My mom was a hilarious feminist when I was growing up. We still laugh how when I was potty trained, she had offered to buy me ANYTHING I wanted, and I asked for a Barbie. This made her so conflicted, and she ended up buying me Doctor Barbie; when I’d comment on how pretty her hair was or her pretty dress, she’d tell me “She’s a physician, a respected member of the community!” – we still howl with laughter. When I was a bit older and wanted to wear eye shadow, she said that first we needed to “discuss the political ramifications of makeup”- one of my all time favorite phrases to this day.
It was all part of her quest to raise me as an empowered and confident woman, something that I want to do for Harley as well. While I’m not as worried about dolls or makeup, I am worried about the world I’m raising her in. I recently read a brilliant article about a mom’s take on the whole transgender bathroom debate. For her, it has nothing to do with bathrooms, she isn’t worried about her daughter getting assaulted in the ladies room. No, she’s worried about the statistical likelihood that her daughter will be pressured into underage sex, or drugs, or drinking. She’s worried about the statistical likelihood that her baby will be violently raped before the age of 35, that she’ll be a victim of institutionalized sexism.
And it all hit particularly close to home for me on so many fronts. I was sexually abused as a little girl. I did engage in underage drinking. I did become sexually active at a young age. And I’m also a confident, empowered woman who is thriving in a male dominated industry. I am a proud geek, proud gamer, proud woman, proud wife, proud mom. Sure, I’ve been through some rough things in my life (who hasn’t) and I’ve had all kinds of experiences. But, I also had the tools to cope with those things. I had the knowledge that I could go to my mom about them. I knew that no matter what I was going through, I could find an amazing support network, or at least drown myself in the latest book or game until I was ready to deal with things again.
So what is my goal for Harley? I wish I could protect her from the world. I wish I could save her from the hardships that she will inevitably deal with simply because she’s a human being, and even harder, a female in a male dominated world. But things are getting better, and society is changing. I hope I can protect her from the horrors that are out there, but I know that’s an unrealistic goal. Instead, I hope that I can teach her to find her own inner strength, to know that things won’t be easy but that she can find her own way.
Feminism for me isn’t about hating men or burning bras. It’s about being awesome in whatever goals you pursue, about having resilience. Life isn’t easy, and women often face struggles that men never even need to consider. But our success tastes that much sweeter. Yes, I wish Harley were born into a world that was more fair, but barring that, I hope that she knows how to face anything, and conquer whatever demons come her way.