When my daughter was born, I was simultaneously thrilled and scared to death. Women are, in many ways, more accomplished, powerful, and supported at this point in history than they've ever been before, so it's admittedly not the scariest time to give birth to a tiny girl human, but there are still so many dangers we face, and so many inequalities to tackle. And if you're a feminist mom, there are things you need to talk to your daughter about, as part of the ongoing course of achieving the goal of setting her down a path of strength, empowerment, and knowledge.
I was mostly scared of raising a girl because I still remember too clearly so many of the awful things about growing up as a girl. I remember being a teenager who was afraid to rock the boat when a boy slid his hand up my leg. I remember feeling like I had to "play dumb" in order to get the cute boy to like me. And I remember thinking that the boys who called me "Hooters" in the hallway were just doing it because they liked me, even though none of them ever asked me out, or treated me with even the most basic amount of respect that a person would reasonably be expected to show someone they liked.
It took me a long time to feel as though I mattered enough to deserve more respect from the boys and men in my life, and I want my daughter to feel like she deserves that respect from an early age. I want her to understand — like I did now when I was young — that everything about her is important and valuable, and that respecting herself is the first step toward being respected by others. And because I want all of that (and so much more), I know that I have to bolster my daughter in these areas, it starts with having lots of purposeful talks with her while she's young. This is something all feminist moms know, and do. Here are 10 common, important conversations feminist moms have with their daughters at some point:
The One When We Tell Them How Strong They Are
I never want my daughter to think of herself as anything less than strong and fully capable of anything she might want to do. She may come across as physically weaker than she'd like to be, at some point in her life (she's small for her age), but physical size only means so much — it can and should be counterbalanced with presence and inner fortitude.
The One Where We Tell Them They Can Do Anything
Whether my kid's early love of counting all the things leads to a love of math and science, or whether decides her obsession with gymnastics leads her to competing at the Olympics; Whether she wants to create a non-profit organization that helps children in developing countries get a better education, or do anything else, she'll be helped by hearing me verbal affirm (repeatedly, probably) that she is capable of doing whatever she wants.
The One Where We Explain That Their Body Is Only Theirs
This is one of the most important talks feminist moms have with their daughters. Never, never is it OK for someone to treat them or their bodies in any way that they, our daughters, don't expressly consent to. Their body belongs to them. That's true whether it means making the choice to go on birth control, or someone putting their arm around them.
The One Where We Tell Them Not To Let Anyone Write Them Off Because They're "Just A Girl"
I once moved to a new city for school and promptly knocked the all top academic achievers (who were, at the time, mostly dudes) on their collective asses. I even got punched in the face by the boy who had previously held top spot. Guess what? I won the award for highest academic standing a year later. No daughter of mine will be made to feel like she's not smart (or less than, in any way) because she's a girl.
The One Where We Tell Them That Other Girls Are Not The Enemy
The One Where We Tell Them That They Can Be Beautiful, But That Their Looks Don't Define Them
I have no problem with caring about your appearance, but no daughter of mine is going to spend more time on her looks than on her academics...or the sports she loves, the music she plays, or basically any of about a million more important things than the way she looks.
The One Where We Tell Them Their Period Is Nothing To Feel Embarrassed About
For a year or so, my stepdaughter lived with my husband and I. And during that time, I tried desperately to impress upon on her that having your period (and talking about it, and talking about the products we use in association with it) is nothing to be ashamed of. It's a fact of life. A huge percentage of the population menstruates, but for some reason (hint: because people simply can't deal with the fact that women are complex, living creatures who do more than sit around brainstorming ways to conform to the ideals of objectified sexuality that are impressed on them), a good portion of menstruating people feel the need to hide or disguise what they're dealing with during ~that time of the month~. Hopefully, my daughter will not end up feeling that way.
The One Where We Tell Them That They Should Never Feel Like They Need To Have Sex To Make Someone Like Them
In other words, feminist moms tell their daughters not to ever let someone pressure them into doing something they're uncomfortable doing, especially not because that person is either threatening to leave or making them feel like they'll lose interest if they don't do it. The whole "sex should be something you want to do, not something you do out of fear or pressure" conversation is pretty crucial on a number of levels.
The One Where We Tell Them To Stand Up For What They Believe In
Staying quiet in order to not rock the boat is not going to make this world a better, more equal place. And beyond that, it's simply not going to make our daughter's lives as full and happy as they might otherwise be.
The One Where We Tell Them That It's Fine To Love Whomever They Choose
If nothing else, feminist moms want to make sure we get this conversation right.