Friday, March 1, 2013

Dear Tessa: A Letter About Feminism

Dear Tessa,

This is one of those things that you won't be allowed to decide on your own, but don't worry, I never really had a choice in the matter, either.

You are a feminist.

This should be your favorite F word. Fuck is my favorite, but Feminist is definitely the most critical to my personal identity. You were born this way. Birthed by a hard-working mother and a loving father who believe that your destiny is nothing short of greatness, you are the living embodiment of Feminism.

By the time you read this, we will be swimming in the fifth or sixth wave of this movement/ideology/spirit, but you should know that it began with the radical thought that "women are equal to men."

 I hope that made you chuckle because if it didn't, I will be shedding a few tears for the future of our civilizations.

Here are seven quick tips to being a "good" Feminist:

1. Question everything. Sometimes questioning can be done verbally in a classroom when a history teacher forgets to tell you about the important role women played in the Civil Rights Movement (Rosa Parks wasn't the only one). Sometimes you'll write the questions in your journal and discuss it later with a trust worthy group of women. Before you start throwing out people's ideas or dismissing what has come before you, examine it and appreciate it for what it is or was.

2. Read anything you can get your hands on. Your questions will get better because of this. It'll give you more time to think about the Why's and not just the What's. Read fiction and non-fiction. Get lost in a story. Get uplifted by the possibilities. Get knocked on your ass by the cruel reality of our world's violent and discriminate past.

3. Play sports. Some people will say that I am being a pushy aunt and trying to make you a superstar athlete. However, I don't give a shit if you ever learn how to properly shoot a ball (but you will), I do care that you stand in a locker room with ten to fifteen other girls. In that room you will see different body types. You will watch them on the same uniform, borrowing lotion from one another to hide the same ashen winter skin, and lacing up hightop sneakers to protect twisting ankles. This is where you will learn that the female body is a vehicle for strength and not an object of arousal by the male gaze. Playing on these teams, you will have the courage to say No because you will know that this body, your body, is your prized possession.

4. Be responsible for the energy you bring. Often this piece of advice isn't given in the context of feminism and empowerment, but as women we bare the burden that requires us to be both button pusher and hugger. Be an ally to everyone in the room. Even if you disagree with every molecule in that person's body, find a way to throw them a rope which keeps them from drowning in their disillusioned ideology.  Feminism is not about standing on a pedestal, yelling about equality (most of the time), but it's about offering an alternative to the existing misogynistic patriarchal way of thinking. It's about showing a new way of being, which is both strong, yet kind and considerate of the people with whom we share space.

5. Remember that men are not your enemy, but their way of thinking can be. Even the good and honest men that you love all the way down to the lint in between your toes will make jokes or say comments that will contradict your Feminism. You are still allowed to love those men. You should still love them. Question why (Rule #1) they think this way and help them navigate through those thoughts. This won't be done for every man (and it shouldn't) because some men are just douche bags and not worthy of your time.

6. Confident and smart women are not a threat to your success, they are your best asset. The more women we have that are moving through industries, being innovative, and climbing up the ladder the better off all of us will be. We need all women, those who are at the top of the capitalistic food chain and those that who barely eating, to simultaneously push against that fabled glass ceiling.

7.  Do not live your life according to an ideology. Feminism is about the freedom to do whatever the fuck you want (unless your parents say no). It's not about putting on a power suit and walking into a boardroom with a briefcase and a scowl. It's not about becoming a domestic goddess either. Feminism has given us the opportunity to expect it all and to try our best to have it all. Feminism is the raising of expectations of what a woman can be.

As you can see, these letters are becoming a bit more intense and honest, but as I see you growing up with your wide eyes filled with wonder, I know that you can handle this. You have the power and strength, already, to take on this tough world. You will be  the girl, the woman, who will create change and make the world better for all people. I can feel it as you bounce on my lap or when we look into each other's eyes. You have what it takes to battle the inequalities.

You, my Tessa B, already have it all.

As always, with much love,

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