At the art museum yesterday, I looked over and Stella had created a fashion collage on pink paper.
Stella’s birthday is quickly approaching. And, as always, my incredible daughter has a theme. This year? It’s fashion. A fashion runway party where all the guests will get outfits to model, as well as complete makeovers. (Look it up, it’s a thing.)
Pre-kid Randi is growling with anger. Because back before I’d ever carried a child in my womb, I’d figured this whole motherhood thing out. My kids would never throw fits. My kids would sleep through the night. My kids would be 100% breastfed with no supplementation. My kids would never know the word “McDonalds” until they went to college. And my kids would never, ever buy into cis-gender stereotypical crap.
Stella has taught me so much about myself. Because of our rough start – her not sleeping for her first 16 months and exhibiting early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder – my own mental health issues had no choice but to come to the surface where I could finally get help for them. Her empathetic heart teaches me every day how self-centered I am. Like when I grumble about a car’s slow driving and she pipes up from the back seat, “Mom, maybe that person is new to driving and just wants to be careful.”
And her complete adoration for everything considered traditionally feminine has shown me how much internalized sexism I needed to shed.
Why did I bristle when Stella wanted to wear frilly, pink dresses? Why did it drive me nuts when she said she wanted to be a baker when she grew up? Why was I so annoyed when I found her meddling with the few pieces of makeup I keep on hand for the five times a year I wear it?
My grandmothers made sure to teach me all the traditional female jobs. I could cook, bake, sew, clean, crochet, and even needlepoint. I loved spending time with my grandmothers, but their old-fashioned views of a “woman’s place” irked me. So, even though I enjoyed all of those activities, I shunned them the minute I could.
When I moved out on my own after college and had to cook, I remembered how much I liked it. And then I’d bake for parties, and found that I couldn’t wait to bake again. I never wanted someone to assume I had to cook or bake, I certainly never wanted a man I was dating to think it was my job to feed him, but I realized I really loved these activities.
Feminism is the radical belief that we shouldn’t be held back by gender stereotypes. But I was holding myself back by forbidding myself to do anything considered “feminine.”
Stella refuses to be held back by such beliefs. The kid wears something in pink daily. She sleeps in a sleep mask. She loves to go to afternoon tea and is obsessed with fashion. She has a Disney princess collection.
She literally sleeps in this My Little Pony sleep mask nightly. And she's also the kind of kid who reads her book over breakfast.
But she’s also the kid who will see an ad with an objectified woman and rant about how sexist it is. She was heartbroken when Hillary Clinton wasn’t elected, and remains shocked that we haven’t had a woman president yet (as am I). She is obsessed with women scientists throughout history. And although she loves Barbies, she always points out how “unrealistic” their waists are and gives them narratives other than some obsession with Ken. We don’t even own a Ken doll, in fact.
Stella embraces all things traditionally feminine because that is her personality. And those things have worth. We shouldn’t expect all women to embrace them, and we certainly shouldn’t tell men they shouldn’t embrace them, either. But just because they are associated with women doesn’t make them bad.
In fact, as Stella would tell you, they can be empowering.