I feel lucky. I can type the words “me too” and not suffer reoccurring trauma because I have not experienced sexual violence or assault. But as I reflect on my own experiences with sexual harassment, intimidation and threats, I wonder why I think I’m “lucky” that I only survived that.
Recently, I heard a group of amazing, accomplished women talking about how it could be worse and we are so much more protected than women in other countries. Sure, in a sense that is true. We don’t face FGM in this country. We are allowed to vote. We are allowed to drive. We are allowed to work. But another woman originally from the UK chimed in that she feels European women are far more liberated than American women- and I tend to agree.
You see, we feel “lucky” if our experiences with sexual harassment aren’t considered traumatic. We feel “lucky” that we get to keep our jobs if we have a baby, but not get paid. We feel “lucky” that a women gets to run for President but is treated differently because of her gender. And you know what, suddenly I don’t feel so lucky anymore.
Let me explain.
Sexism has been normalized in our country. There is an underlying narrative that we are to be quiet and not say anything or we will face public ridicule and shame and doubt and judgement if we come forward. We are told that if we are female then we must act a certain way, dress a certain way and not insert our opinion too much or we are bossy. Pop culture feeds the myth that women can’t support one another and that we are all gossip girls and don’t truly believe in each other. We have mommy wars and battle with comparison on social media and don’t know what to believe about ourselves, all because messages of self-doubt exist in our society.
I’ve decided that I’m not going to let my daughters believe this false narrative.
They were born for a purpose. God loves them fiercely and has created them to change the world for His good. Their intelligence should never be put on the back burner so that they are more “likable.” What they wear or how they dress should never be a topic of conversation. They are leaders. They love, they fight, they laugh, they cry. They are made in God’s perfect image.
So this is my promise to my daughters. I am going to fight. I am going to call out inequality when I see it. I’m not going to let them believe that all they can be when they grow up is a Princess. I’m going to ask them about their dreams, their goals and what they are learning. I am going to encourage them to love each other fiercely and boldly and without hesitation. I am going to take them to political events and let them know that their voice counts and if they want to be President than I’m going to be the first person putting up yard signs and taking down the internet trolls.
I’m going to be fighting for paid maternity AND paternity leave. (Because lets get real- dads deserve time at home with their little ones too.) I’m going to be fighting for equal pay. I’m going to blast the critics and the subconscious sexism women face - even in this great country. Because while it is great, it is not perfect.
There are more Ugandan women in their government than there are in ours. Women in Kenya are guaranteed paid maternity leave. Women in Iceland have equal pay. Women, have since the beginning of time, changed the world and I’m going to make sure they believe that and I will champion that with every fiber of my being.
I want them to encourage and support their girlfriends. I want them cheering them on free of jealously, insecurities and doubt. I want them to know they can accomplish anything that God puts on their hearts because I have no doubt that they can.
My promise to my Addison and my Emma is that I will stand in the gap for other women. Both here in America and in other nations where women are denied a voice. My promise to my Addison and my Emma is that I will champion my girlfriends. My promise to my Addison and my Emma is that I will say enough is enough when I or someone else is sexually harassed. Our home will be a safe place for women to come when others doubt their story. My promise to my Addison and my Emma is that I will expose them to great women who, despite all the naysayers, are pursuing God’s call on their lives.
To their Auntie Biscuits- we love you and we are so proud of you. Thank you for being an example of a woman of faith who can and will lead a church one day.
To their Auntie Cinelle- we love you and we are so proud of you. Thank you for being an advocate for all people and for sharing your story.
To their Auntie April- we love you and we are so proud of you. Thank you for being vulnerable and always ready to spring into action when we need you.
To their Auntie Martha- we love you and we are so proud of you. Thank you for pursuing your dreams and doing work that will surely change the lives of women around the world.
To their Grandmas and Aunties- we love you and are so grateful for you. Thank you for always encouraging our girls and calling them little diplomats or future Presidents upon my request.
To all the women in their lives now and in the future - we love you. Thank you for being true to yourself. Know that we will always believe in you and demand better. Together, we will replace “me too” with “no more.”
*Note: Please know that we wouldn’t be where we are today without the amazing men in our lives. Josh, my husband, is an advocate for equality and loves his girls better than anyone I know. My dad is my biggest supporter and he has always encouraged me to stand up to those who may disagree and pursue my dreams anyways. Anthony, one of my best friends, is the kindest guy you will ever meet and has always made me feel safe and pulled out a chair so I could have a seat at the table.
**Also note: I’m not saying your daughters can’t love pink and dress up as princesses and want to get married and have kids and all the things. I’m simply saying that I don’t want our girls living in a world where pop culture only gives them the option of being a damsel in distress. I’m truly grateful for resources like A Mighty Girl and Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. Together, we can change the world wearing pink with a baby on our hip- after all, that’s how it’s always been done.