I grew up censored. I was taught to behave a certain way. I obeyed the rules to sit still and be quiet and that (and this is a big one) women do not have the right to assert authority over men. It was in the Bible, so it was true. My father, a Christian fundamentalist, taught me from a very young age that women were inferior. I don’t fault him for this anymore. He no longer believes this way, and he supports women and is coming around to feminism.
If you know anything about me at all, you know that my dad is one of my favorite people on the planet, and nobody has ever or will ever love me as much as he does, but I grew up “just a girl” who could do things well “for a girl” who was smart “for a girl.”
I had a great childhood and was loved and cared for, but along the way, I started to realize that I didn’t buy into the “for a girl” bullshit I was being spoon fed. I watched my mother, a traditional stay-at-home mom, submit to my father on most decisions that were made in our home. He was the head of the house, and when I began to voice my opinion on the subject, I was squelched and quieted and told that I didn’t know anything by most of the people in my family.
When Geraldine Ferraro was announced as the vice presidential candidate in 1984, I heard a lot of talk about how a woman couldn’t possibly be president. She would be too emotional to hold such a title. I was six years old.
The older I got, the more I rebelled against that conventional mindset, but I continued to hear things like “women shouldn’t” or worse, “women can’t.” Last week, I defended a candidate that a family member interviewed for a job because he was worried if he hired her, she would be high maintenance. Because she’s female.
I try not to teach my children stereotypes. Anytime my son gets emotional, I don’t tell him to “stop crying like a girl.” I allow him to cry and to feel emotion, and I applaud him for his feelings. I tell my daughter she can do anything.
Just this morning, she said to me, “Mom, I know I’m not supposed to play football because I’m a girl, but I like it.”
I responded, “Because you’re a girl? Pfft. Girls can do anything. Today, for the first time in history, I can vote for a woman to be president of the United States. We can be astro-physicists, epidemiologists, fork lift drivers, police officers, baseball players. Anything. And if you love football, you play without apology. Don’t let anyone tell you because you’re a girl, you can’t do something. Because you are a person, and you can do anything.”
When I went to the polls today to vote, I took her with me. I felt an immense sense of pride, a lump heavy in my throat as we walked side by side into the polling station.
The woman at the desk offered her an “I voted” sticker, and she graciously took it. We went to the booth. I showed her Hillary Clinton’s name on the ballot and said, “Let’s make history.” Tears welled in my eyes as we pressed the screen and put an X next to her name. This is a moment she and I will remember for the rest of our lives.
I sometimes rock the boat on social media and get into discussions about things like gun control because I’m passionate about it, but I have stayed pretty quiet about this election. The times I’ve spoken any opinions, I’ve been put in my place and quieted. I’ve received lots of hateful private messages that I tried to simply brush off. To me, it’s not worth it to lose friends over an election, so I’ve kept my mouth shut. Until today.
Women didn’t earn the right to vote in this country until 1920, and it took another 96 years for a woman’s name to be on the ballot for President. It doesn’t matter on what side of the fence you lean. This is a big deal. For my daughter, for me, for women, for America. And because of this monumental moment in history, for the first time in my life I feel brave enough to let everyone I know hear me say, “I’m with her.”