A child of the 1950s and ’60s, I have always believed that girls were born into a world that is unfair.
It started when I saw my brothers get fun, creative toys at birthdays and at holiday time — things like crystal radio sets, building toys, slot car set-ups, and robots — while my toys consisted of dolls, potholder looms, books, and Barbie games. My mother gushed over girly toys, so I knew I was supposed to as well. But in my heart, I wanted to build a radio, design a bridge with an erector set, or put on a set of boxing gloves. I wanted to be the soldier and not the nurse, the chief and not the squaw, the cowboy and not the prairie woman.
While I watched boys do rough-and-tumble activities to prove their bravado to other boys, I also watched as they eventually accepted and even supported one another, refusing to rat another boy out. This camaraderie seemed to last into later school years, and eventually helped form the “boys’ clubs” that persist in corporate board rooms, in first responders and among members of the military.
Girls? A whole different ball game. From age 7 or 8 on, I saw girls form cliques, say nasty things about other girls and talk about some of the dumbest, most trivial subjects. Boys talked about STUFF and what they wanted to be and do in life. Girls talked about PEOPLE and spoke little about their futures. To me, anyway, it sucked. And I could not relate.
It wasn’t until my 40s that I could even claim my first adult BFF. A woman I met while doing parent participation hours at our daughters’ school bonded with me and within a few years, we supported one another through our respective divorces. I finally began to see the value of having women as friends. But by this age, I also recognized that many women had already weeded out a lot of crap in their lives. I am now blessed with a host of intelligent, fun, and evolved female friends, but it did take a good, long while for this to happen, making me feel patently robbed in the first half of my life.
Recently I began thinking about all this, perhaps spurred by the Women’s March on Washington earlier this year, when a number of disappointing statistics about women began to get circulated once again, reminding me that we still have a long way to go. We are now in the midst of the third wave of feminism with all this — the first was around the early 1900s, when we peacefully marched in hordes all over the U.S. to get the right to vote. Women were thrown in jail, beaten, and even starved themselves to earn the right to be a fucking PERSON and not simply a vessel for the propagation of the species. The second was in the 1970s, when we burned bras, embraced birth control and got the right to choose our reproductive futures. Change for us has been slow, just as it has with other minority groups, taking what is tantamount to the death of an entire generation before the next corrects the sins of the past. But there will always be holdouts — those who were taught by their own parents (or their religion) that change is bad. Change is evil. To them, old values are always better, even if they choose to ignore what life was like in times past for those in the shadows.
When I see young millennial women starting businesses, being entrepreneurial, and claiming the spotlight as they have in the past decade or so, it fills my heart with pride, making me wish I were born a generation later. There are now more female-owned businesses than ever, and the trend continues. But what prompted these gals to go in this direction instead of remaining in positions or jobs that felt unfulfilling? Well, I’ll tell you….
I firmly believe it was, at least in part, the desire to build, just like the one I felt as that little girl who wanted to do what was considered boy-like at the time. It was the yen to create something from scratch — to take an idea and make it real. To re-shape things, change the narrative, and demolish any limits they had ever encountered in other parts of their lives. So when my 22-year old daughter approached her stepdad and me to move into a bedroom of our home for a month or so to begin a business on eBay, I did backflips. She and I went to Target to buy clothing racks and bins for her new vintage clothing business and I watched as she used her God-given skills to buy merchandise, photograph styled clothing on edgy models, and post them for online auction. And when Fridays arrived and the bidding began, I watched as buyers competed to get a single piece of clothing that would help define their individuality. I also saw my baby girl learn the ins and outs of packaging, shipping, and customer care, how to streamline things to grow her business, and how to scrap for new customers. I also watched as other vintage sellers formed nasty alliances to get her kicked off the site merely because she began robbing them of established customers. It is a time I will never forget. She was a one-woman band, and for a change, her ADHD gifts were going to good use, multi-tasking as only a driven woman can.
Because of all these revelations in my life, I believe it’s time. Time to write about this torch that must be more than casually passed on. I realize now I told my daughter little about the inequities I felt most of my life, little about my feelings about other women, and basically nothing about the sacrifices women who came before her made so that the possibilities for her would be endless by the time she reached adulthood. Now in her 30s, she is realizing how things can slip backward for us. The first female to be nominated for president became trivialized and maligned through a series of male-led smears. People hated how this woman, with years of distinguished public service under her belt, “yelled” as she spoke passionately — an imperfect female, just as there were imperfect males running for the highest office in the land, but held to an entirely different standard. Then she watched as the electoral process put a clueless, misogynist, ego-bloated businessman into the position of leader of the free world. My daughter’s eyes opened as she joined the Los Angeles Women’s March as millions of others did on that fateful day in January. It was a moment in history that will forever be a part of the fabric of her life, just as the Vietnam War protests and Gloria Steinem had become a part of mine back in another space in time.
The book I hope to write, still in its larval state, is a book poised to help mothers raise enlightened, empowered daughters by educating them on how important their efforts will be to women everywhere — to teach them BIG ideas instead of letting themselves get mired in trivialities. To encourage sisterhood instead of female vindictive-hood, which women often bring upon themselves. It’s about taking an active role in helping to shape future women around the world, one little girl at a time. If we are 50% of the country’s population, there should be no reason we are not 50% of Congress, half of all the bodies in executive board rooms, and half of those making the decisions to fight or end wars, help to people to break the chains of poverty, and uplift people all over the country, no matter their origins or gender.
I checked. There is not another book out there like this. I want it to be enlightening, entertaining, and empowering all at once. My goal is to point not only how we can prepare the next generation to be better feminists, but also about how women shoot themselves in the proverbial foot on a regular basis, holding us all back in the process. Will you join me by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and letting me know a few of your own stories, some of which may even be used in my book? If we are to have a real sisterhood, this is a book we should write together for the benefit of daughters everywhere. I thank you in advance for your input.
For more of my work, visit DenaKouremetis.com