My 19 year old daughter recently asked a male friend of hers if she was intimidating. An unexpected break up with her boyfriend had her questioning herself.
His reply? "Hell yes! You scare the shit out of me. You're smart, pretty, independent and guys don't know what to do with that."
I've been thinking about this conversation ever since she told me about it. It's bothered me quite a bit. I thought we had come further than that. I thought my generation had eradicated the idea that if you were smart and pretty and successful you'd intimidate the male species. Why should that even be an issue in this day and age? It's a battle we've been fighting for too long.
I knew from the time I was in college that I would name my first daughter Molly, after my grandmother. Grandma was one tough cookie. She and my grandfather eloped when she was 19 years old and didn't tell anyone they were married. She continued to live at home and work at Ma Bell and go to college while Pop drove a city bus. They kept their marriage a secret until she became pregnant and couldn't hide it any more. Needless to say, her parents were in an uproar and insisted on a church wedding. She had to quit her job and give up college. Back then, married women weren't allowed to work. She raised 4 children and was the church organist at St. Luke's for many years. My grandmother carved a path for herself within the limits of what was allowed for women. More importantly, she showed her granddaughters that it was OK (and advisable) to be strong and independent. Yes, she laid Pop's clothes out every day and had dinner on the table when he came home, but we all knew that she was the backbone of our family.
When Molly was born, I so vividly remember wishing with all my might that she would grow into an independent, assertive woman who would know her mind and follow her heart. I was determined that things would be different for her than they were for me. I was always afraid to speak up for myself, worried that I might make someone mad. As a result, I often made choices to keep others happy and lost sight of what my own dreams and goals were. As Zach and Annie came along, I wished the same things for them. At that point, the gender didn't seem to matter...I wanted the same thing for all my children: be strong, know your heart, follow your passions, and always be true to yourself even when it means making some difficult decisions.
I recently stumbled upon a great website A Mighty Girl and I love their list of 2013 Mighty Girl books. Even though I have raised my children, I still touch the lives of the young girls in my classroom. I'm thinking that I want to pull some of the titles that are already in my classroom and create a new basket of books that focus on strong female characters. If you know me well, you know I'll be buying more books too. :) And to be honest, these books aren't just for the girls. They're for the boys too. Boys need to learn that it's ok for girls to be strong. There's nothing to be afraid of.
We need to keep pushing forward. We need to keep having hard conversations. Every person, regardless of gender, deserves to be heard and respected. Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In shares her thinking with teachers at last year's Edmodocon. Check it out.
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday. Please visit their site to read other slices and leave a comment or two.