Putting it all on the table


(A belated response to a conversation that has had me thinking. One of those I wish I would have said kind of things.)

Yes, I am a feminist.  I know that some people are turned off by the word or the label but I have a hard time believing that most people don't want opportunities and options for both their daughters and their sons. As Anna Quindlen said, "(Feminism is) the expectations that parents have for their daughters and their sons, too. It's the way we talk about and treat one another." As a mother of two daughters and a son, I want them each to have a full range of options to choose from,  to develop the capacity to discern which options are best for them and to firmly support and encourage others to be able to do the same. I want them to know this:

1. I believe that men and women, boys and girls, should both have the same kinds of options on the table. No one should say--"well, now, I'm sorry but that's not really an option for your kind." I believe in leaving the choices up to individuals, who will select a different array of options & sequences to shape a life according to the dictates of their own consciences--sometimes those choices might trend along gender lines, sometimes not--but the table should be full of options for all. I chose early marriage and motherhood along with different seasons and combinations of full-time motherhood, part-time or full-time employment, and graduate schooling. I own those choices; they were mine and I made them. I'm grateful I could affirmatively choose my course and that it was not thrust upon me without my say. 

2. it's not for us to second guess or judge each other's choices. Every life is essentially constructed from a series of choices, with both benefits and costs. Own yours. Be secure in them.  Be the captain of your own ship but don't look around and assume your route is the only way for others to navigate the seas (see, now I've mixed tables and ships for metaphors. You get the picture.)

I cheered when my church recently adjusted the guidelines for serving volunteer missions so that young women can go at 19 rather than 21. It represented a move toward that kind of open table thinking that I hope for and embrace and it seemed to encourage individuals to figure out the whethers and whens of their lives instead of leaning on formulaic timing.  Lauren (remember, she's newly 19?) emailed and called that weekend, giddy with the additional heady choices that were suddenly hers.  

After a few days of reflection Lauren realized that she had been getting caught up in the flurry of excitement and that she had been looking to go not because she knew it was right for her but because she could. To her credit, after more contemplation and prayer, Lauren decided that what was right for her was to wait a bit longer to prepare and to continue on the course she had already set.  She's grateful for the opportunity--for having it on the table--and is thrilled for her friends who are going right away but is opting to choose a direction and timing that feels right to her. As her mother, I'm pleased--not just for the particulars of the choice (because either way would be wonderful) but especially for the discerning process of the choosing.  

Multiply that by countless decisions throughout a life. Now that's feminism. 

. . .

Having said all that, it's clear that everything is not on the table for every girl around the globe.  We know that by educating girls, we can change the world: change their communities, their lives, and their families for the better. I'm happy to see so many great organizations coming together to try to make it a reality for more girls. Here are some things we can do to help girls get to the table. Plus, there's a fantastic documentary coming soon: