Sexism. What a dirty word. What a list of cruel and ugly things it draws on your mind as you think it. There is a falsehood that sexism is only in the obvious and the overt- grabbing a woman’s ass, complimenting her new skirt as opposed to her intelligence, jokingly instructing a woman to get back in the kitchen. The sinister part of sexism is in the smaller, nameless, acceptable moments. The ones that feel too small to call out, lest you earn yourself the title of Bitch. It’s asking a woman why she’s so emotional, it’s assuming she won’t commit to staying late because she’s maternally inclined or at least she should be, it’s being free to question whether a woman got a promotion based on the fact that she’s a woman or perhaps something she’s done with her womanly body, it’s paying her less because there’s too many unknown factors about her potential future.
And so. Feminism becomes a tool my daughters are learning intrinsically, like how to get the shampoo out of their hair in the shower and the reasons we wear seatbelts in the car. I show it in the moments I decide to do for myself, I give it a voice when I remind them I belong to no one. I lay the tools of feminism out for them daily: your voice, your mind, your body, your free will, your team, your sense of self. I remind them we all lose track of our tools from time to time and that’s ok. The act of picking them back up is an act of personal empowerment. I expose them to challenges and wait…just wait for them to decide for themselves. Not decide how I have instructed, no. To pull and piece together anything they hold in esteem, to feel the power of knowledge that they are whole people deserving of their voice and giving a clear and firm answer. I hold space for them, but it is not sacred. They need to earn it, even with me. Can you defend your position? Are you willing to stand in the shakiness of having perhaps disagreed and display the use of your tools? If you are willing to voice your opinion, part of power is acknowledging your weakness, part of growth is observing and really hearing dissent. Everyone will not agree, perhaps no one will. Use your tools and decide for yourself, and know that it is not failure to acknowledge something you didn’t know. And know that your opinion doesn’t need to change because of it, but eagerly entertain the fact that it might.
They don’t do things my way, these girls of mine. That absolutely stings. It bites back in the personal insecurities that tell you they must not approve of you if they don’t copy you. This is of course false. They are not you. You have molded their little worlds and alongside your version they created their own, and that’s where they live. Honouring that unknowable space for my daughters has been my hardest, most rewarding lesson. Not just as a parent, but as a human being. To acknowledge the truth that I know them the best, and there are depths to their lives that will remain a mystery to me. It is their defiance that brings me simultaneous pain and pride. It’s a pain in my ass, but I’m proud that they feel their worth enough to go their own way.
We claim to be willing to meet people halfway, but in action that’s far too much exposure. That’s scary. That’s uncontrollable. Instead we set people up to travel to our side first, as if we can convince them before they even start. We think we are willing to listen, and we fight or flee when our feelings get hurt. We approach everything from within our own lens, and rarely afford the empathy that others are simply doing the same. Feminism is not exclusively dealing with the glass ceiling. Feminism, at its heart, is many levels below that, right at the ground where we meet to trade ideas, to observe each other without judgment or the need to instruct. If my daughters can meet in that place and both feel and invite equality? If we could all do that? Imagine the actual conversations we could have. Think of the issues we could solve. Think of how open and light you would feel about your future, how much you would encourage those around you, how much more respectful our interactions would be.
Women bring pieces to the discussions and debates, local and large scale, that are ours uniquely. Our voices, our ideas, our questions, they are all necessary, they are all needed, they are all worthy. Be feminists. Men and women- be feminists. Invite the women in your life to show up without armour. And lay yours down too. Stop proving and start experiencing. Proof can come later, but not until you humble yourself enough to stand and take in dissention. Then pull out your voice and reflect on your lessons and speak. Speak. Speak. Speak.