I’d always assumed I’d have girls, that I’d be one of those fearless mothers raising the next generation of opportunity seeking, world-traveling, funny, smart, passionate women. A daughter! It never crossed my mind that I’d get two boys and be thrust headlong into fart jokes and pee all over the bathroom floor. When they told me my first born was a boy I sat quietly with tears streaming down my face in the lobby of the doctor’s office, my husband gently patting my back incredulous at the reaction. “You’re not really this upset because it’s a boy are you?” to which I replied, when I was finally able to gather my emotions, “What if his wife hates me?” Ah, the power of the female relationship. In the intimate moments of unborn son and mother, there was already another woman decades away reaching back in time and standing her ground. These world-traveling, funny, smart woman of the future? My daughters-in-law.
My whole context for women’s issues was altered. In the past, upon learning that women were now graduating from college at higher rates than men, I would have made a smug comment about how finally it’s being acknowledged that women are smarter (pursed lips closing around a margarita, high fiving my girlfriends with an eye roll). While we should certainly congratulate ourselves for the fact that women are graduating from college at higher rates, should we be so enthusiastic that they are at higher rates than men? With my little 3 year old sponge playing trucks nearby I wouldn’t dare utter such nonsense. What in the world would he think of me, his mother, telling him he wasn’t as smart as a girl? It should consistently be affirmed, if there is ever a question, that girls are just as good as boys, and that everyone has different capabilities. Yet I would hate to think the pendulum has swung so far that I’ll be trying to convince my son that he’s as good as a girl. That’s not a victory for anyone.
So, how do I mark International Women’s Day? I used to rah-rah with the best of them, but these days, it’s a much quieter, inquisitive cheer-leading. Of course I continue to celebrate women and girls and encourage their growing presence and success in tackling economic and societal inequity. We have a long way to go and it’s of utmost importance that we’re represented in greater numbers in decision making roles. I care about girls because I care about the human race and it’s because of this that I continue to support The Girl Effect and their global work to educate women and lift them out of poverty. But on a directly personal level, realizing that instead of raising the next woman Supreme Court Justice or CEO I am raising her husband, I clearly see the importance of men in this equation. It makes me painfully aware of my sexism going into motherhood. We are all, together, raising the next generation and my journey as a feminist now includes providing a platform for my young men to engage in the struggle for equity, across race, class and sex. The best way I can figure to lay this foundation is to be a strong, independent woman who shows great respect, admiration and love for the masculine. Go figure.
For more information about March 8, the International Women’s Day website has a thorough history. There are also many organizations in our region to consider supporting from (off the top of my head) the Girl Scouts and Powerful Voices to Rain City Rock Camp and ReelGrrls. It’s also important to support women’s funding networks, which enable more money out of every funding dollar to reach women. The Fund for Women and Girls in Tacoma is having their annual luncheon on March 19 and the Women’s Funding Alliance is celebrating their 30th birthday with a dinner on May 18.