3 Arguments to Give my Daughters in Favour of Feminism

It is Sunday morning at 8:45. The family is asleep and I am sweltering in my little writer’s corner (the Habitat my husband built for me) listening to CBC and drinking that all important first cup of coffee. For the first time in a few weeks, I don’t have anything urgent I need to get to and I am basking in the leisure of it all.

my habitat


But then, the nagging feeling that I have been neglecting something creeps up on me and my thoughts tiptoe near the idea of this blog. Carefully, slowly, I circle it,  the way you would approach a wild animal or a crazy person.

Or more like a feral cat. This blog has gotten away from me for several, day-in-the-life reasons.

When I first started writing this blog, my kids were little. I was doing my masters and working and I needed an outlet to talk about the issues that came up. No problem- the kids couldn’t read yet and when they learned they still weren’t interested in my blog.

(Through the open window I hear the rain coming down in sheets, a soft furry sound in the back of my ears- it is going to be a hard day for a run…)

No longer. The kids are more on social media than I am and the issues are bigger and, well, private.

So I can’t write about that, though I desperately want to.

So the whole parent thing in my in(parent)thesis is less of the purpose anymore… But I will say this- being a parent to a teenager and an almost teenager requires a large shift.  You are need and not needed- or as a friend says, ” I need to go home now so that my children can ignore me.”

But besides this, there are some bigger, world issues that I find myself more and more concerned with as my daughter’s get older. One of them is their perception of feminism.

Too often I hear students talk about feminism as if it was a disease. Now  my unease with this is tainted with a sheepish feeling.  I have some uncomfortable memories of when I was a teenager and my own thoughts on the issue ( I was a very opinionated teen). I remember holding the opinion that feminism was obsolete. We’re equal- we can do the same things as men right? So why the big deal? My teenage attitude was one of condescending thanks to the generation before us- thanks for winning us the rights, yo. But we’re all good here! No need for hairy armpits and burning bras! We can be women and still have everything, right?

Yeah. I know. Oh, the arrogance. I blush to think of my teenage self (for many reasons, but this is one of them).

Recently I had a week where I stumbled on three very good arguments for why young women need to identify as feminists:

1. Recently a friend was approached by her daughter’s grade six teacher and told that her daughter can no longer dress the way she has always dressed (in tank tops and shorts) because her developing body was garnering the attention of the male population. The teacher noticed that even some dads were noticing her. It was for her own protection – her daughter should wear things that didn’t emphasize her growing breasts.

There are so many things wrong with this, but I will focus on the one question we still have not answered, with all of our “equal rights”: Why do we still believe that the onus is on women rather than on the oglers to regulate their behaviour?

2. I was listening to the the Current the other day and a women was talking about the outrageously high incidents of sexual assault on women in the American military from their fellow soldiers (here is the link to the show)- something ridiculous like 25% of women in the military and those were only the ones reported. She was mentioning a program where they were teaching the soldiers that it isn’t okay to rape women.

Yeah. The fact that that is even necessary is shocking to the extreme, but there you go. The norm has been to shame women into dressing a certain way that would not “incite” a man’s interest instead of teaching our boys respect, control, restraint, whatever you want to call it.

There was this interesting discussion about porn literacy where we teach boys (and girls) about the difference between porn (which I would also include the soft porn in a lot of TV shows and reality.

3.Then, at work, I came across this article about breast ironing:

‘Breast ironing’, or ‘flattening’, aims to stem the growth of the breasts in the hope that it will help prevent unwanted male attention and delay a girl’s sexual activity. It is usually carried out by the mother or another member of the family, sometimes, even the girl herself. A heated tool, such as a pestle, is used.

What does it say about a world when ironing your daughters breasts is done out of the desire to protect her from a worst fate?

The term ‘breast ironing’ is enough to make your toes curl, but for some mothers the alternative for their daughters seems much worse. The average age of rape victims in Cameroon is 15.

From the teacher telling the twelve-year old to cover up, to the american military finally teaching the men that rape is not okay, to the women of Cameroon who would rather mutilate their daughters than subject to sexual assault, it is clear that feminism still has some work to do. We might have made some legal advances in the world but the perception of womanhood and sexuality is still extremely warped. Past generations have broke the ground, but it is time for us to take up the shovels and dig out the deeper, cancerous societal attitudes that allows for the idea that women are responsible (either because of the way they are dressed or the way they act) for whatever bad behaviour men impose on them.




3 thoughts on “3 Arguments to Give my Daughters in Favour of Feminism

  1. I would really like to hear more about the sixth grade teacher deciding what someone else should wear, as in, please tell me the parents of this girl lodged a formal complaint AT THE VERY LEAST. Unless there is a school uniform, I am absolutely floored. That teacher needs a talking to.

    I had the same thoughts as you as a teen/early 20s person (well, we are birthday twins!). I no longer feel sheepish about it though, and I’m freaking glad that I woke up. I wish I had rookie mag growing up instead of Seventeen magazine.

  2. Also you might be interested in reading The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace. Or, you know, leave it lying around the house …. it’s a really good read, it points out all this amazing work women did for equality in journalism 40 years ago, but also how relevant it still is today. I could also throw a shitload of good doc titles your way, but I know I’m preaching to the choir. Or this database of inspiration: http://femfilm.ca/about.php?lang=e

    Ha! My first impulse is to recommend books and movies. It’s like I WANT to be a librarian, but somehow the rest of the library world isn’t catching what I’m throwing….

    1. Thanks Carrie- my oldest daughter is a HUGE Rookie fan. And I am very happy about it. I think I am that too. Will check out that article as well as the femfilm database- didn’t even know it existed and am so happy- your librarian skills rock. The other librarians are not catching them because we are all nerds with no hand eye coordination….

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