by Allison Banta
Feminists live at my house.
Some like their equality with a side of pink and ruffles and twirly dresses.
Some prefer dragons and dogs and teal blue, clear like ocean waves.
Some love words on crisp pages and wind swaying tree branches and deep, deep green.
This is Women’s History Month, and when my own mom gave us a pillow emblazoned “Feminist” as a gift, I wondered how to explain the idea to my girls.
What is the right way to tell two elementary aged fireballs exactly it means to be a feminist? We have a playlist called “Run the World”, we cheered for Kamala with tears in our eyes. We read biographies of amazing women; we point them out in our everyday lives. We teach them that boys chasing them on the playground while being rude is NOT a compliment – we role play what to say when a boy is pushy.
We talk about feminism all the time, but I had never given it a name before.
So when they asked about the pillow, I told them it meant that girls are as valuable and important as boys. That women are equal to men. That we should have the same jobs and pay and opportunities and rights and choices.
“Oh! Like be President!” they said. “And go to space and visit planets! And be veterinarians! And be famous! And be bosses!”
Exactly, I said.
I didn’t tell them what else it meant.
I didn’t say it means that we should be able to run with both AirPods in.
That we should be able to walk after dark without a phone to our ear and a friend on the other end.
That we shouldn’t always need a safety plan for every parking lot, and date, and uber ride.
I didn’t tell them what America says about women bosses. Or about the way salaries in male-dominated career fields drop when women enter in higher numbers – and then the men flee.
About how women are scrutinized not just for their work and their abilities, but for the expressions on their faces and the clothes on their bodies and the shoes on their feet and the style of the hair on their heads. I left out pay gaps and glass ceilings and emotional labor and barriers and systemic patriarchy and male privilege.
I want them to be angry when they find out.
I was accepting – I want them to rage when they learn.
I want them to inherit a world ever so slightly better than my own. I want them to love dragons. I want them to slay dragons.
I want them to love math and know every fact about the solar system and raise their hands with the confidence of a girl on fire.
I want them to dream of being bosses, and only smile because they feel like it – never because other people like their face better that way.
I want them to run, in pink and teal blue and deep green, the wind in their faces, wearing whatever makes them happiest.
I want them to run with both headphones in their ears.
If you want all of this for your daughters too?
Don’t just tell your daughters.
Tell your sons.