10 Ways My Mother Unknowingly Raised Me To Be A Feminist

Growing up, my mother never told me the ways I should engage in the world in terms of politics and self-identity. It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized my mother had subversively, successfully, and quite possibly accidentally raised me to be a feminist. This Mother’s Day, I want to acknowledge my mother, the feminist, and recognize the ways she raised me to be one.

She never spoke badly about the appearance of other women

When I was in high school, I’d go to the water park with girlfriends. I’d hear them say things like “Ick! Can you believe she’s wearing a 2 piece?!” in regards to stranger in public. I remember thinking, how is it ok for her to talk that way? Perhaps some girls are brought up learning it’s ok to criticize the appearance of other women. This wouldn’t fly in my home. My mother spoke positively about women on their appearance. If I could change one thing for my own kids and do one better than she did, I’d also to try and not speak badly about my own appearance. This is another way we teach our daughters that they are beautiful- by believing that WE are.

She was a champion for other women

I remember growing up, my mother was quick to point out celebrities that had other admirable attributes than beauty. It was the dawn of the “Super Model” era and I remember her saying, “That Cindy Crawford is very smart. She studied chemical engineering.” This made me think that women could and should strive to be more than just physically appealing. I remember when Madonna was at the height of her own controversial Sex book hype, instead of slut shaming or showing signs of disapproval, my mother remarked, “Madonna is a very clever business woman. She is always reinventing herself.” This made me see that there was value in being a business woman AND expressing myself, even when it may be unappealing to some.

She got out of a bad situation

My mother saved herself and her kids from a situation that was destructive and unhealthy. Many women face this challenge everyday. Unfortunately, some don’t have the resources to emerge from such situations. Abuse, neglect, addiction, and dysfunction in relationships and marriages are common and many last longer than they should because women feel that they have no option but to stay. My mother left her bad situation and rose from being a housewife, to an independent, successful woman in the workplace. For that, she gained not only the utmost respect from me, but also taught me that I always have that option myself.

She climbed the corporate ladder

She went back to work when I was a kid. She started off as a temp and gradually worked her way up the ranks to the position she’s in now. I remember there were hard times in a few of those years. She had a tough job and at times dreaded going to work. But she stuck with it, because she’s tough. She also stuck with it because as a mother, and as a woman, sacrifice for your family is part of the job. She never gave up and she worked hard. This taught me the value of hard work, and the glory of achieved success.

She was passionate about her work

Here is a feminist trait I love about my mother- she LOVES her job. Like I said, she worked hard to get there, and now she does an excellent job and is happy doing it. She’s appreciated by others and lives and breathes her work. This is something I really admire. She worked hard and didn’t settle for doing something dispassionately just to earn money, she found her niche. Women started to find their place in the work force in the mid-twentieth century. I believe this is the era that women should not only secure work, but secure work they LOVE.

She raised three kids

Like all mothers worthy of celebrating on this day, she slaved and sacrificed the way all moms do. Single mothers are the strongest humans on earth. Raising kids is not easy, as any mom will tell you, my single moms have it really tough. There should be a Single Mother’s Day.

She took care of herself

It was the 80’s/90’s, and I definitely recall a leotard and some Jazzercise evenings when my mom would take “me” time. I also remember her making an attempt to eat well, and cook meals for us when she could. I believe as a woman, taking care of yourself is one of the most powerful things you can do. If you start with taking care of one woman, you have the ability to connect with and empower other women. As a mother, self-care is extremely important. I appreciate her efforts to stay healthy, and this planted the seed in me to do the same.


My mother always had opinions on politics, and she wasn’t shy about voicing them. No matter what your opinions, I think it’s great to discuss openly (and appropriately) around your kids. She was part of the informed electorate. She watched news, knew her world and U.S. history, and voted at every election. I grew up thinking I should do the same. Teaching our daughters that being informed and active in the political process is one way to continue the growth and strength of this nation. Voting moms are a feminist win.

She taught me to take no S%!T

My mama didn’t raise no fool. She always taught me to value myself and to not take abuse from others. When I was in kindergarten, I was picked on at the playground. I remember her teaching me to yell “NO!” anytime I was picked on. She always insisted “NEVER put up with a man hitting you.” and “NEVER let a man talk down to you.” She taught me the meaning of self worth. This has served me even in regards to my own inner bully. In college, I struggled with disordered eating. I remember looking in the mirror once I had dropped below the 100 pound mark and thinking “You’re still not good enough.” Then I heard my mother’s voice in my head. And I remembered the lesson she had taught me. Something inside roared against the oppression, “NO!”. I went to therapy and healed myself. When we teach our daughters to value themselves, their bodies, and their thoughts, we win the war on female oppression. Every girl who conquers an eating disorder, who speaks out against an abuser, who fights for what she believes in, is embodying the feminist spirit. We must always teach our girls to do no harm, but take no S$%T.

She was kind

As I’ve stated, my mother was a busy lady. She found a way to donate her time and money (when she could) to charity. Beyond being the best Sunday school teacher God ever made, she was charitable to strangers. I remember after a Boy Scouts picnic, she carefully wrapped up leftovers and we drove them to a homeless man in our neighborhood. When I was in first grade, there was a boy who was less fortunate. I guess she gathered from my tales of him that he was in need around Christmas time. So, we made a box of fresh school supplies and socks for him and signed from “Santa Claus”. That was the kind of woman my mother was. She was kind and caring of others without cause to be. If we are to raise generations of women who will change the world, they must be kind and compassionate.

As you can see, many of the ways my mother taught was through example. Our actions, words, and deeds speak volumes to our children. As Stephen Sondheim wrote, “Careful the things you do, children will listen.” How we act around our kids will be how they learn to act. If I’m at all kind, brave, active, passionate, strong, or loving (to myself and others), it is because of my Mother’s example. This Mother’s Day, I’m grateful to the greatest feminist leader I know, my Mom. Happy Mother’s Day to all the great Moms! Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Sara Kleinsmith