And then I found myself wondering how and when feminism morphed from that powerful and dignified congregation of women to five-year-olds in pigtails marching in vulgar shirts and pink hats shaped like the most private part of the female anatomy. It’s downright shameless. And the kicker? Shameless is the goal.
As a mother trying to raise a daughter to carry herself gracefully in this crazy world, I am outraged. And before you tell me to go back to 1950 where I belong, just stop. My extended family could have been the template for Modern Family (LOVE that show.) I grew up in New York, not under a rock. I scream at the television during Mets, Jets, and Rangers games. If you see me on the beach, I’ll be in a bikini. And I might have a Corona in my hand. I’m not a prude.
But ladies, breaking boundaries doesn’t mean that there shouldn't be any. And your public celebrations of shamelessness are making it really hard to raise little girls of virtue.
I recently read a bit about the women’s movement, and I happened across a brief slideshow created by Time, Inc. It’s not scholarly research, but Time is a reputable enough source to make it worth checking out. You can find it here.
This slideshow very loosely chronicled the women’s movement through nine specific movements or marches, starting with the suffrage movement in the early 1900s and progressing to #8 in 2011, when Saudi Arabian women, banned from driving, simply got in their cars and drove around. Eight noble acts of defiance against injustice.
And then there was #9. The SlutWalk. Yes, this is a thing. You can Google it – I won’t link directly to it here. They claim to stand against sexual assault and victim blaming, using some of the same slogans women have been chanting for decades. One popular mantra that dates back at least to the 1970s is, “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, no means no!”
Amen! Absolutely! Yes! Correct!
Unfortunately, that message is lost when you march in the streets, naked except for the electrical tape on your nipples, holding signs that read “I do what I want!” along with much more vulgar messages.
I read another article recently by a woman who called herself a feminist. She advised fathers not to get dressed up and take their little girls out for dinner to show them how a gentleman should treat them, as this only proliferates the rampant misogyny in our culture. (What?) She then detailed an incident in which she was outraged because a man had held a door open for her at the supermarket. She was offended. She plead with her audience to see how creepy and oppressive it was. That someone held the door open for her.
I never thought the mythical bra-burning of the 1960s was necessarily the classiest way to go, but it was a stand against an object that objectified – a physical thing by which women did not want to be defined. Sit-ins were organized in the 1970s to make a statement against a women’s magazine run entirely by men. Makes sense, right? Take Back the Night marches in the 1980s spread awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence against women, and they often protested against pornography.
But today? Today, women are mocking men who show kindness and consideration and they’re calling it feminism. Today, women are marching in the streets for the right to be a slut.
As the mother of a tween girl, I’m extremely disheartened and slightly afraid. The teen years will be hard enough for our girls. They’ll want to fit in. They’ll want this boy or that boy to like them. They’ll want to show off a body that their hearts and minds haven’t grown into yet. And though all this nonsense is not representative of real feminism – the noble fight for equal opportunity and political and social rights – it is what gets the media coverage. And it is what our tween and teen daughters are seeing, so it’s what we are fighting against.
Teach your girls to fight the good fight for respect and for equal opportunity. Teach them to never relent. Teach them to shatter glass ceilings. Teach them to expect respect, and that a man – or woman – opening a door for them is a simple act of kindness. Teach them to say thank you when this happens, and to open doors for others in return.
And please, teach your girls that breaking boundaries doesn’t mean that there shouldn't be any, and that feminism is not a free-for-all.
Stand up, sit down, kneel, sing... despite having no clue what the priest was saying, I knew what to do and when to do it. I knew which prayers to say and I was no less moved by the Consecration of the Host. But I felt this longing to participate in the same way that everyone else was participating. I wanted to be able to respond in the language of the community around me. But I couldn't. I admit it was a little unsettling and my daughter was understandably more unsettled than I. She whispered to me at one point and asked what she should say in response to receiving her ashes or communion. So I whispered back, "Amen is the same."
I thought about every student I had ever had, new to this country and unable to speak the language. I thought about every student I had ever had with a disability, and unable to participate in the same way as his fellow students. As I sat there, completely lost in the language, I gained a new appreciation for the insecurities and disconnectedness that result from their feeling different. But with the wisdom that only many years (well, maybe not THAT many years!) can bring, I was able to see beyond the difference of language and was even more moved by the sameness all around me.
Everything was the same. The joy in the voices of the choir. The clothes that people wore. The smiles. The teenagers getting restless in the pews. The stink eyes and shushing of parents to their children. The tiny girl in pigtails, skipping down the aisle and holding her mother's hand on her way back to her seat. The little old couple and the pure beauty that radiated from their connection after what I assumed to be a lifetime together. It was simply humanity and it was simply beautiful.
It wasn't the experience I expected or hoped for, to not understand a word anyone said that night! But maybe it was the experience I needed. Because it reminds me that whatever our individual beliefs, whatever our political stance, and whatever language we speak, we are all human. Not in every way, but to some degree, whether you want to admit it or not, we are all the same.
My daughter is fiercely opposed to any type of judgmental or rank-type approach to the world, where one person is seen in any way as better than another because of race, religion, intellect, career, gender, personality, style of dress, hair color, or whether they like their steak cooked rare or dead. It's one of the things I love most about her. And I was so thankful for this somewhat uncomfortable experience as another reminder to her (and me) that regardless of our vast differences, on some level, we all speak the same language.