Monday, March 9, 2015

From a Father of Girls - International Women’s Day 2015

A good friend of mine who writes both better and more than I do to a much wider audience decided that something she said a few years ago on this subject was worth recycling.  And she was right – you should read it now – even if you happened to have read it two years ago.
So I figured if recycling is good enough for Kathy, well it certainly works for me.  I’ve written from time to time about the struggles and triumphs of my daughters in various ways, but two posts came to mind that seemed fitting in some way to mark International Women’s Day..
The first was written some three years ago now:
A couple of points I’d like to emphasize with reflection after the passing of some years.
"I am proud of the young women my daughters are becoming.  They are largely confident in who they are and generally are not afraid to be who they are.  Their strength of character humbles me.  This has been true of my eldest for a good many years, but the younger quieter one is starting to blossom and the same strength of character is evident.  And of course I am biased but they are not just beautiful people in who they are; they are attractively beautiful as well."

Too right I’m proud – they continue to amaze me with their drive, their strength and poise, and their positive impact on others, to mention just a few of their quality character traits.  Our little one especially continues to grow in confidence and strength and indeed has found her own voice – something we hoped for and are glad of.  What a difference three years has made!  But more than that…

"At the end of the day, my daughters have to be responsible for their own choices and I want them to feel like they are free to make whatever choices seem right to them.  I can’t lock them away and guard the door with a gun – and I won’t.  Nor can I hover over them physically at all times to protect them from harm.  I want them to be women of integrity and character.  I want them to be strong enough in them own beliefs and convictions to stand up, make a difference in this world, and be noticed and valued for who they are and what they do, not just what they look like."

This to me – at least as the father of girls in part embodies what a day commemorating women is about – that they, just like men, that all of us really – would be noticed and valued for who they are and what they do, not just what they look like.
Somewhere around this same commemoration last year I somewhat coincidentally wrote a post:
I think looking back at the evolution of that post, it started our almost coming from the quote in my much older post above – the continuing saga of girls needing to be something other than they are because boys and men can’t control themselves if they don’t cover themselves up.  And the worst of some of this nonsense comes from the church.  To borrow from Kathy’s post linked above as to why she is pro-woman, pro-equality, pro-liberation-of-half-the-population: 
“i think Jesus was.  every interaction Jesus had with women was to set them free and lift their burdens of bondage.  and he said we were supposed to be like him.  i don’t know why the church built on his name has done the exact opposite; it still baffles me.”
Yep – I really don’t know why either – and all I can say is I’m sorry – if we as a church put half the effort into looking after those who need help - the hungry, the poor, the abused, the enslaved, the marginalized – as we do into worrying about nonsense like leggings and swimsuits – what a wonderful world it could be.
But I’d like to circle back on a couple of quotes in that post from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an amazing woman I heard speaking on the radio – I can’t add much to them but I think they are worth reflecting on and in a way, they kind of build from some of my thoughts in the older post.
“We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs, or for accomplishments — which I think can be a good thing — but for the attention of men.”, and
“Now, marriage can be a good thing. It can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”
I still wonder as I did a year ago, whether if this were not the case, and it very much is that we do not teach boys to aspire to marriage, whether the failure rate of marriage would be much lower?  Perhaps more than that – would the value that comes with that lead to less violence against women and less abusive relationships, whether marriage is involved or not.
So circling back to my little one in particular as she has become an accomplished athlete and may choose to go on to play at college level yet has the maturity to not let that define her.  Really the spirit of this quote from Mia Hamm can apply so much more broadly to successful endeavor in any area of passion, and so to both my girls I close with

“Somewhere behind the athlete you've become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back... play for her.”
~ Mia Hamm