I watch my 7-year-old daughter play and I want to freeze time. Not because I want her to stay little forever, but because I want her to live in her 7-year-old world forever. Her world is a much nicer place for girls to live in than my world currently is.
In my daughter’s world she is free. Free to run topless on the beach, to express her opinion openly, honestly, and loudly. Free to smile at boys, to earn the same allowance as her brother, to raise her hand in class and confidently give the answer. When she looks in the mirror she smiles. She will proudly tell you what she’s best at. She will color a picture, show it to you, and say, “Look how great I did!” She’ll choose clothes to wear because they’re comfortable. She’ll pass gas and excuse herself, treating it like a normal bodily function. She’ll join in a football game at recess, because she likes to run. She’ll eat food because it tastes good. She’ll gladly be in photos. Her only thought when making a decision is, “Will I like this?”
She doesn’t wear makeup or shave her legs or wax her bikini area. She doesn’t second-guess her outfits wondering if they’re appropriate. She doesn’t wear a pinching bra or painful high heels. She doesn’t color her hair to cover up greys. She doesn’t spend thousands of dollars a year on skin cream to avoid wrinkles. She doesn’t starve herself to be an “acceptable” size. She doesn’t get Botox. She doesn’t read self-help books. She doesn’t question an emotional outburst wondering, “Was that too much?” She doesn’t talk incessantly with her girlfriends about their weight or their exercise routines. She doesn’t suck in her stomach when taking a photo. She doesn’t second-guess herself all the time.
I think about the things she doesn’t know yet about my world. The things I never want her to learn. The things that will literally break my heart to teach her.
I don’t want to tell her that she’ll be paid less than her male counterpart for doing the same job. That her career advancement will be tied more to her gender than her skills. That speaking her mind will earn her titles of “bitch” or “drama-queen.” That reporting an inappropriate incident to HR at work will only cause her grief.
That history books are filled with stories of our founding fathers, but leave little room to acknowledge the women who shaped our world. That the U.S. has never had a female president or vice president. That women make up less than 5% of company CEOs.
That she can’t go for a run at night without a rape whistle. That she can’t get publicly drunk without being at risk for sexual assault. That she’ll need a buddy-system to get home safely from parties. That she can’t smile at a guy or he may “get the wrong idea.” That she’ll have a dress code at school as to not “distract” the boys. That her college campus will have a “rape phone.” That “boys will be boys” but girls will get the blame for it.
I don’t want to tell her that she’ll fake orgasms because her partner’s pleasure outranks her own. That boys can talk about masturbating and it’s socially acceptable, but girls have to pretend they don’t masturbate. That movies will freely show a naked woman, but not a naked man. That a man who sleeps around is a “stud” but a girls who sleeps around is a “slut.”
That her periods are private at best, dirty at worst. That she’ll be judged for how much or how little weight she gains if she gets pregnant. That she’ll only get six weeks maternity leave. That if she gives up her career to be a mother she’s “not contributing” to society. But if she goes back to work as a mother she’s “selfishly” prioritizing her career over her family. That breastfeeding her baby will be a shameful activity that she’s meant to cover up. That her body is her worth, so she’d better get back her to her pre-baby weight right away. That her partner will want sex again soon, so she needs to be ready. That if her vagina stretched too much during delivery, she’ll need “vaginoplasty.”
This is my world. The world I grew up in, since 1975. How, in good conscience, can I introduce my amazing, daring, free-spirited, daughter to this world in which I live? I can’t, is the answer. So I must fight for her world to prevail! Because her world is a much, much better place for us all to live equally.
Kristen Podulka (KP) writes to change the world. Because all it takes is one person and a pen. She's an award-winning writer who's been published on Time.com, blogged for PAMP Parent's Club, and authors two of her own blogs: whatskpcooking.com and whatskpthinking.com. In her free time, she works full time as an advertising executive. She believes in true love, equality, strong coffee, cold beer, a good book, laughter and magic. She lives with her husband and two young kids in sunny Palo Alto, California.