There are many views on, forms of, and expressions of feminism out there. Too many, in my opinion, to go into here. I get that the word means different things to different people. But over time, the word has gotten muddy, and I think it’s time to move on in a different direction.
We all want our daughters to be strong, independent, and free to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. In my experience, however, I’ve rarely seen a woman (especially in the news) standing up and being a “feminist” in a way that sat well with me. I’ve seen angry feminists, disgruntled and fed-up feminists, even ravenous feminists who are willing to break and burn and scream and be disgusting to make a statement. Unfortunately, the fiery “putting women above men,” “I’ll be just as gross and loud as a man” feminism has been the majority of my exposure to feminism. To me, those women have been wounded deeply by someone or society and haven’t been able to let it go. They seek to blame and point fingers for the injustices they’ve faced. It’s divisive, and ultimately unhelpful to what they are trying to achieve. Instead of lowering standards of propriety for women, why don’t we try to elevate those of men?
One person I’ve seen who does embody strength, self-assurance, and dignity in the way she lobbies for fairness for women is Emma Watson. Her HeForShe campaign is something I can get behind, because of one reason alone: It is not about the self, it is about others.
The name “He for She” immediately indicates a certain coming together, not breaking apart. It shows that the initiative is about community — one group of people standing up for another. Women already have an innate worth, a strength, and an infinite capacity to do good in the world. It would only take two things to achieve the equality we seek: For others to recognize this, and for us to recognize it in ourselves. When we help others, we activate our potential and automatically strengthen and help ourselves. Focusing outward gives purpose. Focusing inward breeds small-mindedness and greed.
So although I know feminists mean well, today, the word “feminist” divides. I think it’s time to reevaluate the name, and the way we go about teaching it to our children. I’m raising my daughter not to be a feminist, but to be someone who stands up for others — all types of others — and in doing so, stands up for herself.
So, I’m not pushing her away from the Disney princesses.
I’m not shoving strong female role models down her throat.
I’m not feeding her movies that pass the Bechdel test.
Why? Because none of those things can ever scratch the surface of accurately portraying the scope of a woman. None of those things could ever compete with the image of the quiet, dedicated strength and service of a mother. You want a daughter who knows who she is, what she stands for? Do you want a daughter who is kind, and thoughtful, and hardworking? Do you want her to live a life that is more about helping than having it all? Then all you have to do is be that kind of mother.
That’s what my mom did.
And my guess is that we are all already there.
There is much to lament in this world about the treatment of women. I could work all my life to improve my own status, and try to change the way people treat me, specifically, because of my gender. However, I’ve found that more can be done to improve the way I treat others daily. And if I can make that kind of difference in myself, I can pass that on to my daughter. If she can then take those same things, and pass them on to her children, then that’s a legacy I’ll be proud to leave behind.