Lessons from Addie on Feminism

This weekend, I spent some time with my little niece Addie. Every time I’m with her I gain a new insight. Somehow, in her little three year old body and mind she is packed with wisdom. This weekend was no exception. We decided to meet at the “Noble” store (that would be Barnes and Noble to adults). When you ask Addie if it’s her favorite store, she replies with, “it is indeed.”

She loves everything about it. She gets excited just walking through the front doors. She quickly runs to her book section and finds a book that appeals to her, then just lays down in the floor with it (don’t we all wish it would appropriate for adults to do the same).

The truly amazing part is you never know what is going to appeal to her. Sometimes, it’s pink and sparkly. Sometimes, it has her favorite character on it. Sometimes, there is no way to determine the appeal.

After our 2 hour stint in B & N, we decided we were starving. When you’re with a 3 year old and you would like to have some adult conversation, your options are limited. We found ourselves at Chick-fil-a. While playing in the playhouse, Addie came down the slide and quickly informed me that our white blood cells are what fight off our bacteria when we are sick (remember she’s 3).

As I went home that evening, I just kept thinking, “I hope she doesn’t lose that.” I know that sounds vague and it’s very hard to explain. I constantly find myself caught in this world of extremes. I see girls/women who rebel against anything feminine. They refuse to wear pink or decorate in anything too dainty. On the other extreme, I see girls who love all things girly and snub their nose at anything that doesn’t match that view.

But, here in front of me, was the balance wrapped up in a nice, neat little package. She hasn’t had time for her view to get skewed. She hasn’t been forced to choose between being the “smart” girl or the “pretty” girl. Right now, in this moment, she can tell me excitedly about her large intestine and then immediately change the subject to princesses.

I know many of you don’t like the sound of what I’m saying, so let me just tell you about my perspective.

Growing up, I was in a small town. It was a town that I loved. I loved the country, the people, and the fact that everyone knew everyone. But there was a part of me that couldn’t wait to get out and see the world. I wasn’t sure how to do it, but I knew that it was what I desired more than anything.

Growing up in that small town, I figured the best way to do that was to get a scholarship and go away to college, so that’s what my mission became. I threw myself into be the smartest and the best. And, somehow, along the way a dichotomy happened. I didn’t know it was happening and nobody really taught it to me, but I began to think that you couldn’t be the “pretty” girl and the “smart” girl all at the same time. I can look at that thought process and realize it’s irrational, and I can’t really determine where it came from. But, it’s there.

The past few years, I’ve had to challenge that thought. I’ve had to realize that I can be both, and I am both. I don’t have to give up my feminism in order to be successful. And wearing a business suit can be just as attractive as a dress. Our beauty doesn’t come out of being one or the other. It comes from being authentic to who we are.

So…I’m going to encourage Addie to wear a pink tutu under her pretend doctor’s coat. I’m going to be just as engaged when she’s talking about princesses as I am when she’s telling me about her digestive system. And, most important, I’m going to love her regardless of what path she chooses to take.

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4 thoughts on “Lessons from Addie on Feminism

  1. Just perfect. I’m SO happy that your niece loves books, and being herself!

    I’ve been thinking lately about children’s toys and how they’re marketed (almost always clearly for boys vs. girls). I’ve read a lot about the effort to have toys re-labeled/re-designed/not shelved on gender-specific aisles, and I get that. Totally. But until the marketing world finds enlightenment, I think the relatively simple solution is to just get your child toys of both “varieties” and see what happens. No need to force them into all dolls or all trucks – just let them experiment. I bet most kids, like Addie, will find a healthy interest in a little bit of everything. I’m glad you made the point that we don’t need to treat everything “girlie” like it’s infected in the name of raising a strong woman.

    • Thank you Jennie. I had an opportunity to speak at a girl’s conference this weekend over the topic of authenticity so it made it all a little more real. I’m constantly blown away at how much we beat our ladies up on both sides of the extreme. Everything feels to them like it must be an either/or versus a both/and. Addie is great at reminding me of what truth and authentic looks like.

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