Monday, September 23, 2013
Letter to My Daughters on Being Female
Dear Cordelia and Elise,
I am sure you've noticed by now that you are both female. You are girls now, someday you'll be women. Perhaps you are reading this from the future. Maybe you are in college. Maybe you are mothers. Maybe you are just hanging out on a rainy Monday morning, but I want you to think about being a female for a minute.
Please don't think about the ridiculous stereotypes: not all women are interested in shopping or shoes. Not all women are strong or weak, feminine or tomboy. Not all women care about hair or makeup. Not all women want to be homemakers. Not all women care about equal pay (though they should). Not all women are catty, manipulative, whatever else they may say. Not all women are emotional.
All women do have two things in common:
1. The potential for great strength.
We all have a shared experience in what it is to be a woman. We go through physical pain just to be a woman. Our bodies hurt us, what is up with that? I remember, as a young woman, feeling betrayed by my body, limited on a monthly basis, constricted by the clothes that I had to wear. We all have to go though annual exams that are, at best, embarrassing and at worst terrifying. We muster up that strength to deal with the daily maintenance of being a woman.
Motherhood is another way we experience our potential for strength. My body has built your body. I have nourished you with all that I am, quite literally as babies are kind of like parasites...I mean that in the most loving and maternal way. Obviously the physical endurance of labor and delivery give women one moment to access a strength so bold that we can only experience it from a primal haze. Caring for children as a mother turns even the most mild of us into forces of nature when our children are in need. I am in no way downplaying the importance and power of a father's love, I am just talking about ladies today.
Women often become the caretakers, even if it doesn't come naturally to us all it is expected. We nurture our children. We prepare meals for ill friends. We administer the medicine. We wipe the bums, the tears, the boogers. Often we are looked to when our parents, grandparents, etc. fall ill. We are solid. We are strong.
Whether or not you become a mother you will still know the strength it takes to be a woman. The strength to endure men. I mean no disrespect to the amazing men I know, but it takes some real strength to shrug off catcalls, rude remarks, unwanted flirtations, etc. It takes strength to live in a world where we have to carry pepper sprays in fanny packs as we go for a morning jog. It takes strength to admit that you are not always safe in situations where the opposite sex would feel no threat.
We ladies are tough stuff and you are lucky to inherit this legacy of strength.
2. The potential for great compassion.
Perhaps our greatest gift is our potential for great compassion. I have no idea if this is a mix of the aforementioned shared experience, our chemical makeup, the way we are raised, or all of it together, but women have a great capacity for compassion.
We begin early. We notice the suffering of others. We commiserate. We offer our help. I see this already in both of you. You both look to connect, you feel what others feel. I know that men are just as capable of great compassion, but there is something about the compassion of women. The shared look, the subtle nod of understanding...we've been practicing it our whole lives.
Please know that your compassion is both a strength and a gift, for you and for others.
Finally, I want you to know that you come from a long line of strong women. A long line of loving and compassionate women. No matter what path you take in life I hope that you carry on with this legacy and I hope that you are happy to be women.