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Liberal Washington Post columnist Kate Cohen described this week what she claimed to be the challenges of raising her daughter to be a “feminist.”
In a Thursday piece headlined, “Raising feminist sons seemed easy. A daughter? Much trickier,” Cohen fretted over various aspects of her daughter growing up, including her interest in princesses as a child, her preference for wearing dresses, and her expressed desire to shave her legs.
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“When I was a young mother, I was certain my husband and I could raise our two boys to be feminists. We took all the necessary steps. They got a clunky but equitable surname and painted toenails upon request,” Cohen wrote. “Picture me whistling down the road with a double stroller, confident that we could bring up fair-minded and whole human beings.”
“Now picture me stopping in my tracks when I learned that our third child would be … a girl,” she added.
Cohen expressed worry that her teaching her daughter how to cook and write thank-you notes, as she did with her sons, would bring her back to the 1950s.
She stated that, as a feminist herself, she struggled with putting the theories surrounding feminism into practice because she “shied from conflict,” “reflexively deferred to male authority,” and conformed to “patriarchal beauty standards.”
“What if my daughter grew up to be like me?” she fretted.
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“I was on guard from the moment she was born. No Barbie dolls shall breach this perimeter! But as soon as she went to preschool, princesses and teen pop stars entered her consciousness and worked their Disney magic. At age 3, she would wear only dresses and announced, to her brothers’ consternation, that pink was a ‘girl color,’” Cohen wrote.
“I couldn’t control her taste, I thought, but I could control myself. I made sure to praise her brains and not her looks. I refrained from counting calories in her presence. And I stopped hugging her without permission,” she added.
Cohen wrote that the #MeToo movement contributed to her starting to ask permission to hug her daughter because it pointed out, she claimed, “just how casually and commonly girls had their bodily autonomy taken from them.”
She described feeling a sense of “woeful joy” when her daughter declined to hug her.
“When she started wearing makeup and asked for a razor to shave her legs, I was conflicted. Clearly, she was under the sway of the patriarchal beauty standards I so desperately wanted her to defy. But just as clearly, she was defying us,” Cohen wrote, admitting that she later bought her a razor anyway.
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Cohen admitted to not reprimanding her daughter for fighting with her father, instead describing how she was “astonished” her daughter “could make a smart, passionate argument and stand her ground.”
“The least I could do was refrain from chastising her for it,” she wrote.
She went on to praise her daughter for standing up to heckling from her brothers while arguing with her father at the same time, oddly comparing her to a swordsman fighting multiple people all at once.
“Maybe one day I’ll grow up to be like her,” she concluded.