We used to call girls like Emilia ‘tomboys.’ But I hate that word, because it implies that a girl (or woman, for that matter) who does not conform to girl-coded cultural stereotypes is not only not really a girl, but somehow a kind of a boy. It tells girls (and boys, and women, and men) that there is a right way of being a girl, and a wrong way of being a girl, and if you’re the ‘wrong’ kind of girl, then actually you’re more of a boy. That’s messed up, when you think about it.
I’ve struggled with figuring out what I can do to support my girls as they grow up. After reading this post, I feel more confident that my wife and I are doing a good job. I particularly like this passage:
Which is why feminism is for everybody, although I didn’t say it to Emilia in exactly those terms. If feminism can be understood, in part (I don’t pretend to be able to explain it in whole, to my children or to anyone else), as a commitment to and/or belief in allowing everybody the freedom to define who they are — and to direct their life on the basis of that definition — without restriction by conventions of gender, then, yes, it’s for everybody. It’s especially for children, when you define it even partially that way, because that’s what childhood is about: discovering yourself and defining yourself. Crafting your own story about yourself, and telling that story, and then changing that story and telling it differently, and then doing the same thing again, and again, and again. Such that having access to the fullest range of possibilities — liking pink AND brown, sharks AND kittens, princesses AND pirates, ballet AND baseball — matters tremendously. The scope of who our children can be narrows or widens depending on the degree to which we do or do not challenge gender stereotypes.
My wife and I do a great job challenging gender stereotypes — both through our roles as a married couple and as a parent/mentor to our girls. We don’t limit the girls’ possibilities in any way and regularly encourage them to be who they are and follow their interests. So far, so good. I imagine the pre-teen and teenage years will be a whole new challenge.