On Raising Strong Daughters. And Feminist Sons.

I was a very lucky little girl who had a very loving, feminist father who supported people he worked with if he believed in their ideas, regardless of their gender or background. If they had something important to say, he created a space for them to say it. He also told me to never settle for anything less than what I wanted and could work towards.

Which leaves me with an important responsibility: to figure out and be able to explain what I want.

This, ladies [EVERYBODY], comes in a variety of different flavors.

When I first decided I needed to have a cellphone, because coordinating all of my activities with my parents’ schedules from other people’s phones when I was in high school was getting to be too complicated, I wrote a “proposal.” I wrote a 10 page proposal explaining the overall impact my own cell phone would have on all of our lives, measuring impact on time spent traveling, overall frustration/communication levels, and several other metrics that I defined for my purposes. He smiled. [And I was successful.]

When I decided what university I wanted to go to and I defended my reasoning, he smiled. “Go for it,” he said.

When I started seriously dating, I defined what I wanted in my relationships. What was hardline “I cannot exist happily without these things,” what was negotiable, and what were my deal breakers. I am still navigating these things and learning as I go, but my father watched me stand up for myself and negotiate my relationships the same way I negotiated my freelance contracts, and he smiled.

I was taught that making decisions and standing up for them was good and expected from women. That being strong is attractive and important to doing good work.

What I “learned” in college, and find myself in the process of “un-learning” to some degree, is that women are expected to be “chill” and “go with the flow.” Full disclosure: I am not “chill,” I am more like very-carefully-planned-with-some-spontaneous-adventure-thrown-in. I think, for me, trying to be more “chill” lead to toxic relationships. In other cases (meaning, with my friends and peers), I saw scenarios where too often women are afraid to ask for what they want, pursue jobs they are capable of doing better than their peers, and they turn against themselves.

Beyond me, my Dad taught his son to respect women who make decisions and stand up for themselves and aren’t afraid of being the smartest person in the room. For that, Nico will always stick up for them. And for me.

On a different note, this is one of my favorite expressions of love on the internet: “To The Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter.” This describes elements of the relationship I have with my father. We both watched it and cackled to ourselves in unison. The humor and imagery comes from a place meant to communicate ease and confidence in his child… but he also worries. A lot. Which is endearing. He’s going to worry a lot, forever, but he also knows, as the poet warns, that ” if you hurt her, she will not keep your secret. You cannot make fire feel afraid.” Damn right.

It’s pretty awesome that he just gets it. I wish for more feminist Dads and brothers and allies, but ladies, it’s also up to you to define what’s worth chasing.