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.