Change with a capital G

January 10th, 2008

Did she win? Can we vote? Is it time?

We pause for this political message, which I hope is not political.

My daughter has always had an interest in the election process. She learned to read by sounding out the Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers in the preschool parking lot. She has accompanied us to the polls. Of course she’s aware of laws, and wars, and her parents’ occasional invocation of the former and abiding aversion for the latter. Her reaction sweetly mirrored our despair when she said in 2004, “Have we ever voted for anyone who won?”

This season I am not particularly attracted to any candidate and repelled by only a few. You can see how I’m teetering on the knife’s edge of an opinion. I am inspired, however, by my daughter, because she is purely, gleefully, hopelessly, and totally for the girl.

Perhaps this is the state of mind when you’re a girl in the state of 8. She and her friends are totally, unabashedly, fearlessly girls. And by that I don’t mean anything in particular, but that they are completely free and unafraid to love themselves. They love themselves and they love each other. They adore one another. They hug and kiss each other endlessly. They have not yet acquired any reason to withhold themselves, to judge themselves as too this or too that, to hide any part of their hearts or minds. Of course they notice the boys, they like them too, in silly ways that you can tell will soon be too much.

“The boys all love me but I only love Amy,” she said last year in first grade.

This year she has new crushes and allegiances, and one of them is Hillary. “Because she would be the first lady president!” she says while jumping up and down. In her unbiased and uninformed view I see something I no longer see in myself and hardly anywhere else.
I see a place that I fled, through pain, cynicism and calculation, many, many years ago. I see the place that my daughter herself may abandon as she feels the weight and strictures of the world we live in. I see the Girl’s Team, and I wonder if I shouldn’t glance back over with an open mind.

I don’t call myself a feminist. I try not to call myself anything. And believe it or not, to be a Buddhist is to work your whole life on getting rid of the -ist. And so I read with unexpected awe this eye-opening essay by Gloria Steinem earlier this week, “Women are Never Front-Runners.” Oh, I know what the arguments are, the feelings, the hunches, the dislikes, the gossip, the distaste. But when I see the brutal lash of cynicism, the extraordinary criticism, the arrogant, all-knowing, analytical, dismissive discounting of what and who this woman is, I flinch. I flinch because we are so much harder on her than the boys. Have I been this hard on myself, just for being a girl? Am I sending my daughter into this cruelty, where she will never again jump up and down for the girl?

In short, when my girl speaks, I listen because there is a message in it for me. There’s a message in everything that comes our way.

The other night I told my daughter that the girl might not even be a candidate for president, and I told her who it might be.

“Would he be the first African-American president?” she asked.


“Cool!” she said, her eyes once again twinkling with the possibilities.


  1. Since I will never have my own daughter, can I unofficially adopt yours as my very own delightfully girl guru?
    Seriously, this post made me happy to be a girl and made me ache, knowing firsthand the shame that come from this.

    Comment by bella — January 10, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

  2. Let’s make it official Bella. We are both so grateful for your love and appreciation. And she also happens to get a kick out of Chicago.

    Comment by Karen — January 10, 2008 @ 9:23 pm

  3. A girl club! How wonderful. I remember loving my girlfriends like that. Before that insecurity thing made me wonder if they really loved me back. 🙂

    She’s got my eyes twinkling with possibility, too.

    Comment by Shannon — January 11, 2008 @ 2:07 am

  4. I guess I’m still 8 ’cause I can’t stop giggling to myself about the idea of a girl as our prez. It is so much bigger than anything any of us can ever imagine and that is why it is worth jumping up and down about.

    Comment by Shawn — January 11, 2008 @ 2:38 am

  5. Gloria Steinem is a pretty solid sort of feminist. “Revolution from Within” is (as I recall, I read it long ago) a book about giving up the ideas we have about ourselves or that others have about us and finding freedom. It leads off with the Milton quote: “The mind is its own place, and in itself // Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.” And it has meditation and inter-connectedness (as well as weight-lifting) in it.

    It would be a genuine pleasure to vote for either leading candidate, but having worked for so long for the glorious feminist revolution leading to government by grandmothers, I will most likely be voting for Senator Clinton with a thrilling sense of optimism. My seven year old daughter seems to be a Hilary supporter as well, but seems less interested than in 2004 for some reason. Perhaps being let down by Kerry was a caution.

    Comment by Chris Austin-Lane — January 11, 2008 @ 3:06 am

  6. i love your girl’s ability to see the possibility, the joy, the wonder in these things. may we all find that sense of potential even though the res t of the world may not agree. i read that piece by ms. steinem and i’m still not sure…

    Comment by Phyllis Sommer — January 11, 2008 @ 4:41 am

  7. I spent a lot time in my high school and college days in women’s studies/feminst type classes and groups and all that. But in my adulthood I have this boy, this wonderful boy, and…well…I don’t even know what to say, but I see boys so differently now. Thank goodness.

    But I’m thrilled about this race and the possibilities I used to think were impossible.

    Comment by Lin — January 11, 2008 @ 6:49 am

  8. Ooops. Tht isn’t Lin writing above, but me. Just thought that should be clear.

    Comment by marta — January 11, 2008 @ 1:24 pm

  9. great post. i am right there with you.

    ‘firsts’ are exciting…and hopefully there will be one. I am hopefull it will be the latter. 😉


    Comment by Stella — January 11, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

  10. Cool, indeed.

    Comment by Who She She — January 11, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

  11. Friends, is this a great nation or what? Georgia and I are heartened by your comments and enthusiasm. Of course I do not mean to suggest the merit of either versus or. A him versus a her. I only wish to widen my mind see it all evenly.

    And Georgia would like me to note that she collects Pokemon cards as is our equal and inherent privilege.

    Comment by Karen — January 11, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

  12. Great post! I have been discusssssing this with my two boys and they are rooting for the girl too. They think the world would be more sensitive if a girl was in charge.

    I’m proud of my boys for saying that.


    Comment by Be Inspired Always — January 11, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

  13. Georgia’s girl love rocks.

    “They have not yet acquired any reason to withhold themselves, to judge themselves as too this or too that, to hide any part of their hearts or minds.”

    This makes me jump up and down!

    xo Jena

    Comment by Jena Strong — January 11, 2008 @ 6:14 pm

  14. Thank you for pointing me to the Steinem article.

    “What worries me is that male Iowa voters were seen as gender-free when supporting their own, while female voters were seen as biased if they did and disloyal if they didn’t.”

    We’re harder on Hillary, and we’re harder on ourselves.

    Comment by Mama Zen — January 11, 2008 @ 7:04 pm

  15. Good article by Steinem. And I am glad I am Canadian. Unfortunately, there is no escaping the future: eventually our little girls will want to lose weight.

    Comment by Mika — January 11, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

  16. So true Mika, and it’s not necessarily a problem. Weight is usually something good to lose, and so is wait, and so is white.

    Losing it all? That’s the same as winning!

    Comment by Karen — January 11, 2008 @ 7:24 pm

  17. I’m with your daughter — I feel like I’ve been jumping up and down with tears of excitement and joy in my eyes for months now. I can’t wait to cast my vote for a woman for president, even though my kids call me “Barack Obama Mama” because they think the words sound funny together. 🙂

    Comment by Mary P Jones (MPJ) — January 12, 2008 @ 5:22 am

  18. Karen, I have something for you at my blog!

    Comment by Mama Zen — January 12, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

  19. I’m teetering on the edge of an opinion too. I hope I figure it out by election time.

    Comment by Moanna — January 12, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

  20. Well good. Official it is.
    I’ll be sending my official thank-you to her soon.

    Comment by bella — January 13, 2008 @ 12:54 am

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