What’s the greatest lesson a woman should learn? That since day one. She’s already had everything she needs within herself. It’s the world that convinced her she did not. — Rupi Kaur
The sacred process of giving birth for the first time broke me down as a woman; stripped me down of all my superficiality until I was left with just raw emotions. My body was overflowing with strength yet it was vulnerable as ever with an uncontrollable urge to protect the child that had come forth from those undeniable moments of pain and fear.
When my daughter was placed in my arms, my soul sang because I was so in love with this magnificent, perfect, little girl. I imagined her to be strong and resilient, powerful and fierce – filled with all the traits I wish I had had the courage to proudly show off rather than hide within me. Yet my heart wept because in my hands was a girl – a being too precious for this cruel world. How would I possibly protect her when I myself, have to look over my shoulder more than a few times when I walk home alone at night?
Like the women before her, my daughter will inevitably face adversity and oppression. She will be shamed and ridiculed for simply being a woman by a society that believes a woman’s worth is found between her legs. I brought my daughter into a world that practices female infanticide, that forces young girls into marriages rather than schools, and into kitchens rather than out in the world pursuing their dreams. I brought her in into a world that shuns menstruation as if it is a disease and not a natural bodily function, vital for procreation. My daughter is part of a world which dictates what a woman can and cannot do with her own body, denying her the right to birth control and abortion, yet ironically shaming her for breastfeeding her baby in public as if her breast is just an organ for male excitement. This world is quick to shame a woman for being comfortable with her sexuality rather than shame a man for rape. I brought my daughter into a world that often fails to recognize her existence beyond that of her relationship to a man; a man’s mother, daughter, wife, or sister, rather than her own person.
At some point my daughter will inevitably hear that she cannot or should not do something because she is a girl. She will be told to act like a girl, to stay the fragile, timid, patient, self-sacrificing creature that she is “supposed” to be. She will be told what to wear and not to wear. She will be pressured to fit a certain image and attain unattainable standards of beauty. My daughter will hear restrictions upon restrictions and be demeaned when she questions and rejects the rules of patriarchy put in place to degrade and disempower women. She will experience gender-based violence or some form of abuse be it verbal, emotional, or sexual because she spoke up, or because she rejected unwanted advances, or simply because she is successful in the workplace or intimidates a man with her intelligence, wit, and ambitions. She will be labelled crazy and psychotic when she refuses to let a man mistreat her and a liar when she calls him out against injustice. She will be blamed and humiliated for things that may happen to her that are beyond her control and not her fault.
And what’s perhaps the worst of it all is the resentment my daughter will face from her own kind — The women who have been conditioned to blindly follow patriarchy and the lies that they have been sold; the ones who expect other women to follow them too. She will inevitably face women that shame other women for dating, drinking, choosing not to marry, choosing a career over having children, being a working mother, being divorced, and anything different from what society deems is the right thing for a woman to do. She will face the repercussions of the women who will raise their sons differently than their daughters, excusing their son’s poor behaviour and forgoing punishing them because they are boys, thereby cultivating misogynistic attitudes amongst these boys as they become men.
And no matter how brave, strong, and fearless her mother has raised her to be or how many self defense classes her mother has made her take, when my daughter walks alone at night, coming home from a class or a fun night out, she will look over her shoulder and walk fast because that is the reality of the world she lives in.
But I have hope.
Although things have changed and are slowly changing as result of the progressive women that have come before us — those women who fought for equality and women’s rights during a time when women dare not speak up for themselves — we have still a long way to go. I applaud the bravery of the women of today, for bringing forth and sharing their stories of discrimination and abuse, for having the courage to leave abusive relationships, for pursuing their career goals while juggling a family, for taking on roles of leadership in their communities and in politics, and being an inspiration to girls everywhere. May my daughter and all our daughters soar past boundaries, unapologetically shattering gender stereotypes as they pave the path of a better future for all individuals. May we educate our sons to understand the plight of womankind so that they too can use their voice to speak up against oppression and injustice and work towards creating a better future for all of humanity. That is my wish for my daughter.
Here’s to strong women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
Happy International Women’s Day!
– Modern Day Brown Mom
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