Attention internet: I wear a US size 12, and sometimes a 14, depending on the cut. I have the telltale tummy fluff left over from being pregnant three times. I wear makeup on average about once a year, and I don’t own a pair of shoes with heels. I generally do not wear any jewelry, save earrings—one in each lobe and two cartilage piercings in my left ear. The last time I got a manicure was nearly three years ago, at the insistence of my sister. I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a “girly girl.”
My 4½-year-old daughter, on the other hand, loves everything “princess.” She will only wear skirts, because “princesses only wear skirts.” She has a collection of hair doodads to rival Rapunzel. Her favorite toys are paper doll princesses, with literally hundreds of different items for them to wear and hold (and oh, what fun they are to clean up!) and a plastic makeup set. For Purim, two year ago, she was a fairy princess. This past year, she decided to change things up a bit, and be just a regular princess. And she is the only reason I even know the Hebrew word for nail polish.
The realization that my daughter was the exact opposite of me came when she was about 2 years old. As she is my second child, I didn’t feel it was necessary to buy new toys, as we had a nice variety of dolls, cars, stuffed animals, dishes, tools, building blocks and riding toys from my son. One day, I overheard her in another room playing a game that involved a Mama, Abba and baby, so I peeked in to see what she was doing. She was tucking a mini screwdriver into bed, as the doting Mama wrench and Abba hammer kissed their baby goodnight.
Of course, I thought this was the cutest and funniest thing I had ever seen, and plastered it all over Facebook, because yes, I am that parent. But it also came as somewhat of a shock to me. I sort of assumed that my daughter would be “like me.” And according to my parents, when I was that age, all I wanted to be was Superman (complete with roller skates and a towel/cape), insisted on being referred to with male pronouns, and I would only wear a dress if my parents were willing to wrestle me to the ground, drag me out of my sweatsuit, and stuff me into something frilly. So that’s the sort of girl I was gearing up to raise.
I somehow manage to underestimate God’s sense of humor every time.
But this realization that I will now have to learn how to empathize and support a person who, in all likelihood, will have hopes and interests of which I have little to no understanding, opened up a new corridor into parenthood for me, and also, surprisingly, into feminism.
Because, what makes a feminist? Must a woman completely reject her socially-mandated gender role in order to be considered a feminist? I certainly didn’t. I got married at 19, and spent the next seven and a half years gestating, birthing and nursing three kids, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning (sometimes), and every once in a great while, fixing someone’s grammar and spelling for pittance. But there is no doubt in my mind, nor in the mind of those who know me, that I am a die-hard feminist. Because I believe in women having choices. I believe in women having a voice. I believe in women deciding for themselves what happens to their bodies and where. I believe in women being treated like people and not like children who don’t know what is good for them. I believe in women doing what they love to do, and not what they’re expected to do. And if what she loves to do is be a mom, then that is wonderful! And if what she loves to do is be an air force pilot, that is equally wonderful!
My rejection of society’s idea of what a woman should look is not what makes me a feminist. It’s my belief in that choice as my right. So whether my daughter chooses to be a princess, or chooses to be Superman, I will support her. Because what’s important is that she is making that choice.