I want my daughter to be a rebel.
And I'm going to rebel right along side her.
In fact, I'm going to be her role model for rebellion.
I do realize that rebel has a negative connotation. Rebels are the bad girls or boys: the misbehaved, the troublemakers, the noncomformists. And yet, I'm proud to say that my daughter is growing up to be kind, honest, and aware. There is not a single bad thing about her. And I plan on her staying that way.
So, let's forget connotation.
Merriam-Webster's definition for rebellious is:
1. fighting against a government
2. refusing to obey rules or authority or to accept normal standards of behavior, dress, etc.: having or showing a tendency to rebel.
And if we're going to be real, and if we're going to be candid, the truth is, that despite the progress women have made, history and the present both clearly demonstrate that we are the lowest "man" on the totem pole. Though, what we have yet to embrace and what the world has yet to comprehend is that the foundation is what supports the whole structure. Women may as well be the Atlases of the world. So, embrace it. It may be heavy as hell, but it's ours.
So, when I say that I want my daughter to be a rebel, what I mean is that I want her to be strong, independent, ambitious, and herself. I want her to be a fighter for what she wants and believes in; I want her to follow her path, despite anyone who may discourage her; I want her to know she has claim to her own life and her future, and that it is her decision whether she shares it with another. Her choices are her own - her choices in career, in her sex-life; she will not lie down for anyone, unless she chooses to do so. She will not be a woman who needs a man to tell her what to do; she will not be a woman who desires to be taken care of. And that. That will make her a rebel.
Being comfortable in our bodies, being confident in our thoughts, in our words, in our actions, that will make us all rebels.
For Christmas, I bought Mackenzie this little crowdfunded and independently published book I somehow stumbled upon on social media - Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women, written and compiled by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, illustrated by 60 different female artists from around the world. And at 31, as I'm reading these stories to my 5-year-old, I finally understood what Favilli and Cavallo obviously already did - that women's stories of success should be our daughters' fairy tales. Instead of wishing for a prince to kiss them awake from an eternal slumber or save them from an evil witch, our daughters should be learning to save themselves by exploiting their own talents and intellects. Our girls require an anti-fairy tale, one in which the the girl is her own hero, and a realistic one at that - a doctor, an artist, a scientist, a writer.
After we read the first 3 entries, which included Ada Lovelace (mathematician), Alek Wek (supermodel), and Alfonsina Strada (cyclist), Kenzie immediately asked me if we could look up the real images of the women on Google. You can't even imagine how thrilled I was; she was obviously interested. When we had looked up the different images, which she found fascinating, because, depending on their time period, there were only painted representations or black and white photos. So, as an extension, we were able to discuss the progression of art forms and documenting people's portraits. My heart was very happy.
At the end of that first reading session, I asked her who her favorite woman was, and she replied that Ada Lovelace was. When I asked her why, she said because she was pretty. Kenzie loved that illustration. I just smiled and added, "and smart." Kenzie's response, "Just like me." Yes, baby girl. Exactly, like you.
The trend has continued. We read three entries a night, among other books, we look up their real images, and then I ask her who her favorite is. Only now, she tells me, "Mama, they're going to write a book about me one day." And I say, "Yes, Mackenzie. You would most definitely be worth writing a book about." In fact, when we finish the collection, I think Kenzie and I will sit down, and I will write her story, as it is at the time, and we'll illustrate it. Then, as she grows older, it can be an activity and a disucussion that we continue to revisit - the progression of her rebelliousness.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is currently Kenzie's favorite book and one of mine as well. When we speak about change, this is how we go about it. Read to your children - start young, interest them, educate them, make them want to be readers, make them want to self-educate. Let me emphasize that this book is not just for girls. Read this book to your boys; teach them that we are equals - that women can be just as smart as, just as strong as, just as influential as, and, sometimes or often, even more so, than men.
If you're a teacher, read this book to your classes; have conversations with your students. Engage them. Google pictures of the women. Encourage students to write and illustrate their own stories. And, most importantly, don't save it for March, when it's Women's History Month, this is a book that can be read over the span of a school year. Each entry is only a page long, accompanied by a beautiful illustration of the rebel. So, it's perfect for reading a few stories each day or each week.
These women are rebels, but not because they misbehaved or acted badly. They are rebels because they were or are themselves because they had or have integrity because they dared to nonconform to women's societal standards. And these rebels should be our heroes.
Rebel, girls, rebel.
Favilli, Elena, and Francesca Cavallo. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women. Venice, CA: Timbuktu Labs, 2016. Print.