Now, more than ever, bringing a female into this world is an experience rich with hope and fraught with fear. I found out I was pregnant with you days after we elected a president who could not show less respect toward our gender if he tried. I wondered, “How will I raise a child in this world?” It’s a question I have asked myself before. And I thought, “I will raise them up so that no words of cruelty or disrespect have a chance at tearing them down.”
When I found out you were a girl, I was elated and scared. I know what a gift it is to be a woman. A woman who can do anything a man can and so much more. You are a giver of life, of sustenance, of warmth and empathy. You are an analytical thinker who can balance a million different trains of thought in a microsecond. You have a body and mind capable of producing life and milk and revolutionary thoughts and wisdom and philosophy and community. You are a matriarch in the making. You are everything.
But the truth is, these gifts aren’t always recognized or respected. In this life, some things will be harder for you. I wish with all my heart this wasn’t so. You may fear walking on a dark street, endlessly checking over your shoulder as if you were prey. You may be called a bitch if you speak your mind too frequently and fervently. If you run for office, your outfits may be scrutinized alongside your policies. You may hesitate to raise your hand in an advanced placement high school class, feeling like an imposter while the boys’ hands shoot up freely, without hesitation or forethought. You may be excluded and ostracized by your own gender for not having the right clothes or being too outspoken. You may be called a slut for enjoying the same pleasures men are encouraged to pursue. You may be denied the right to choose what happens to your own body. You may feel less than. I pray that you won’t ever feel these things. I pray for a world in which we surpass these inequities. I will raise you to know that they aren’t real.
When I saw the negative reactions to the women’s march, from men claiming women should get back in the kitchen to other women criticizing a woman’s right to choose, I realized we haven’t come nearly as far as my own mother raised me to believe. She told me I was smart, capable, strong, powerful and beautiful. I believed her. I hope you will believe me when I tell you that you are those things, too. Your great-grandmother was the first woman to see rocks from the moon in person. She was an editor at the American Medical Association. You can be anything you want to be. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Or let them, but then prove them wrong. In my study groups in law school, I often felt like I was less than the men reading alongside me. Then I received the best grade in the class and I realized they didn’t even need to believe I was less than, I had internalized that message on my own. Your brain is just as powerful. Your will is just as strong. Your conviction can move mountains. You will succeed at anything you put your mind to. I hope those little voices of patriarchal doubt never whisper in your ears.
I know sometimes it will be easy to get distracted by being called beautiful or wanting to look a certain way. As much as I strive not to succumb to those expectations, I know they are always there and the pressure can be debilitating. In addition to being smart and brave, we are expected to look a certain way. Recently, I was talking to your grandmother about how we are expected to always be thin without wrinkles no matter our age. Please know that what makes you different makes you beautiful. I spent so much time worrying about how I thought my nose was too big, that I was too short, thinking my ears stick out too much, fretting that my skin was imperfect. Even reading that sentence now, I realize how much energy and time I’ve wasted worrying about what society has told me are “flaws.” Fuck that, dear daughter. Never change for anyone but yourself. You are perfect just the way you are.
Sometimes people will make you feel less than. Unfortunately, many times, those people may be other women. Try your hardest not to succumb to feeling judgment or acting cruelly at the expense of anyone, especially another woman. We have enough to fight against without fighting one another. Often it’s our perceived differences that cause us to reject other women. Embrace those differences and don’t feel threatened by them. The best feeling in the world is unconditional love and support from your friends. Find women that make you love yourself for the chinks in your armor, that never make you feel judged, that empower you, and love them back fiercely through all the storms of your lives.
Finally, men. The best men are like your daddy, and your grandpas who you will never get to meet. They support the women in their lives and love them fiercely. They recognize your independence and your strength and empower you to be the best version of yourself. They listen to your fears and doubts but inspire you to be bold and brave even in the most challenging situations. They view your needs and goals as equal to their own. They never discourage you from achieving your potential so that they can reach theirs. They know you operate differently and respect, rather than belittle, those differences. They know that your body is your own and you have the right to choose what happens to it. They would never try to tell you otherwise. They are warm and filled with love for you and never make you feel less than.
My dear daughter, I pray you recognize what a gift it is to be a woman. I hope you are always surrounded by love and support from the men and women in your life. If I can give you one piece of advice, of motherly wisdom, I need you to know that you are never less than. Your dreams, your goals, your feelings are never something to hide or bury for the sake of others. Your voice is just as valid and your convictions just as compelling. Never let anyone make you feel differently. You are smart, capable, strong, powerful and beautiful. You are a woman.