"The girl and the woman, in their new, individual unfolding, will only in passing be imitators of male behavior and misbehavior and repeaters of male professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions, it will become obvious that women were going through the abundance and variation of those (often ridiculous) disguises just so that they could purify their own essential nature and wash out the deforming influences of the other sex. Women, in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately, more fruitfully, and more confidently, must surely have become riper and more human in their depths than light, easygoing man, who is not pulled down beneath the surface of life by the weight of any bodily fruit and who, arrogant and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves. This humanity of woman, carried in her womb through all her suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she has stripped off the conventions of mere femaleness in the transformations of her outward status, and those men who do not yet feel it approaching will be astonished by it. Someday (and even now, especially in the countries of northern Europe, trustworthy signs are already speaking and shining), someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only life and reality: the female human being." Rilke
is that there is something about being a woman that she may never understand. There is pain and humiliation and frustration and confusion and sensitivity and deep emotion in being a woman, and that she may not ever fully understand the what and why of it. I want to tell her that it will be difficult to sort through the conflicted feelings and the prejudices and the assumptions and the well-hidden slights against her. I wish that I could also tell her that it will all be alright, that she will understand it all so perfectly well one day, and that soon others will understand and she will feel less alone. I don’t yet think I can tell her that, though.
I will tell her to make deep bonds with her girlfriends. I will tell her to cling to other women for support and understanding. I will tell her to trust herself and her instincts and to never stop exploring what it means to be a woman, however far away answers seem to be. I will tell her that I understand, that all women understand on some level. I will tell her to write about it, to think about it, and to feel it. I will tell her to be proud of being a woman and to project that proud image of what she genuinely is, as a woman and a person, to the world in hopes that our gender will be less misunderstood. I will tell her to read books by Nicole Krauss, Betty Friedan, Sloane Crosley, the funny women of my generation, the strong women of my mother’s generation, and the even smarter women of her own generation.
I will tell her that this thing, this complicated nest of feeling and thought, created not by her but by those around her, is part of her whether she wants it or not. I will tell her that it is not fair, but that it is part of her and that I understand the pain in that. And we will both hope for the best, and we will do our best, together, with every other woman in the world.
Sarah Sophie Flicker writes this article about mother-daughter relationships, about being a role model for her 4-year-old, and most specifically about how she balances her love of sparkly, pretty, “girly” things with being a feminist and a smart woman.
“We’ve all heard and seen examples of mothers who gave up too much, fell into depression, resented the role of only being a mother, etc. I think about this and how lucky I am to have so many more choices. How lucky I am to be alive at a time in history where men are expected to parent as much as women. How lucky I am to be married to a partner who is an amazing father and shares responsibilities with me 100%. How lucky I am that the notion that women have to be the same as men to be equal to them has virtually disappeared. How lucky I am to know that it’s OK to be smart and girly and vulnerable. This all comes back to raising a daughter for me.”