But I was also terrified.
The idea of raising a girl in an image obsessed culture, that trivializes and objectifies women caused more than a few sleepless nights. And now, as I look at Maya about to turn a year old, I realize that it's only a matter of time before the limitations and expectations our society places on all women and girls will rest on her tiny shoulders.
When well meaning friends and family tell her she's beautiful I secretly cringe inside. Are their good intentions already teaching her that her worth is based solely on what she looks like?
It's hard, not to tell a sweet little girl in one if those adorable outfits, that she's beautiful. To comment on how pretty she looks. I do it, we all do. But are these comments the beginnings of a sense of self slowly consumed by image and appearance?
I know how conscious I always am of how I look to others. I know that I believe my value in their eyes increases or decreases based on how I look each day. But it's not just others perceived perceptions that are the problem. My sense of worth in my own eyes is directly tied into my outer self. Honestly, it's only a recent development that I've begun to give any credence to my inner self. Do I want my daughter to wait until she's in her 30s to understand that her true value lies beneath the surface? And the sadder thought is that if she does, then she would be one of the lucky ones. Many women go through their whole lives without ever truly realizing that truth.
To me, my daughter is perfect, inside and out, and always will be so. But to her, in her own mind, her own heart, where it truly matters, what will she believe? And will that belief lead her into making bad life decisions? Will she not study as hard in school because she doesn't believe her mind is of any value? Will she starve herself in an attempt to obtain an unobtainable ideal? Will she stay in a relationship with someone who hurts her because she believes she deserves no better?
I recently watched the documentary Miss Representation and I was inspired and ignited. As a mother, I have a responsibility to teach my daughter to look both ways before she crosses the street and not to speak to strangers. To say please and thank you and always eat her veggies. But it's also my responsibility as a mother, and first and foremost as a woman, to nurture her confidence and applaud her intelligence. To teach her that however she may look on the outside, it's on the inside that she is the most beautiful.
And it's not just a responsibility I feel to my daughter, but to all daughters. We can never expect to be treated with respect if we don't first treat ourselves and other woman with respect. When our daughters see us taking down ourselves in the mirror, or hear us making derogatory comments about other women, the cycle continues. We become weak, and the weak are easy prey, easy targets of politicians and advertisers and anyone else who stands to profit from the oppression of a people.
Women will never find true equality until we truly believe that we are equal. And if we don't see the value of standing up for ourselves, then no one else will. We must be the change, for Maya's sake, and the sake of young girls everywhere. May they always be fully aware of their own unique perfection and may they never need to be told they can be whatever they want, because of course they can.