Over the past few months (and especially the last few weeks) my family’s dinner table conversation has often centered on politics. And while it’s hard to manage a toddler’s myriad questions while dishing the dirt on the latest affront to my reproductive rights and simultaneously dishing out curried chicken and rice, I managed. It’s amazing how able you become to maintain a train of thought while responding to constant interruptions when you frequently dine with a 3 year old.
To be fair, her interruptions often took the form of pretty great questions:
“Is insert-candidate’s-name-here bad?”
“What is evil?”
“Does the White House have a slide? ”
One of these produces much more clear-cut Google search results than the others. But all of them (and the dozens of others not listed here) really got me thinking in new ways about what I believe and why. Living with my 3 year old is the closest parallel experience I’ve found to my time in college as a philosophy student. It’s fun, challenging, and a little fuzzy in terms of accomplishments or productivity.
We talked about how candidates have different ideas about how to help people who need help. We talked a little bit about race. We talked about being a leader and being responsible for big things.
The thing that we talked about most was the issue of being in charge of our own bodies. Ida knows that she is in charge of her own body, and that she is not allowed to use her body to control other peoples’ bodies. Ida knows that her body is her own. She knows that it’s strong and capable. In trying to explain my obvious frustration with rich and powerful men trying to boss my body around, I told Ida that some people who want to be leaders think they should be in charge of women’s bodies in some important ways. “That’s not allowed”, she said. I agreed and said that Ida’s dad and I don’t think that’s okay, so we’re going to vote for other leaders who think women should be in charge of their own bodies.
The conversation continued, but later she announced, “I don’t want to grow up.” I asked her why, and she said, “I don’t want to be a woman.”
Anyone who’s lived with a toddler can attest to the fact that it’s entirely possible that these ideas weren’t at all connected in her mind, but I saw her face that evening and I think she was afraid. I think she imagined what it would feel like for someone else to be in charge of her body and she didn’t like it – it struck her as wrong and out of line with everything she’s been taught. So her solution was to not become a woman.
So after months of feeling only righteously angry about these egregious attacks on women’s rights, that night I became so sad. For a minute, I regretted talking about any of this with Ida at all. And like so many times before, I wondered if I had made a mistake. But while I watched her walk away from the table and return to a puzzle she had been working on earlier, I realized that I didn’t do anything wrong. I was just sad. Because I know how she feels. I’m the mother of a daughter and sometimes I am made painfully aware that there is little I can do to stop the train of unfair patriarchal BS that’s screaming down the rails headed right for her. All of us know what it feels like, to be hit by it, to see it’s familiar shape pass through our lives. The idea that this will happen to my awesome girl is so very sad and scary.
For months, many of us have been carrying around a low-to-medium-to-high-grade fear. We’ve been thinking “what if?” and imagining how it would feel to have basic rights and self-control wrenched out of our hands and guts. The fear that comes from somebody’s dad or brother casting a vote for a man who thinks that there are some rapes that are legitimate and others that aren’t. This morning, we woke up with a little relief. And for some of us, we woke up and discovered just how afraid we really were to be women.
Hopefully today feels a little less scary. Hopefully the culture that incubated some of these horrific views of women and our lesser rights will continue to change. Hopefully Ida will decide soon that being a woman one day sounds just fine.