Raising Girls in a Post #MeToo Era
Do you consider yourself a feminist? I struggle with this term, even during this feverish fourth wave of women’s rights. It’s not that I don’t believe in gender equality, or rights for women. I do. Passionately. It’s just that I don’t necessarily relate to the term “feminist.” So, how do I raise three strong, independent girls if I don’t consider myself a feminist? It’s a question I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.
Turns out, there are a lot of women who have a similar sentiment. A recent study conducted by Refinery 29 and CBS News reported that 54% of women surveyed did not identify as “feminist.”
“Despite the high number of women saying they do not call themselves feminists,” the survey reports, “53 per cent of respondents said that they felt the Trump administration's policies had mostly hurt women while 70 per cent felt their individual rights and liberties were currently under threat.”
This kind of paradox feels familiar. For me, the term comes with weight—weight that I have not experienced personally. My grandmother came from a time when women didn’t have choices. Careers were discouraged; decisions were made without their input; or worse.
Today, I feel privileged to live in an era that is forever changed by the feminists before me. For them, I am eternally thankful. They changed the world. Thanks to those feminists, I have flexible work. I have had paid maternity leave. I have been able to make independent choices about my career and lifestyle.
For my girls, I feel it’s my duty to help them navigate the many choices that lie before them. Growing up through my career and into motherhood, I chased the belief that I could “have it all.” As a mom of four who has gone through several evolutions in my lifestyle and career, I can confidently say that we cannot “have it all.”
The truth that I have found is that you have to make choices in life. A choice in one direction will shift focus from another. It’s not easy, but if you make those choices with confidence and the understanding that your choices can be changed, then you can find a balance in life that may work for you.
These are the lessons I hope to convey to my daughters. I hope they find the strength within them to make confident choices about what they want in their lives, and to thrive in doing so. I hope for their sakes that the bravery and honesty that has been conveyed in this #MeToo era will help pave the way for fair work environments. I cannot guarantee that, however, so I want to give them the tools to help themselves in these tricky situations.
Girls: Work hard, no matter the situation. Show empathy and strength. Be smart… smarter than any person who is trying to make you feel less. Don’t let titles or labels get in the way of who you are, or who anyone else is. Do the very best you can in any given situation. And if that doesn’t work, then find another.
It may sound like women have to work harder, and that may very well be true. But I believe that we’re better for it.
Maybe I don’t want that part to change.
Cover illustration: Mari Andrew