Raising a Future Feminist: The Power of Empowering Young Girls


Raising a child is an astounding responsibility. And, to us women, raising a little girl means helping her believe she can do, be, think, dream anything. That’s why we’re raising a future feminist.

I was late to the feminist game, honestly. As an adult, I always “accepted what I was given” when it came to my career. I didn’t demand a title or a pay bump and felt bad asking for one. When I found out I was pregnant, I was seriously going to tell my bosses I would take a pay decrease because I believed I would not be as valuable as my pre-pregnant self.

But then something happened. Hooked up to a breast pump in the small pump room at work, I started reading “Lean In.” It was a cliché. But somehow my breasts being strapped to a piece of machinery reading about how women deserve the same rights as anyone else opened my eyes to not only the value I bring to the world, but also how to let my child know how much value she brings.

Being a feminist does not demean men or anyone else for that matter. It does not mean that us women think we’re better than the rest of our fellow humans. For me, it simply means this: I, and all my other lady folk, deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

As a kid, I was called mouthy and bossy, and these superlatives slowly dimmed my light.

I stopped speaking up and acting like a leader when playing with my friends. And I became afraid that people would judge me if I said what I thought.

This brings me back to our daughter. She is bold and demanding and tells us exactly what she wants and how to do things. I see how utterly herself she is, and I want to be transported back to that time before I became afraid to be mine.

I want her to believe with her whole heart that she can be anything she wants to be. Not something we tell her; I want it to be something she feels in her heart.

I’ve cobbled together some ways we try to raise a future feminist. Some are tiny, some are bigger. We’re no experts, but we do our best:

  • We never label her, especially with words like bossy or mouthy. We don’t let others do this either, and we speak up when they do. I hope I’m wrong, but I know from experience that there will be countless people who make her feel like she can’t be a strong leader. We will not be among them.
  • My husband and I don’t talk about her body or her appearance. I realized how important this was after reading this eye-opening article. I struggled my whole life with my body image, and I will do anything for our daughter to not. When anyone comments on her body or appearance, I conjure up my own mouthy little-girl self and speak up!
  • I try to talk about jobs and careers in a unisex way. My husband is better at this than I! We always try to say firefighter or police officer versus fireman or policeman.
  • We don’t project our own visions of who she should be onto her. There’s a lot of backlash against princess culture and pink and girly. Our kid loves princesses. But she also loves science and music and to dig for worms in a pink tutu. We don’t ever tell her it’s not OK to love her princess dress-up clothes or dolls. But we were proud when she told another kid at school that she “couldn’t be a princess when she grew up because she had to be born into a royal family.”
Girls in tutus digging for worms.
  • To that note, we let her guide us, always. She’s a smart cookie, but we don’t pressure her to hit milestones (like reading, math, writing etc.) before or even at the same time as other kids. She’ll get there when she’s ready.
  • We talk to her like she’s a person, not just a kid. We tell her (age appropriate) things about the world, even things that are difficult to talk about. Whenever we can, we teach her that kindness and acceptance are some of our most important tools. After all, what good is it to raise a kid who believes she can do anything if she doesn’t empower others to believe the same?

I wish I knew some of what we as a culture know now when I was growing up. But I’m excited to be raising a little lady in a time when anything is possible for her. We consider empowerment part of our awesome job as parents.

After all, girls rule. Especially when they believe it.