Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Long, Long Reply

Hey! Thank you! Your comments, and your stories have made this even more meaningful to me. Some readers have shared their thoughts on FB as well, and I have been very moved by those insights as well. This was a brief, sincere reply in the comments, and then my brain started waking up, and deep thoughts and other musings came to light, and now we have this long, long reply...

I feel so fortunate, realizing what tremendous support Maria enjoys from the people in her life... starting with her brothers, who have always had a natural inclination to be gender blind. They see "people" and have equal expectations of boys and girls to be talented, intelligent, capable, kind, funny, friends. They expect their own sister to be capable as well. It's not as though they have an agenda for her to be intelligent, or unbiased... it's simply an instinct. They believe.

They believe Maria can assemble Lego parts, design, and create. They believe in curiosity, and stories, and reading aloud. They respect each others abilities, and they adjust their pace for one another.

The bonus is, they have an amazing circle of friends! Friends who are role models, whether they realize it or not. Friends who have overcome their own obstacles to declare: 'I love what I do, and I do what I love. My gender does not determine my interests or my abilities.'

I congratulate all the children, and young people I know who are living their lives true to their selves, true to their convictions, sincere in their respect of each other. I know that issues of gender bias are not a struggle only for girls. And as I reflect on the children I know, I am awestruck and delighted to realize what an amazing gift they are to each other, when they are themselves. Being fair, being intelligent, and respectful of our abilities, and interests, benefits each of us, male and female alike. And it is awesome to see this in action, to see kids we know taking their place and pursuing their interests, taking on new skills, wearing their colors.

Lord, don't let me sound preachy... sometimes my deep thoughts challenge my beliefs, and I am simply thinking aloud here, addressing my own head and heart.

Growing up, a lot of these ideas of feminism, and breaking gender roles, equality, equal education opportunities, racial equality, were theories, they were institutionalized programs, they were discussions and debates. Not just the idea of equality, but what or how to achieve it, what equality meant in application. They were controversial, challenged. They incurred a backlash. I grew up in an experiment, in a tug of war between tradition and idealism. It was great, and terrible. Certainly, we still see the struggle, and some are still grappling with the fact that equality means justice for all.

Okay. So we have a long way to go, but the thing that got me going on this epic "comment reply" to the original post is that I am thankful to, and awestruck by, the people I am privileged to know. They get it. Is it taught? Is it an accepting environment, nurture, nature? I am inclined to believe they are simply brilliant and marvelous. I hope our society is genuinely making a shift, that we value children, people, enough to accept them, to want them to feel that their interests, preferences, and talents are valid, that respect begets respect.

And! Maria is growing up with all of these brilliant and marvelous people! And when I worry about the bullies, the messed up messages about her place in the world, when I fret over sexism, racism, and all the other isms, I only have to remember she has her brothers, who love her and support her, and she has the encouragement and example of some of the most amazing young people imaginable. Across generations, in our home, in our community, around the world, Maria has been influenced and inspired by poets, artists, engineers, laborers, healers, farmers, teachers, men and women, boys and girls, thinkers, and believers.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.


judy in ky said...

Fabulous! Makes me wish I had brothers. I began growing up before feminism was born, and finished growing up as feminism was growing, I wonder if many women who were born later realize how lucky they are.

Alison said...

Just as important: she has YOU! Mama shows her how to be a woman, a wife, a mother. You don't limit yourself, so neither will she.

Three cheers for strong, present role models of any age, gender and dressed in every color!

Anonymous said...

Oh thank you so much for these posts about raising children..... You have captured these concerns and hopes and fears so wonderfully! I do not have children but am blessed to have friends and family that keep me engaged, and as a consumer I too am outraged at the huge push to sexualize or dumb-down young women and girls. Likewise the consumerism that pushes violence and machismo onto boys.... Thank you for writing about this and for being so on-top of it. YYour children give me hope for our future, when are they old enough to vote??????