Raising Feminist Daughters


Yesterday my daughter told me that I was damaging her self-esteem by refusing to tell her she was good at twerking. Watching her gyrate around the kitchen in her pajamas I asked her if she was having a seizure and needed medical attention.

As both daughters move into adolescence, the tension between them noticing issues of inequality while also “Not Being Their Mother” is becoming really interesting.

Over the years, I’ve tried not to push feminism on them. I’ve invited them to rallies and marches and laughed when at age three my daughter shared in the International Women’s Day sharing circle that she was only there for the brownies.

I’ve learned not to promise that lighting candles and listening to speakers on December 6th will be fun. Otherwise I risk having them yell, “I’m bored” when everyone else is crying.

This December 6th we lit candles at home and talked about women who inspired us. I talked about my Grandmother, my husband talked about me (good choice) and they couldn’t think of anyone. I’m pretty sure they only wanted to light the candles, turn out the lights and play with fire.

My daughters have always challenged my ideas. When my oldest daughter was five, I told her that I didn’t like Barbie. I said that she was boring and only interested in clothes. Her body shape wasn’t like most women and she didn’t represent the diversity of girls and women around us. She looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, “well I have blonde hair and I’m not fat and I like pretty clothes. Does that mean you don’t like me? Well, they sure didn’t prepare me for that conversation in women’s studies.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things. I try not to take things too seriously. If I start to lecture they go to the other extreme and start talking about wanting to marry a rich husband and focus on being pretty.

I love sharing YouTube videos on feminist issues. So many cool young women are speaking up publically and the poetry, videos and spoken word is riveting. I just start playing something in the living room and they come, like moths to a flame. It’s great because it’s not me saying it, so they don’t have to automatically resist it.

I’m also ok with them challenging me. If I want them to challenge authority it has to start here. I still remember my naked little toddler with her hands on her hips shouting “you’re not the boss of me”.

The less I push my own agenda, the more they share their own interests. My youngest is passionate about animals and raises money for the SPCA. My fifteen year old did a poster for school about date rape called “It’s Not Her Fault”.

They have a keen sense of fairness and will fight strongly when they know something isn’t right. They may still want to go out as a sexy fairy for Halloween instead of Malala Yousafzai but they can beat me in a debate any day.

8 thoughts on “Raising Feminist Daughters

  1. Sista Sandy

    So, here we have another brilliant, warm, fuzzy, make-me-feel kind of write. These girls have such an amazing balance between respect and challenge. They of course have amazing role model parents throughout their life, who accept a challenge of authority. It’s not to say you ‘give in’ when they challenge but it becomes a respectful conversation. I’ve been witness to it, it’s so dynamic; It’s admirable. Ahhhh, wish I had more of that in me; To relax and not be insulted by a question of my parenting/authority. I’m working on it 😁

    I still remember being there a few christmass ago and your oldest (leaving names out of publication I’m assuming) had gooey, sticky fingers and wanted to slather them all over your laptop keyboard. You asked her nicely to wash her hands first. LICKED and SUCKED clean, naturally clean by her standards was quick and easy. You asked her again to go and wash her hands. LICK. SUCK. Then your fork went down… Hahaha. I was watching intently, taking notes at how to be calm cool and collected … Hubby and youngest stopped the tickle fest and we’re watching .. I watched for another few seconds and another request or two to get those fingers washed, then her ‘proof’ of her hands were now clean became her argument. You had a long day at work, were tired. I risked it and budded in LOL. Fingers got washed with at least water and the laptop usage was granted. It was sooo interesting to see the oldest be so defiant and her all so normally cool, calm and collected mom slowly losing it.
    I love when the oldest says she’s going to marry a rich man… so cheeky and sarcastic.

    Do we need to discuss the dry barfed covered last born who refused to have a shower or bath?

    Ahhhh, the simpler times 🙂

    Oh how I remember the years of ‘my girls won’t play with Barbies, wear pink frilly dresses, wear pink nail polish or watch TV.’ Naturally the first born challenged every one of those ‘stereotypes’ you didn’t want for her.. But true to who you are, you found a balance. The dresses were worn, the nail polish glittered, and you held firm on no Barbie crap.

    Ahem. (Cough cough) Buffy the vampire slayer anyone? Hahahahahahahahahaahahahah!!

    All in all, you have handled it with absolute class and both you and hubs have raised amazing girls. That is quite the task in this day and age.

    Did I write too much again?

    I’m so proud we are sisters. How did I get to be so lucky?

    Can’t wait for your next post…write more, write often!!


    1. Thanks Sista! Your support and encouragement has been amazing. I love hearing your memories and recollections. All of our kids are amazing and yours are so socially conscious, with great critical thinking skills! They learn so much from you and how you live your life every day. I’m proud of you and them:)

  2. Jeanne Montemurro

    I love this Karen. It really made me laugh. Parenting has been such a leap of faith (in myself) for me and once you jump– then you have to let it go. This is tough stuff.

  3. @BroadcastBrooke

    I love your posts, it’s wonderful to hear about your expert navigation of the messy practise of parenting. I have all these ideas of how I want to parent and then my beautiful baby unravels them with who he is. I got this great piece of advice from a friend to “parent the child you have.” I flinch at buying toy trucks and tools, and I have resolutely donated all the “daddy’s football player” and army camo clothing. On the other hand he really likes trucks and tools, but he also likes Degas dancers and magic wands. There is so much to teach him and so, so, so much to learn. I am very grateful for feminist like you and my mom who I can take advice from. My mom has bought the first baby doll and cooking sets for my son and they mix in happily with the trucks and plastic hammers.

  4. @BroadcastBrooke

    I also love the idea of recognizing Dec 6th at home. I’ve always gone out to the memorial in Ottawa, but the last couple of years with the baby I haven’t made it. A candle ceremony at home would be a great way to acknowledge the day, and start a dialog with the family.

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