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What It Takes To Raise Powerful Girls

I have two daughters. I’m committed to raising them to be healthy, happy and whole. I work to keep them safe, to guide them towards kindness and compassion, to teach them self-reliance and courage.

I’ve rarely thought of “power” as something I want to bequeath to these girls.

Yet, when I saw that McSweeney’s had published a credo for raising a powerful girl, I read it eagerly. They were, I suspected, addressing the kind of parent I want to be, speaking about the kind of girls I want to raise.

And how. Reading it was like being punched in the heart, in the best way.

This is no simple advice column. Rather than focusing on getting girls into athletics or teaching them a grade-school version of Women’s Studies 101, the author, Amy Fusselman, focuses on you. The mama in this story.

Her two big pieces of advice:

1. Thoroughly and fearlessly examine whether you are truly willing to nurture and support the development of a girl who is more powerful than you. You are likely to encounter some ambivalence in yourself. Remember that in raising a powerful daughter you will also become more powerful; this may make many people close to you unhappy. Are you really willing to do this? Complete honesty in this regard will help you immensely.

2. Examine your own relationship to power. Are you or have you ever been in an abusive relationship? Have you ever been threatened, abused, molested, or raped? If so, have you healed or are you working on it? Can you make your own decisions? Can you stand up for yourself? If you are in a partnership, is it with someone who respects and encourages your power? Ask yourself these questions. Work with the answers you find.

She goes on to offer some very grounded and good advice about how to apply these lessons to your parenting, and devotes the second half of her column to a reader’s question about desire. Go read it; it’s great. I’ll be here.

Back? OK, good.

Ready to ask yourself these hards questions? For me, the answers are complicated. A thorough and fearless examination of myself in as a woman and a mother is impossible. Sorry, Amy, I’m genuinely afraid of what I’ll find there.

That’s not going to stop me from attempting to raise girls more powerful than I am. As a survivor of sexual assault and abuse, my goal has always been to raise up children who are stronger and healthier and safer than I was, better able to know where their boundaries are and defend them.

Raising them to be powerful seems to go a step further; I’m hearing it as a call to action to give our girls not just the tools to keep themselves safe but the inspiration and faith in themselves needed to transform the world. Tall order, but there it is.

Just yesterday, I published my parenting manifesto. Today, I see what a work in progress that is, because here is something that needs to be added to it: I will raise you to be powerful.

It’s a tricky business to imagine, giving a girl child more power than her mother has or had. How can it be managed? I think it has to be a combination of honoring women’s power in your family culture – reading and sharing stories of powerful women, expecting and respecting power in yourself and in your girls, and working hard as an activist to kick down real and metaphorical blocks to women’s power.

Not only do my kids deserve to grow up with a healthy sense of their own might, they deserve to grow up in a world that sees and respects that power. That means it’s my job to fight for better legal protections for working women and for families, to combat rape culture, to stay politically engaged in issues like that will affect my daughters as they grow to adulthood.

I want them to be confident in their bodies, to be brave and loud with their ideas, to be powerful in their passions. I also want them to have paid maternity leaves and safety from street harassment and equal pay for equal work.

I’m grateful to Amy Fusselman for focusing my attention on the ways power works in my life and my kids’ lives. I’m committed to raising powerful girls. I feel that doing that means modeling for them power of my own, both in my personal life and by engaging with the larger social and political sphere.

How do you raise powerful girls? What do you think of Amy’s credo?

image: iStock

 

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