Growing up, feminism was not talked about or discussed. It wasn’t that my parents or my family were anti-feminism, it just wasn’t a thing in our neck of the world. I grew up in a small town in western North Dakota; our idea of diversity was a mix of Catholics and Lutherans or Germans and Norwegians. It wasn’t until I was in junior high that we even had an African American in our school district. It may sound crazy but it was just the way our town (and western ND) was.
When I was in fifth grade, I decided to play baseball. We didn’t have fast pitch softball so baseball was the only option…and it was only boys. It didn’t even occur to me to play baseball until my fifth grade teacher said, “We’re sending out a flyer for Mustang Baseball. It’s not just for boys! Girls can play, too.” And with that sentence, my life changed forever although I wouldn’t know the full impact until I was much older.
I competed with the boys for two years and made life-long friends. Of course, I wouldn’t realize these guys were such amazing great guys until I was older, about seventeen. At the time they couldn’t stand me, after all I was a girl and I was upsetting their world and status quo. It helped that I was good, in fact I’m sure had I been a complete disaster at the sport they would have been embarrassed and ashamed of me instead of just embarrassed that a girl was batting third in their line-up. My love for the sport and my grudgingly appreciation of my teammates led me to be their high school team manager which is where I built my life-long friendships. It didn’t take me long to learn that boys make better friends than girls (MUCH less drama) even though their girlfriends did not appreciate their girl friend. (I’ll revisit that discussion in a different, later post.)
While my world didn’t shatter with the realization that girls could play baseball, it had started to shatter. When I went to college 9 hours away in Minneapolis, everything changed. I learned that there are more views than just Republicans, that I don’t have to believe what my parents believe, that racism is a current issue, that homosexuals aren’t disgusting and that women are equal to men (to name just a few). My three years at the University of Minnesota opened my eyes and shattered my pre-misconceptions. The diversity I found in the Twin Cities stuck with me and was one of the main reasons I wanted to raise a family here.
So now I’m here, in the Twin Cities (albeit a suburb), attempting to raise a daughter that is a feminist and is aware of her surroundings. And I feel as if I’m failing.
My daughter (who is 2.5 years old) loves pink. Everything pink. She loves glitter. If it’s pink and has glitter, Lucy wants it. She insists on painting her nails and throws a fit if they get smudged or come off. She wants to put on make-up and have her hair done. She likes sparkly objects such as jewelry and fake diamonds. She HATES mud or getting dirty. She is the definition of a girly-girl.
Am I failing as a parent because my daughter wants to be a girly-girl?
When my son was born, I swore I would love him no matter what. I would love him if he loved sports or didn’t. I would love him if he was feminine or masculine. I would love him through thick and thin and would do my best to encourage him to be whomever he wanted to be. With my daughter, things were different. Oh of course, I swore to love her no matter what but I also wanted her to be a tom boy. I wanted her to rough house with her brother. I wanted her to have skinned knees and bruises from playing so hard. I wanted her to love sports and hate things pink. I wanted her, well, to be like me.
Am I failing as a parent? Yes but not for the reasons I originally thought.
Just because my daughter wants to have glitter and dress in tutus does not mean she is anti-feminist. It simply means she likes things that have been traditionally for girls. She likes gymnastics. She likes dance. She loves Minnie Mouse, horses, playing house, puppies and yes, the color pink. I’ve come to realize that raising a feminist (and being one) does not mean that my daughter has to be anti-girl, she just has to be herself. I have to make sure that she has every opportunity to be whom and whatever she wants. If she chooses to be a girly-girl, so be it…as long as she gets a choice, I have done my job.
I vowed seven years ago to love my son no matter what and nothing should be different for my daughter. She may be “prissy” and she may be high maintenance and she may be nothing like me but I accept her just the way she is. I love her just the way she is. And it is my job as her mother, and a feminist, to know that her being her is more than enough.
c/o Jenna Greenslit
Be sure to check out her blog over at http://accidentallydomesticatedinmn.blogspot.com/