I’m no feminist. Not because I’m against women’s rights, but because I believe in equal rights. In my little, naive world, equality can’t be achieved if we separate human beings into male and female, with men’s and women’s rights, but only if we take them as the human beings they are, with human rights.
This little, naive worldview probably stems from the fact that I was, and still am, a lucky girl. My parents, even if they assumed the classical roles of working father and housekeeping mother, made sure all their children were raised the same way. As a result, my brothers also know how to cook and sew, and my sister and I went to university alongside them. I’ve never experienced discrimination like lower wages or stuff like that, and whenever I sensed it coming, I left to find someplace without prejudice. I have a supportive, loving husband, and when I had kids, the decision to quit my job to be a full time mom until they’d entered kindergarten was my own. Not because I felt pressured to take up the role of the female, but because I wanted to spend time with them.
When my son was born, it was all very easy. I bought clothes in various colors. Blue wasn’t banned, but neither did anyone focus on it. I was open for anything – long hair, short hair, cars, dolls, whatever.
When my daughter was born, things got a bit more difficult. At first, she got to wear her brother’s hand-me-down clothes and played with his toys. The occasional flash of pink arrived. A doll. A mirror. She wasn’t particularly interested, which made me strangely proud. She’s no girly-girl, my daughter, I thought. She’s cool. Wild. At one-and-a-half years, you could put her on a sleigh, give it a push, and she’d swoosh down the hill, bump into a tree, emerge from a heap of snow, and her first word would be, “More!”
Then came kindergarten, where she met her first batch of other girls. She hung out with her brother and his gang. The other girls wore dresses and played cooking, she wore jeans and swung a sword. When someone asked her what she wanted to be, she’d say, a pirate. I still felt strangely proud.
Then her brother left kindergarten for elementary school. And suddenly, deprived of his influence, she began to discover the world of the other girls. Next time someone asked her what she wanted to be, she said, a princess.
A few weeks ago, my kids figured out that mommy knows how to paint walls. They instantly cornered me and demanded I paint their rooms. Ah, well, I thought, why not, and asked them, what color?
My son opted for brown and blue. With pirate ships and skulls and bones and stuff.
My daughter wanted purple and pink. With pink and purple glittery stars.
For the tiniest of instants, a part of me went AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH. I wanted to tell her, come on, you don’t really want that girly-girls’ stuff, do you?
And then the rest of me slapped that part of me in the face, kicked its ass, and stomped it in the ground. I remembered being super open-minded about my son. Had he wanted pink, I’d have given it without hesitation. Gay? No problem, I’m liberal, unprejudiced and all that. So why should I treat my daughter differently? What’s so bad about being a girl? I remembered the #likeagirl campaign. I remembered Tori Amos telling the world that you’re just an empty cage, girl, if you kill the bird. And I realized that I was not willing to have anyone ridicule anything my little girl does, says, wants or feels, least of all myself.
So here’s my vow to you, my precious, wonderful, cool, wild, pink, glittery pirate princess of a daughter: I will always defend your way to express yourself. Be who you are, little one, with all your might, and if you need pink and glitter to be the girl you want to be, I’ll shower the world in pink and glitter for you.
PS: I finished painting her room in pink and purple two days ago. It looks gorgeous. And here’s what I’m giving her for Christmas this year.
PPS: If these words struck a chord, consider reading this article by Laura M. Bell.