To My Daughter: Now That You Have Made History
Do you know where you were on 21.1.2017?
Let me tell you, little one. You were visible. You were a bright voice and an ally. You stood in a huge crowd in London, this tiny figure of great stature and you witnessed history being made with the calm reflection I've come to know marks your curiosity. Your wide eyes took in the placards and helicopters that whirred overhead as they captured the moment on film. Your little hand reached up to mine and you smiled. You, sweetheart, were a history maker.
The day before the march, we practiced our facepaints and talked about how busy it would be so you would know what to expect. When I started to paint the Pride flag on our cheeks though, you insisted the colours needed to be in a different order. I explained about the need to have a symbol and how for some of us, it had come to mean safety. We talked about the fact that it was your body though and your choice about what happened to it. We talked about love and working together and how perhaps, this was the best thing we could do. It felt like you understood why I was packing a bag and booking us tickets into London. We painted the rainbow just the way you wished it.
I am writing to you now, the Monday after the weekend that begun a momentum that was much needed. This was the weekend when you joined with millions of us across the world as we marched to capitals and city centres to say we rejected a seeping hatred that had increasingly become the norm. This was not your first protest and I sigh as I know that it will not be your last. Your little shoulders are already so weighed down by a responsibility but at least this march showed us something- there are many who wish to help you shift that burden.
In the middle of that busy march, a little boy caught your eye. He was high on his father's shoulders and grumpy. He yelled "NO!" loudly and you felt sad for him. We asked what the matter was and his mother explained that he was hungry and they were out of snacks. We shared what we had brought and you whispered in my ear "It's better if everybody shares, isn't it mummy?" It was a perfect moment and sentiment but I have to tell you, not every potential conflict will be so easily resolved. Sometimes, you will have to wrestle with your discomfort about a topic like FGM or faith that is not your own and you will need to push through that because on the other side is understanding. You must resist the temptation to remain silent for fear of offending because when you do, your silence makes these issues invisible and you become complicit in the oppression. Be brave. The other side feels just as good as sharing those snacks, trust me.
It's important now that I tell you that my feminism isn't perfect. I'm sure yours won't be either but we can educate ourselves. We can read wider, outside of our own experience and seek out brilliant voices that tell us truths we have yet to hear in our own life experience. I promise you, I will do my best to constantly share my learning with you and hold my hand up as someone who is still learning. I've been enjoying working my way through some excellent books this past year and you will see them on our shelves; they're yours to learn from too. May I also recommend attending talks that regularly make you uncomfortable. Listen to your discomfort because it is often shame. Becoming acquainted with your own shame response will help you see oppression clearer and challenge it in a meaningful way.
This weekend, it was important that we acknowledged that no action or feminism is perfect that ignores the narrative of our friends. Yes, we both face prejudice as women and I can do my best to teach you strength but when we kick down that door we must make sure we are opening it wide enough for everyone to step into the room. If it isn't truly inclusive, it isn't feminism.
There have been rumblings about our protest being vulgar. There were those who objected to the language of “pussy” or the fucks we gave that day. The thing is dear one, these are words that will litter your future and your ownership over them is how you will overcome their potential violence against you. There is no correct way to be a woman and we reject the term ladylike. Yes, have dignity. Yes have grace under fire but my girl, when you wish to express yourself, do it any damn well way you want. You are not the sum of others opinions of your words. That is their insecure definition of femininity and it is not yours to own.
You see, your generation have been forged in the fire that was 2016 and I have a sneaking suspicion it will propel so many of you into jobs and careers that are political and vocal and active. There are many of your peers that are going to break barriers as a direct result of what they saw this weekend. My only regret when I write this is that my generation was not enough. While we sat at our desks at school learning that fascism was a word from history it crept into our news feeds and timelines and we didn’t call it out soon enough.
We are calling it out now. We are calling loud and so please know this: I have never been prouder to have you by my side. So my daughter, now that you have made history, what will you do next?