Apart from the fact that my mom is just super awesome, I have her to thank for so much. The older I get, the more I appreciate how she raised me. She didn’t only empower me, she did so many little things that didn’t disempower me.
As a kid, I was never told that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. I would hear other girls say that and I would just be confused, I didn’t understand how being a girl was relevant. Now, however, I see how that shaped the personality of a lot of women – being afraid to walk alone at night because they are female; not believing that they can use power tools well because they are female.
I was a tomboy (hell, I still am). I liked to play in dirt, I ate worms, I climbed trees, I played with cars and firecrackers. I was never told that I wasn’t allowed to do those things, I was just told to be careful. When I got hurt, I was treated just like the boys and told to “walk it off”, unless it was a serious injury. I never got in trouble for getting hurt, in less I was actually being careless or negligent. I was never discouraged from going back to marginally dangerous activities (think: climbing and jumping out of trees).
I can’t even imagine how differently my life would have been if my mom had brought stupid gender stereotypes into it.
I was never taught that I would be victimized because I was a girl. Yes, there are certain precautions to take to avoid being victimized, but men have to take precautions too, maybe different ones, but still. Just because I am a girl didn’t mean that I couldn’t stand up for myself, or protect myself. Nor did it mean that I had to limit my opportunities in order to stay safe.
When I was 19 there was a man sexually assaulting women in my neighbourhood, he would hide in the bushes and accost women walking alone at night, he would then grope and molest them. He had been doing this for about 3 weeks. I went out one night with my then boyfriend and got super drunk(!), and walked home from the bus stop around 2am.
My mother knew that I was going out to the bar and would likely be intoxicated when I came home. She didn’t tell me not to drink because of this guy. She didn’t tell me not to go. She told me to be careful and to call her if I needed anything.
I was careful. While walking on the quiet side streets, I walked up the middle of the road. That way, if this guy tried to come out of the bushes, I would have some reaction time to run away or prepare to fight him.
I love that example because I continue to live my life, I will walk along at night in seedy areas. I am always careful, I am always alert, but I am not afraid. Sure, I could still get victimized in some way, but that is a risk I am willing to take, I don’t want to miss out on life.
It would have been so easy for my mom to instill fear in me. She could have repeatedly brought up the cases of sexual assault. She could have told me over and over that she was worried about me being out alone at night. She could have asked if going out was really worth it. But she didn’t she empowered me to make my own choices, and let me trust my judgement.