Monday, July 25, 2016

Stop undermining the values I wish to teach my daughter: an uneducated feminist rant

First, I have subtitled this post, 'an uneducated feminist rant,' because although I have studied two feminized subject areas (nursing and librarianship), I have never studied feminist theory. I like to believe that I have feminist leanings on a fundamental level, but I couldn't dip my toe into a discussion of feminist principles beyond, 'Why yes, I DO think everyone should be treated equal regardless of gender.' What little I know about the theories are based on dinner conversations with my friend Mandy.

But, this is not a discussion of my lack of knowledge. This is a discussion about how people view my 20 month old daughter.

My daughter is very cute.

Yes, this is partially parental pride, but we get a lot of comments from people. Random strangers, friends, family members. We've walked around malls with Ruth hanging on to our hands and heard people gawk at her as we go by. We receive lots of remarks on how pretty her eyes, or her curls are.

I'm not going to post a picture, sorry. Ruth rarely graces the pages of my social media, and if she does, I make sure the picture doesn't provide a clear shot of her face. This is partially for her protection, but also because at 20 months old, she doesn't have the ability to give her consent to my posting her picture.

I will say she's petite, with big blue eyes and strawberry blond curls. She's normally fair skinned, although she's quite tanned right now from being out in the sun so much. Once she's given you very careful, and serious consideration, she'll likely give you a huge smile. I do my best not to dress her in an overtly girly fashion (i.e. skirts and dresses), or colours (well, you know).

Now, to the point.

On Saturday we went to a local beach. An older woman, who happened to be situated next to our blanket, remarked on Ruth's physical appearance "She looks just like a baby from a magazine..." Um...okay.

Then she said something to this affect: "When she turns 13 you're going to have to lock her up in a tower to keep the boys away."

Um...what? Did we somehow get sucked back into 'Ye Olden Times' without knowing it? Sadly, this is not the first time we've heard such a comment.

In this case, we tried to turn it into a joke by responding with: "Oh no, we'll just teach her how to deal with people."

This woman was a stranger, and although we were horrified by her remark, was there a point in entering into an argument about the inappropriateness of her comment? I don't know. I don't particularly like to argue with people I do know, so it didn't seem worth it.

Before we knew Ruth's gender Andrew and I both hoped for a girl--and we knew that we would have to work extra hard to teach her that she could be as capable as any person to be whatever she wants. That just because she's female doesn't mean she has to wear pink, and dresses, and that it's okay to be good at math and science, if her interests lean in the STEM direction. But, that it's also okay to like pink for the sake of liking pink, and that social sciences are a wonderful avenue of study.

Furthermore, we want to teach her critical thinking skills, so there's no reason for building that tower. Arming her with knowledge about sex and consent are far more effective than a lock and key. We can't protect Ruth against everything, I know that, even if I haven't totally accepted it yet. All we can do is try to give her the tools she needs to maneuver her way through life as best as she can, and let her go.

But please, try not to undermine the values we're trying to teach her by telling her that she's going to be too pretty to be safe on her own. She may only be 20 months old, be she understands a great deal of what people say to her already.

So what we tell her is this: We love her no matter what, she's smart, she's thoughtful, and she's a hard worker.



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