What I’m teaching my daughter
I am teaching my girl to be loud and proud and filling her world with the stories of amazing rebellious women, so when it’s time for her to stand up, it will be as natural as breathing.
I was born in the UK. I was born into an era when it was mostly women that stayed at home to raise children, for many years. My mother did this. I heard so many stories of mostly mums giving up on their career hopes and dreams to raise their families. This was also the era when most women if they weren’t home makers were secretaries, nurses or teachers. I also heard a saddening number of stories of women that were excited to pursue other non-traditional pathways but were often discouraged as they weren’t pathways for women. Hard to believe this was only 30 years ago!
These stories stayed with me and shaped my understanding of what it meant to be a girl. It meant – do the right thing, be nice and follow the traditional pathways as there was no point not too.
Fast forward to age eighteen. I remember heading off to university. A female lecturer stood up and addressed us. She spoke with authority and conviction. I remember being in awe at her presence and the power of her voice. I was suddenly aware there were women everywhere. This made me feel safe and valued in a way I never felt before.
When things changed
When I had my daughter Emily, I found my own childhood bubbling up to the surface. Raising a girl with her own mind and with her intuition intact has always been very important to me. Even in those moments where Emily is telling me how she feels and it completely does not work with what I had in mind, I have learned it is so important to honour her voice. I want her to “be bossy”, to be head strong, to break the rules. I don’t want to quieten her voice or teach her that she has to be a “good girl”. In fact I stop myself from using this as an incentive to get her to conform.
When I had Emily, it was like the fog lifted and I became of things I had never seen before. Why was the world unequal? Why were women paid less than men for the same role? Why did they retire with less super? I became upset looking at Emily as baby in my arms and thinking about the world that awaited her and the challenges she was going to have to navigate as a woman.
When my son came along, this just perpetuated the fire that burnt in my belly to want to make a change for Emily and other young girls. I would look at both of them and think “is it possible that my son will earn more than my daughter for the same job”?! This isn’t right.
Recently Emily and I stumbled upon the “Goodnight stories for Rebel Girls” book. The books feature incredible stories of brave pioneers, heroic women from all over the world creating change, owning their truth and inspiring others. We read about the lives and journeys of Mexican artist and feminist Frida Kahlo, Syrian Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini, Indian Olympic boxer Mary Kom and African-American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman. These rebellious, world-altering women were incredible. I would find myself in tears reading about all they overcame and had to face.
It became a nightly ritual for us, opening the door for ongoing conversation. We talked about the hardships these women overcame, what they were passionate about and how they fought for their voices to be heard. One thing these inspiring women had in common was that they listened to their own truth, their own hearts and walked their own path, despite opposition. I found myself wondering what stops the rest of us from doing the same. When my son is old enough I will share this book with him so I can share my perspective on the world with him too.
I know for me, I have had to unlearn a lot of what I grew up with in my early childhood. My adult experiences of speaking out when I have been hurt, asking for change in workplaces and setting boundaries in friendships was always tinged with a great deal of discomfort. The fear of upsetting other people often felt like the end of the world. Standing up for my myself has been a muscle I have forced myself to exercise.
Standing up for myself
Despite suffering the disease to please, each time I stood up for myself and spoke out, I became stronger. People were finally able to know the real me, even if they did not like it very much. And I became OK with not being liked, as long as I liked and respected myself. Its important that girls understand the obstacles the lie in front of them and just as important that they know these obstacles are not insurmountable. That not only can they find a way to overcome them, but they can remove these obstacles for those who will come after them.
In the heartening words of the author and teacher, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “If you have ever been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, insurgent, unruly, rebellious, you’re on the right track… If you have never been called these things, there is yet time.”
This is why I am teaching my girl to be loud and proud and fill her world with the stories of amazing rebellious women, so when it’s time for her to stand up, it will be as natural as breathing.
May all Girls of Impact know the greatest success is to live a life full of passion, curiosity, and generosity. That they have the right to be happy and to explore wildly. We want to create a world where gender will not define how big you can dream, how far you can go. If you haven’t discovered your passions yet then register your interest for the next Ignite workshop and we’ll help set you on that pathway to becoming a Girl of Impact.