Being a parent has handed me more challenges than I ever thought possible, both as a human being with finite patience and as a feminist. I struggle with how to raise a girl in a society that is replete with violence, rape apologia, attempts to thwart women’s access to healthcare, unequal pay, racism, sexism and a plethora of other social ills.
I want my daughter to be aware of these realities without letting them beat her down or dilute her potential.
So what’s a list-loving feminist parent to do? Write a list of lessons, of course.
1. Having a vagina isn’t a disability. It’s a super power.
2. In that vein, having a period isn’t a curse. It makes you uniquely qualified to create and sustain life, if you so choose.
3. Speaking of choice, only you can/should make the choice of if/when you would like to become a parent. Sure, some day I’d like grand babies, but if — and only if — you’re ready to make ’em.
4. Your lady parts, while powerful, are not your only defining characteristic. You also have a brain, a sense of humor and a million other qualities that make you awesome.
5. Sex is for pleasure, too. It’s not just for baby making.
6. Safe sex is sexy sex. And by safe, I don’t just mean rubberized. By safe, I also mean consensual, comfortable and emotionally safe.
7. It’s never okay to judge someone based on perceptions of their outward appearance or identities — this includes skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical abilities, etc.
8. Knowledge is power. Read, engage in thoughtful discourse, question authority. You’ll be a better person for doing so.
9. Be an ally, not a White Knight. Lend an ear, your support and compassion; don’t try and “save” someone.
10. Understand that every person has a different story and background, and that each story and background has value.
11. Your jean size is just a number on a tag. It doesn’t even begin to define your worth.
12. Neither does your bra size.
13. Love your body for what it can do, not for what it looks like.
14. I don’t care if a guy buys you the most expensive dinner — or jewelry, clothing, what-have-you — on the planet. You owe him nothing.
15. Laugh and smile as often as possible, even — hell, especially — in the face of adversity.
16. Know your financial worth and advocate for yourself. Ask for that promotion, raise, lead on a project; no one else will fight for you.
17. Support other girls and women, don’t demean or judge them. We need each other. Believe me.
18. Raise your voice — but never your fists — to demand justice for yourself and for others.
19. Vote. Seriously, vote. And not just in Presidential elections, but in local and state ones, too.
20. Vote with your wallet, too. Support prochoice, women-led, women-friendly businesses.
21. Travel whenever possible. Even if you can’t physically travel to a far off locale, read about it. Watch documentaries. Exposure to other cultures is paramount to building tolerance and understanding.
22. Use your [financial, racial, educational] privilege for good. You have resources and a voice that, for various reasons, will be heard louder than others’. It’s your duty to use it to help others and to help stem oppression.
23. Having pretty eyes or silky hair is nice. But it’s nowhere near as beautiful as having self confidence and passion.
24. It’s OK to like what your friends like — if you genuinely like it, too. But don’t be afraid to stand apart from the crowd and be passionate about something that isn’t popular or “cool.”
25. Never misconstrue sexual harassment or catcalling for compliments.
26. Yes means yes.
27. Just because you’re a female doesn’t mean you have to get married and have babies. It’s not for everyone, and that’s totally OK.
28. Don’t apologize for the sake of apologizing. Women tend to say “I’m sorry” for the littlest offenses — like, standing in a grocery store aisle when someone else wants to walk down it too. It’s annoying and unnecessary.
29. Don’t be afraid to be “bossy.”
30. Have your own bank account. Financial independence is crucial for your well-being.
31. Only date prochoice guys (if you’re into guys). You deserve better than to be in a relationship with someone who thinks it’s ok to tell you what you can/should do with your body.
32. This is a big one: never ever ever get complacent. You may have the right to vote, have access to birth control and can date who you want, but it wasn’t always this way. Women fought and died for these rights you currently enjoy. And you have your own struggles carved out for your generation.