When my ex-wife and I decided that we wanted to know the sex of our first-born, the ultrasound technician maneuvered her wand back and forth, projecting a look of consternation as she battled to identify the sex.
“The baby’s legs are crossed so I’m having a hard time,” she admitted.
“Oh, then it’s a girl. She’s crossing her legs like a “proper lady,” I joked.
My ex-wife and the technician had a laugh and then, she confirmed what I already knew.
“It’s a girl!”
The story my Mom told me growing up was that my Dad wanted a little girl in the worst way. Of course, when they placed me into his arms, he didn’t care what was between my legs; he counted my fingers and toes and the rest is history. In the moment of finding out the gender of my first-born, I had no idea that eleven short years later I would have to reassess the notion of a “proper lady.”
My youngest daughter wants to play tackle football. Considering the violent nature of the game, the idea of being the punisher as opposed to the punished made my youngest come alive with excitement. “Daddy, even if those boys did try to hit me, they’d have to catch me first.” (My little one is a bolt of lightning and I really cannot argue with her sentiment.)
Gender roles and even gender identity contains as much fluidity as the term “gender fluid” could ever hope to possess. Yes, I play dolls with my daughters. We also play tackle football. We love to draw cartoon characters and learning new words is a passion we share collectively. My oldest hates jeans and would much rather rock a pair of gym shorts, basketball sneakers and a t-shirt than confine herself to the expected apparel of a ‘tween girl. (I hate the term “tween” but I will acquiesce to her constant reminder of where she falls on the nouveau timeline for age labeling.)
My youngest wanted to play tackle football and the compromise turned into flag football. The only girl on her team, she now has to contend with a gaggle of boys that scoffed at her during their first practice. “You’re….a girl,” proclaimed the future detectives of the world. “Girls don’t play football.”
Interestingly enough, in a few years the same boys that do not think girls play or should play football will catch wind of the lingerie football league and suddenly their opinions will change. Ahhhh, the world we live in. Girls do not play football unless their boobs are forced into the cups of a frilly bra and the nether regions are covered by an eye patch worth of material and some fishing line sandwiched between their butt cheeks.
Ahem, but that’s not the only kind of football girls can play.
“Would you be okay with your daughter trying to play on the High School football team?”
Truthfully? I have no idea. I will not speculate. Eleven years ago I made the point that I was having a girl because she acted like a “proper lady” whilst in the womb. Would I jump at the thought of my little girls getting hit by a kid with collegiate and professional football expectations? Absolutely not. However, I suspect Ronda Rousey’s parents weren’t thrilled at the thought of her becoming a professional fighter. (I know, the argument is that Rousey fights other women and it is not the same. The only issue that I have is that the idea of a woman fighting professionally and for the entire world to see is a rather new concept. Therefore; if I am to speculate about how I would feel if my daughters wanted to play tackle football, I would be nervous but I would also support them.)
I want to raise feminists. Yes, I want to raise feminists that not only believe they are equal to men, I want them to know that they are equal to men. No, I doubt my daughters will ever develop the ability to bench press a Buick, but the last time I checked, no one ever questioned Einstein’s sexuality or masculinity because he did not boast a superior physical prowess. For the record, when I hear women that bemoan the existence of feminism as if standing up for equality is a bad thing, I laugh at just how misinformed they are about their own identity.
When my daughter has her first game, I will be that Dad watching the faces of those parents that I know steadfastly disagree that girls should play sports designated as “male.” I will laugh if my little running back leaves the sons of helicopter parents hovering over their little future princes, scratching their heads and wondering how and why a girl is playing on the opposing team. Regardless, I will scoop up my little girl and be proud of her not because she played a game typically reserved for “boys,” I will celebrate her wanting to be part of something, anything.
I can tell my girls how unstoppable they are and laud them at every turn, regardless if it is in the face of success or failure. I can encourage them to try, to be, to feel undeterred because of another person’s expectations. No, my youngest daughter will never run the football as a Philadelphia Eagle. That does not mean that I have the right to push them towards something else because it seems more fitting of their gender.
The idea that somehow girls cannot do something because they do not have the “right” genitals is preposterous. “Girls lack the strength to…(blah, blah, blah).” Perhaps, instead of the world expecting women to adhere to the antiquated musings of Emily Post, they acknowledge that 9.5 out of every 10 guys they know could not hold their own against people like Lt. Shaye Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest.
“Oh, you almost went into the Army Rangers? Cool story, bruh!”
Raising children in 2015 is definitely a lot different from when my parents tackled the task in the 80’s. As we become more and more absorbed in technology, we must work harder to counteract the negativity that social media injects directly into the minds of people each day. Children need the guidance to know that, while nothing is guaranteed in this world, just because someone says it cannot be done does not mean they are right.
My little girls, though they are not as little as they once were, deserve the chance to hear their Dad’s encouragement over the bloviating that monopolizes social media today. I will find the greatness in the nuances of my daughters and will do so without ever having to consider, “Hmmmm, is this something reserved only for men?” If peeing standing up is what they want, I’m afraid they are out of luck. Something else? Anything else? If X and Y chromosomes dictate how you see the world, just be prepared to one day to come across one of those radical females that will never buy into the archaic nature of gender roles.
Twelve years after proclaiming my daughter was a proper lady, I now know that I’m helping to raise proper humans. Imagine.