My daughter recently asked me: “Mom, can I be Super Man even though I’m a girl?” and I said “yes, of course….Super Man isn’t Super Man because he’s a boy….he is Super Man because he is brave and kind and generous.”
To be perfectly honest, I’m not too worried about Lucy feeling inferior simply because she is female. Not only is she surrounded by strong women but, maybe even more importantly, by men who respect and empower women as peers and colleagues. So while she may one day face inequality in school or the workplace, I feel pretty confident that she will handle it like a bad ass. I mean….she’s only three years old so I guess I shouldn’t get ahead of myself but I’m not too worried about it.
Due in large part to the current political climate, the topic of equality (or lack thereof) has been at the forefront of our society…and you know what….I’m glad. More people are discussing inequality than ever before…fighting for it….advocating for and recognizing it now more than ever. After deciding to leave the workforce and stay at home I felt a bit useless…..and guilty. There was part of me that felt like I let my “sisters” down by “giving up” my career to stay at home….and felt like I gave up my right or my voice….like I had set us back…or let down all the women who fought so hard to give me so many opportunities. I was desperate to contribute to and be a propellant for positive change…and have spent a lot of hours thinking about how I can make a difference. So, as I continued to think about my role and what or how I was doing to contribute to society I realized I needed to dwell less on what I had done and more on what I could do moving forward and I have come to realize that regardless of whether or not I am working, the most powerful way I can make a difference is by raising kind humans who believe in and fight for equality. I can raise my family and my children in a way that paves a path for equality. It is something I can show them….day in and day out. I can do that. Regardless of a persons gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or any other magical reason someone is different from them….I am going to raise humans who see beyond any of that. I am committed to raising children who grow up loving their neighbors something fierce….I’m going to sprinkle kindness around like confetti. It’s going to be a kindness party up in here (okay, okay…I’m getting carried away….or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to drink during the day).
It’s amazing how at 3 years old my daughter is already recognizing the different roles genders play. She recently asked me why girls don’t play sports. Ummmm….I’m sorry….come again child. Not only does Lucy play any and every sport she wants…..but ummm…I’m her mom. I love sports. In fact, I would even say that I’m a better athlete than her dad (he LOVES when I tell people this). After discussing this with her in great detail (especially the part about me being a better athlete than her dad) she said….”yeah but why don’t girls play sports on TV”? Hmmm….you got me there kid….guess we’ll be watching a lot of softball this year!
Speaking of….we just celebrated Lucy’s 3rd birthday and this came up on my Facebook memories from a year ago:
“I am not one to easily take offense to something and I choose to keep politics to myself but trying to pick out the perfect birthday card for my smart, brave, hilarious, construction/dinosaur/monster/Paw Patrol loving daughter, I am disappointed in the selection. Every card I choose for her says Birthday BOY…..where my ladies at?? Good thing I have a Sharpie readily available!!”
Seriously….every dinosaur card was for a birthday boy. But you know what….it goes both ways. One of Lucy’s very best friends is Frozen obsessed. He LOVES Frozen!!! We wanted to give him a Frozen birthday card but they were all for the birthday girl. I recently saw a friend of mine post about how her son wanted to wear a Wonder Woman shirt. HELL YES. She has twins (yes, she is in fact Wonder Woman) and her son wanted to wear a Wonder Woman shirt but of course she couldn’t find one. See below:
“The kids wanted Wonder Woman shirts so we could match. Of course, there weren’t any in the boys section. Apparently girls can sport heroes, but boys can’t wear heroines. Females team members are missing almost always missing from boys apparel. You can see this with The Justice League, The Avengers (give Black Widow her own movie!), Star Wars, Paw Patrol, The Lion Guard…How can we teach our sons to respect women as peers and colleagues (let alone as leaders) if we exclude them from the narrative? My son will learn that women kick ass just as much as men. Not because he has a mom who kicks ass or his sister kicks ass. Because they are PEOPLE who kick ass. So yes, I found him a shirt. He’s wearing a girl’s size small and he loves it. His shield is in the way and the Invisible Jet is parked out back.”
Anyway, I started thinking a lot about how I can show Lucy that gender doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mean a damn thing and it got me thinking about how brands play such an important role in how equality is taught and comprehended by our youth. You walk through clothing stores, toy stores, book stores, etc. and its clear….boys vs girls. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have separate sections but boys and girls should at least have access to the same characters….right? My kid loves Paw Patrol but all of the girls clothing and accessories are Skye & Everest….well Lucy loves Rubble damn it. My nephew thinks Everest is a bad ass yet he would be hard pressed to find some Paw Patrol paraphernalia with Everest on it in the boys section. I truly believe we have more power than we give ourselves credit for. I can’t help but think that by making small changes to what I purchase….what I watch….where I spend my time and money…..that collectively, we can slowly show brands that this matters. It does make a difference. It makes a difference in how our children see themselves and each other and that matters. Now don’t get me wrong, there are brands out there who fight hard for this but oftentimes they are too expensive and/or not as readily available to everyone like a Target or Old Navy would be and while I love some of these small brands fighting the good fight for us (like Budding Stem)…..I just can’t seem to justify $39 for a dress or $27 for leggings (I don’t even spend that on my own wardrobe) that my 3 year old will likely grow out of in a few months or rip a hole through them on day 2. This isn’t easy….I know this is bigger and more complex than I even begin to pretend to understand….but isn’t there a way we can show big brands that this is important to us? That this is how you win loyalty from your consumers. Give us something that supports our mission….our mission of raising a generation of lovers, scientists, politicians and friends who don’t see gender, race, religion or sexual orientation as something that makes someone different but something that makes them unique and magical and beautiful. It is up to us to raise a generation who can heal and re-build a nation…a world….a society that is worth fighting for. We have to demand more from the brands that dominate the aisles of our stores. Unfortunately, I really don’t have a solution here….I don’t have some wise call to action or brand to support…..but a virtual chest bump that we CAN make a difference. Where you shop, where you eat, what you wear….it matters.
This sounds and feels so silly but I believe that by making small changes…big and small…we can change the conversation. Something small we did recently was for Lucy’s birthday. She wanted a princess party….greeeeeat….and she wanted to give all her guests tiaras….even bettttttter. So, as we were packing up the bags she said, “what about the boys?” Ummm “what about the boys???” and then she told me that “boys don’t wear tiaras”. TO HELL THEY DON’T! I told her that yes, they absolutely DO wear tiaras….and that girls carry swords….and that some people wear a tiara and carry a sword while riding a magical unicorn over a rainbow (…but seriously….I think I’ve actually seen this in Portland). The point is….I don’t want her to see the world this way but somehow her little brain is already recognizing and internalizing the bullshit stereotypes society impresses upon our youth. Boys and/or girls can wear a tiara WHILE carrying a sword….in a pink tutu with soccer cleats on. So, I got on Amazon Prime and ordered 25 foam swords to put in the bags so everyone got a tiara and a sword because they are not mutually exclusive and yes, I realize this is trivial and silly but its one small way that we can start changing the way our kids see themselves and stop assigning erroneous roles based on gender. It starts with us…it starts right now with our kids and you know what….that’s pretty powerful.
WE LITERALLY MADE HUMAN BEINGS YOU GUYS….INSIDE OUR BODIES. We are magical freaks of nature. We can change the world….by being good moms…..and dads….and aunts and uncles and friends. Raising our kids to fiercely love one another…..to be includers…..and to fight for equality. We can do that. We can do that right now so yeah, I guess being a mom is enough. Motherhood is in fact pretty powerful.