Community Magazine

Raising Little Women

By Amanda Bruce @RecoveryisCake
RBGA young Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

It’s a crazy time to be a woman.

And it’s a crazier time to raise little women.

Not only do we have to worry about our girls being believed when they are inappropriately touched, but we now can realistically entertain the fear that they, god forbid, might not be able to get an abortion if they need to one day.  (Don’t think it won’t happen to yours.  One decade, I was winning the foreign language award at school, and the next, I was blacking out so hard from alcoholism that I couldn’t remember how I got home).  We are fighting trolls with three comebacks online, and being reminded daily that our daughters are not allotted the same quotient of anger that our sons are.

In short –

If our tooth-and-nail fighting hasn’t been enough, what will become of our daughters?

*****

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving my 6 year old home from her Girls Empowerment exercise group.  Naturally, My Little Ponies somehow meandered its way into the conversation.  I watched her through my rearview mirror; she gazed at the newly crimson trees.

“Mama?  What’s your favorite My Little Pony?”

“Uhhh….I think Rainbow Dash, honey.  I like her because she’s tough and feisty.”

“MY favorite’s Fluttershy because she’s shy just like me!”

Internally, I cringed.  A million years of hurt flashed through my memory, and I silently wished she didn’t share this trait with me.  I wished that all of the Girls Empowerment groups in the world could condition it out of her.  I wished selfishly, over and over again.

But when I glanced back at her a split second later, she was grinning, proud.

*****

During Dr. Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimony, I sat on the couch, slumped over.  I spent the rest of the day in a panic, trying to be as present as possible for clients while still angrily running through all the comebacks I could say to sexual assault nonbelievers.  I didn’t want to admit it, but I too was re-traumatized.  There are three major assaults that stand out in my memory, and others that happened when I was drinking.  Of course, most of society believes the latter doesn’t count.  But I digress.

Before and during those experiences, I struggled with a lifetime of shyness.  Shyness that made my heart race so fast my throat closed.  Shyness that made everyone label me “shy” constantly.  Shyness that Jeremy Bragdon mocked on the way to recess in the fourth grade.  “Did you see her freeze up in gym?” he howled.  “She just stood there, like this!”  Shyness that Adam Cowley knew he could take advantage of in music class, because I wouldn’t say anything about him touching me.  Shyness, that I drank to become the opposite of.  Shyness, that I fought to overcome when I was sober, by standing in front of 200 other alcoholics and telling my story.  Shyness, that by my thirties, had finally vanished, in place of…me.

My husband, who is eternally understanding and the Costello to my Abbott, casually turned on the TV.  “Hey,” he said.  “I think you’ll like this.”  He turned on the CNN documentary, RBG.

And before my eyes flashed the story of a woman.  A supremely intelligent woman.  A woman who broke glass ceilings and did pushups in her eighties.  A woman who dared to take her place in a job usually occupied by a man.  A woman whose husband let her shine.

A woman, who most of her life, was…incredibly shy.

I laughed, in spite of myself.

*****

All of life is a projection.  And shit, was I doing it to my kid, internally.  My initial, all-or-nothing reaction was to see her shyness and project onto her a lifetime (or at least 30 years) of pain.  I was guilty of all of the things I tell my clients; I was humbled.  And relieved.

For her shyness didn’t forecast her the same obstacles I encountered.  No, a more both-and approach was more appropriate here.  She could be shy…and strong.  Shy…and tough.  Fluttershy was.  RBG was.  No one ever told me that.  They told me it was bad.  And that’s how I knew, that even though our world currently appears to be perched precariously on an edge, we have progressed.   We may be nowhere near where we need to be, and still may be toiling away (especially about intersectional feminism) generations from now, but we have peeled a couple of layers away, to be able to see the both…and.

Our daughters won’t fight our fights.  They’ll fight their own.  And they’ll fight them in the way they want to, the way they are comfortable doing.

It’s a crazy time to raise little women, but I think I’m beginning to see the benefits.

Photo: Time Magazine


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