2016 was an odd year for feminism.
On the one hand, there were some high points. Hillary Clinton was the first female nominee on a major party presidential ticket. Kellyanne Conway was the first female campaign manager to win a U.S. presidential campaign. Harriet Tubman became an historic selection to appear on the face of the 20 dollar bill.
On the other hand, there were some low points. Hillary Clinton lost. Kellyanne Conway helped a candidate, who is not exactly known for his pro-women rhetoric, win. Men like Brock Turner and Bill Cosby, and their crimes against women, filled the airwaves.
As a mother, the highs and lows from last year made me wonder how I could teach my kids about feminism, especially my youngest daughter. I worried that she would not see how brave, strong, and powerful women can be.
Turns out, I worried in vain.
That’s because my daughter, who is nine, showed me that she understood exactly what feminism should be.
Fourth grade feminism
One afternoon, I found my daughter in tears.
“What’s wrong?” I pried.
“It’s not fair,” she replied. “I hate gym.”
She went on to tell me that her two teachers, both male, didn’t even know her name.
Then she cried more.
For context, my daughter moved to an upper elementary school for fourth grade. There were approximately 14 classes in her grade alone. Thus, I could see how two gym teachers might struggle to know the names of more than 400 children. Still, it didn’t mean that my daughter’s concerns were not valid.
“You need examples,” I told her. “You need proof that it’s not fair.”
She realized that she did have examples. Then she told me exactly how it was unfair. The teachers only picked boys to be captains of the groups. Likewise, they only picked boys to demonstrate things. Furthermore, they didn’t really speak to the girls.
“That isn’t fair,” I agreed. “Now what can you do about it?”
Finding her voice
After thinking a bit, she wrote a letter that included her examples and addressed it to her principal.
“You have to be ready,” I counseled her. “The gym teachers could see this and be mad.”
“I’m ready,” she assured me.
It was the Monday before the U.S. presidential election when my daughter delivered her letter to the principal, who is a woman. Later that afternoon, the principal pulled my daughter out of class to talk.
The principal complimented the letter and thanked my daughter for bringing these issues to her attention. In addition, she asked if she could share the letter with the gym teachers. Ready for her gym teachers to see her concerns, my daughter agreed.
That night, after she told me what happened at school, I felt so proud.
The next day America elected a man to be the next president. Our family talked about how multiple qualities – not just gender – make up a candidate, while multiple current events and life experiences can affect an election season and who wins.
A couple days later, my daughter reported that things were much better in gym class. The teachers were talking to the girls and making them captains. They were asking the girls to demonstrate things.
“You did it,” I said. “You made things better in gym class for all the girls in your school. You advocated for the same opportunities for girls as for boys.”
That is feminism, my darling. Thank you for showing me.
Maybe 2016 was an amazing year for feminism after all.