerful people who can do anything. She used energy she shouldn’t have had to praise me for my abilities rather than my looks, to teach me that I should take care of my needs as an individual, and to emphasize that I could never depend on anyone, much less a spouse, to give meaning to my life.
But it was easy to forget what she taught me. When my first kiss wanted my small-nosed, freckled friend instead, when I first watched the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show knowing that I would never have those long limbs and slim hips, when my fratty boyfriend earnestly repeated the “lock and key” metaphor to me, or when I spent my early 20s wondering whether I would be alone forever not because I wanted to get married, but because I didn’t want to be the last one left single, it was easy to forget my accomplishments and feel worthless as a woman. The world never fails to remind me why feminism is important to me—no matter how much I improve myself, hearing a man refer to “tall blonde girls with big tits” as a perfect class of human still makes my stomach sink.
I embrace my femininity. I paint my nails, I chug white wine, my favorite movie is When Harry Met Sally, and I rock tight dresses with a sick pair of heels like no bitch. But I like feminine things because I like them, and I hope my future daughter/niece/other girl I love will never feel that she has to be feminine, beautiful, and skinny to be worthy. I hope that she’ll have the courage to say that she’s a feminist without qualifying it by saying “I’m not one of those feminists,” and without having to defend her attempts at elevating women (say, through a TV show or music video) against petty attacks.
Most of all, I hope that she’ll develop dreams and goals outside of being beautiful and marrying rich, because even if she does like to wear makeup and flouncy dresses and a bow in her hair, I would know I failed if she cared most about a temporary trait that’s bestowed on the lucky and unrelated to true value. I hope she’ll care about the type of person she is, the way she treats other people, and the things she can do for the world. That’s what I want for all women, and that’s why I’m a feminist.