Why I Don’t Expect My Daughter to be a Lady

In a recent light-hearted debate, Joe and I were talking about rules and how they apply to Talan and Tessa. It will come as no surprise to you that I view them both as equals and want to maintain consistency to the letter when disciplining them. I feel like I do this within the realm of cultural norms. For example, Tessa must wear a shirt when playing, but I don’t make Talan. Tessa wears dresses a lot, but Talan doesn’t. But I’ve never restricted the toys they play with or the activities they enjoy as “boy” or “girl” activities. Talan doesn’t take gymnastics because when I offered, he shrugged and said, “If I want to do a flip, I’ll do one; I don’t need a class.” Problem solved. Tessa doesn’t go hunting because when I told her it involved being cold and quiet, she responded with a “No thanks!”

What I’m finding is that rules are very different than activities. Rules are usually based on a concern for safety, and I’m discovering that the world worries for the concern of females more than males, and what I read into this is that the world says women require more protection because they are weak. This ignited a fiery feminism within me that I don’t think my natural care-taker and protector husband was prepared for. The supposed situation we were looking at was unsupervised activities when the kids are teenagers. (Thank goodness we’ve got some time to settle this because we aren’t near agreement yet!) I say these are a bad idea because they’re our kids, and we love them and don’t want them in harm’s way. Joe says Tessa can only attend with Talan’s supervision because she’s a girl and girls are more vulnerable to danger. And while I know he meant what he said lovingly, what I HEARD was, “It’s fine to be unsupervised…..unless you have a vagina.”

From my standpoint, you protect people because you love them, not because they’re weak. And Joe and I agree to disagree on so many things that we’ll take it a case at a time. And parenting isn’t COMPLETELY what this post is about…. I’ll get to the heart of the matter now.

I took my argument to social media with a lighthearted lol and winky face, and found that (while there are some people on my side), there is also the idea out there that I must treat Tessa differently so that she can become a “lady.” This got me thinking about what it means to be a lady. I considered the women I look up to and the characteristics that make them great. I then did my research into what it means to be “lady-like.” What I found is that you can’t have it both ways. I do not want my daughter to be a lady.

The women I admire are educated, quick-witted, determined, and strong. They are loyal to their friends and families and do their jobs better than anyone else could. They will correct you if you’re wrong and they fight for what is right. They are polite, kind, fair, and generous. But would I put any one of them in the box of being “ladylike?” I wouldn’t dare. Because they’re more than society’s view of femininity. They’re great by any standards, not because they’re great WOMEN, but because they’re great PEOPLE.

For the most part, what I found when researching “ladyhood” was that it means being elegant, courteous, and respecting one’s self and others. Being elegant, in my mind, has its time and place–usually the senior prom, pageants, weddings. But courtesy and respect are not gender specific, people. If you want your daughter to be a LADY because it means making good choices and having respect, are those not valuable attribute we want for our sons too? Or can they be rude and disrespectful and have it excused by their gender? Of course not!

Plus, LADY seems to be a really divisive term. It divides women from men, AND divides women from other women. The idea that a woman has these social restrictions to make her “ladylike” but men can be total hooligans isn’t equality; it’s the 1800s. Then, the idea that women who are ladies are somehow better than other women is medieval. Women are women, they aren’t all the same, and they can be great without being boxed in by a term that shouldn’t just apply to them, it should apply to EVERYONE.

Do I want Tessa to be smart and safe? Sure. Because she’s my CHILD, not because she’s my DAUGHTER. Do I want her to be respectful and kind? Absolutely because that is what’s expected for great people, not for “ladies.” But what I don’t want is for her to EVER feel like she is weak because of her gender. She will not be restricted because of someone else’s definition of what it means to be feminine or to be great. The things I want for her — security, happiness, respect, courage, strength, laughter….. Those know no gender.

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