I am the grandmother of an eight-year-old girl. Technically, she is my step-granddaughter, though the distinction makes no difference, I assure you. Her mother is my stepdaughter and beloved friend. Her first few years have not been idyllic. And she’s had to learn to be a little tougher than I would like, a little earlier than I would like. I’ll just leave it there. But she is, without a doubt, the most beautiful, accomplished, intelligent person I know.
It’s not subtle. Her through-and-through awesomeness hits you in the face the moment you meet her, from her sweet face to her gap-toothed smile, her physical awkwardness to her much-too-grownup-for-her-age conversation, her inquisitiveness, her kindness, her thoughtfulness, her sharing, her ever-present suitcase full of stuffed animals, her tongue-biting concentration as she masters the (adult) climbing wall at the gym, and the complete abandon with which she throws her arms around her granny every time we meet.
I want her to go through the entirety of her life that way. I want everyone, men and women to think — perhaps for different reasons — “Wow! She’s awesome! I wish I could get to know her.” And, in future years, if the occasional “varray, parfit, gentil knyght” wants to walk up to her and pay her a compliment to that effect, I think that’s great. And I hope he does, too.
Here’s the rub: We do not live in a perfect world, and not everything can always be as we wish it. Nor can we live a life expecting that we will never be put into a situation that makes us uncomfortable.
I simply do not believe that taking all of the preceding statements as a given (and they are), somehow puts a gag on me and prevents me, or any woman, from saying — as appropriate — “Wow, this is just plain wrong,” or “Gosh, I would like this to be different, and perhaps I can make it so,” or “You know, I’d really prefer it if you didn’t say (or do) that.”
None of these responses, in any way, in any situation, implies rudeness. None implies meanness. None implies litigiousness. None implies hate. None implies anything other than what it says, relative to a particular instance at a particular time.
All each of them implies is that I, as a free human being, have the right to say what I think, pleasantly and politely, to another free human being, about how I feel.
My dream for her is that she lives in a world where she has that right, and that she’s able to do that. Actually, that world already exists. My real dream for her is that she’s not vilified when she exercises that right, particularly by those of her own sex who view it as their mission to make her feel bad for stepping on what they see as the only path to true womanhood, and who think she is nothing but a fool, or a joyless scold, or a man-hating troll.
Because, believe me, nothing could be further from the truth. There is not, and never will be, a canker of that sort on her soul.
Note: I first posted this on Ricochet, almost five years ago. I’d been there quite a while by then, but I was still a bit shy about posting my own stuff, and I think the over eighty comments it garnered might have made it my most popular effort to that point.
Well, maybe “popular” is the wrong word.
It was something of a response to a few posts which had generated a lot of discussion around the subject of whether or not it was ever appropriate for a woman who felt uncomfortable when she was on the receiving end of a male compliment to say so. Many, more female than male I think, seemed to think that it was inappropriate, and that turning away any such compliment, for any reason, was the mark of a joyless, sexless, man-hating, scold.
I love a nice, well-intentioned compliment, from a nice, well-intentioned man, myself (especially at my age, when they’re few and far between, LOL). And I think any woman should. But I also think there’s a time and a place for everything, and if I think someone’s busting through inappropriate boundaries, or invading my personal space a little too much, I’m going to say so. Politely, and firmly. I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with doing so. In fact, I think I owe it to myself. And that was really the point, and the only point, of my post.
Five years on, I still think I’m correct in that. And in the context of current events, perhaps even more so. Better to teach the young people of both sexes to behave decently, to treat each other with respect and to speak to each other kindly; while at the same time, teaching them to stand up for themselves, and to deal with it themselves, when they run into a weirdo, a cad, a nasty bitch, or a jackass; than it is to terrify entire generations into silence and isolation for fear that someone will take “offense” from a pleasant, perfectly innocent, well-meant remark which might then end a career, or result in someone’s cancellation from social media.
Apparently, though, the word “feminist” in the original post title, even though I set it off with quotes–which I thought would indicate a certain ironic flair, je ne sais quoi, or that I was, perhaps, using it a bit irreverently–triggered a few people who, apparently can’t see or hear the word “feminist” anywhere without totally losing their shit or becoming incoherent and accusatory. Many of them are the same people who scoff at the Left’s claim that there are words whose use–because of some real or imagined emotional charge they supposedly carry with them–constitutes “violence.” But just try saying “feminist” around these people (oddly, the most rabid of them seem to be women), and watch what happens. They take “offense.” LOL.
It ain’t pretty when it happens. And neither are they.
Today, I’m 66, my granddaughter is 13, and she’ll be entering eighth grade in the fall (tempus fugit). She’s still the most awesome young woman I know, and if in the future one of those nice, well-intentioned fellows, that “varray parfit gentil knyght” I mentioned above captures her heart, he’ll be a very lucky guy indeed. And she’ll be a very lucky lady. I hope I live to see the day.