When I found out I was having a girl, I immediately started thinking about all the ways I - as her feminist mother - would empower her. She would grow up seeing her mom in roles of spiritual leadership! She would be raised in an egalitarian household! She would be praised for her talents not her looks! She would be encouraged to listen to and follow her call!
I also had a list of things I wanted her to know and recognize about me. That she'd somehow be grateful for or impressed by the person I've worked hard to become; an example of following your dreams, accomplishing things, and subverting stereotypes. She would learn about her value as a girl and woman not just by what we told her but also by seeing it in action in my life.
Of course I knew in the back of my mind that she wouldn’t care about these things; kids never do, they’re not supposed to. And the more I started thinking about it, the more I realized I don’t want her to care about these things. Junia will see me as her mom, Ryan as her dad, and her life as her life. It will just be the way it is.
This reality is more powerful and weighty than my delusion about my baby appreciating her gender neutral nursery, or that her mom is gone several weeks every year serving as a military chaplain. She will likely experience these and many other things as simply normal parts of her childhood.
And I want it to be that way. I’ve spent much of my life fighting to be different: from carving out a path as a feminist theologian to making intentional decisions about what I want my life to look like. Now I want these differences to be the new normal for Junia. I don’t want to have to explain what a feminist is, because I want her to grow up assuming that there are equal opportunities available to her in life.
I understand that this is also a type of delusion, because conversely I don’t want to raise her in a bubble. I want to name injustice where we see it and fight against it. I recognize it will somehow be a balancing act between nurturing her in this environment, and educating her about what to expect from the world. As part of her education about expectation, I intend to make it clear that having her assumptions challenged is ok, even good.
So I don’t want her to care about being a feminist because I want her to make certain positive assumptions about being a woman. I realize those assumptions will inevitably be challenged - by people who don’t agree with them, by a culture that hasn’t caught up to them. And I hope I provide her with a framework and a space to wrestle with these assumptions and challenges while never questioning her inherent worth as a person and value in the world.
Maybe when she’s older and more capable of introspection she’ll realize that “her life” was really a series of "deliberate choices" Ryan and I made - some wise, and some, inevitably, poor. But in some sense I hope that she doesn’t recognize a need for feminism, and instead feels that equality and empowerment should be default states for all people.