Personally, I think my own mother was the hardest working between both my parents. She would work 12-16 hour nursing shifts, then end up going out to home care visits on the side just to make a better life for her family. Of course this meant that she wasn’t around regularly. From not spending Christmas together to not going to school conferences, I was used to not having her around, a typical immigrant parent’s story. I think this was just the beginning of seeing first hand how hard a woman’s job really is.
As you grow, there are so many instances that you start to question your strength as a female in this world. Living up to society’s unrealistic physical standards and having to deal with sexism and misogyny on a regular basis. There are too many instances to name, but i’m trying to stay on topic. We live in a world where we can’t get paid equally for the same job that a man does, that it is ok of lawmakers to decide what’s ok in our own bodies, and where we can be physically assaulted then publicly shamed like it was our own fault. This world that teaches our daughters that they can be princesses and one day a price charming will come to save her. Now, I know Evie likes princesses and pink and all things girly, and I’m not opposed to some girly-ness, I just wish the world had more of a fairness in what they are imputing onto my daughter’s hard drive.
One day, my daughter was really excited to show my nephew one of her toys. He told her, “I don’t want to see that, it’s a girl’s toy”. My heart sank. She was really excited about this toy and she has never heard from us that toys were either for girls or boys. She was frozen in her confusion and I had to step in to clarify to my nephew that he was able to play with it too if he wanted. It was something I was able to do for her, but I won’t always be around to explain things. Teach your children fairness, both girls and boys.
It was just recently that the big retailer, Target, decided to stop labeling their toy isles as “girl’s toys”. This was a recent change. It makes me a little mad to think about it.
Can we stop packaging for different sexes? I am tired of seeing Lego sets in pink, dolls in bridal dresses, and strong female characters under-represented in the toy world. (I’m referring to the character Rey from Star Wars who didn’t even get as many toys made as the wimpy Kylo Ren: See article here on the Star Wars toy issue )
Can we stop teaching boys that sensitivity is a sign of weakness, and a little empathy goes a long way?
Can we be more encouraging for little kids to explore more than just what is marketed to them?
I never considered myself a feminist, although I was always about being strong as a person. I think I never thought to identify the issue as being a female vs. male issue, and I’m not exactly sure why because that’s definitely part of the problem. Now having a girl, it’s hard not to see it that way. As a parent, you want to protect your children and I won’t be able to shield her from all the times she will question her own strength.
On a side observation, I have also noticed that some more old-fashioned Filipinos have not been shy with critiquing when it comes to raising children in a sexist world. I have heard some almost archaic examples of sexism which had me taken back a couple times. References to little boys not having toy food because girls do the cooking, or girls not playing with dinosaur toys because they are too rough and violent for a girl. I’m sure there are other cultures that make similarly jarring statements, but then I started examining the culture of some old school, old country Filipinos. In this culture, it is perfectly fine and normal to see a very flamboyant man on TV making obviously homosexual comments for laughs. Turn that inward, and you will see there’s a lot of misguided fear towards having an LGBTQ person in your home. I’ve seen examples of disowning your child to even fear-mongering with the misinformation of the spread of AIDS and HIV in this community. My thoughts are that the ever looming Catholic guilt from such a religious society plays a big role in these thoughts.
Can we be better role models by understanding our own attitudes toward sexism and feminism?
In my own life, I feel like I’m still trying to untangle the net of precoditioning and my own ideals in my head. What do I do because I choose or want to and what do I do because it’s something that I’ve learned from my environment. Maybe it’s the libra in me that likes to question in depth and go into a self reflection on everything. Can I lead by example? That’s always easier said than done. I can try my best. Just as I saw my own mother struggle with her choices in life, I know she will see mine. I can only give her my support, my love, my advice, my time, and have those conversations where she can find her own confidence in this world. I can show her that strong women don’t just stand up for themselves, but also encourage and uplift other women. I can be my own cheerleader so she can see the only validation she needs is her own.
Evie will have her moments of fighting her own battles as a female in this world, where she may feel alone and helpless, and suffer the pain and sadness that those battles may bring. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to think of it. I just hope I can build that inner strength, the quiet dignity, and the unapologetic confidence that will help carry her through the darkest of moments.
Excerpt from Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey
Happy International Women’s Month to all the women out there, may we all continue to work to provide a better world for each other and our girls.