Dear Lady who followed my 16-year-old daughter off the city bus yesterday to tell her she should sit like a lady,
I didn’t raise my daughter to sit like a lady.
I raised her to sit like herself.
I raised her to be herself.
To know her own voice.
And to take up as much space as she wants and needs to take up.
Whether she is sitting or standing or dancing or walking through the world.
I didn’t raise her to blindly respect authority, or to dress appropriately, or to shrink in the face of differing opinions. I certainly didn’t raise her to believe that acting like a lady is in any way protective of self or body or being.
And that wasn’t an easy call, dear bus lady, let me tell you.
It’s not the simplest or quietest or most straightforward way to raise kids.
But raising a well-behaved lady was never my goal.
And so my daughter isn’t afraid to question her teachers for unfair dress code rules, or to ask about differing treatment between girls and boys, or to speak her truth at school on behalf of the marginalized students who share space with her there.
She isn’t afraid to know and name injustice—in her sphere and in the world around her.
She isn’t shy about grappling with her own bias and expanding her mind in every and all directions, even those that challenge her own view of the world.
And she isn’t afraid to call me on my own hypocritical bullsh*t (because trust me, I’ve got plenty of it—hidden yet ingrained misogyny, and outmoded patriarchal brainwashing too).
And yes, bus lady, I need to be called on that sh*t.
We all need to be called on that sh*t.
So, no, I didn’t teach her to sit demurely, with legs crossed and head down.
And I sure has hell didn’t teach her that wearing certain clothes was asking for it.
I certainly didn’t teach her to only speak when spoken to, or to follow the crowd, or to be afraid of her own power.
I taught her that she is mighty, that her body is her domain, that she has a sovereign right to her own being on her own terms.
And so when she sat down on the bus with you yesterday, she wasn’t thinking that she needed to cross her legs and fold herself inward to suit any definition of what she should be.
She sat the way she is most comfortable. She took up the space that was available. She sat in that seat not like a good little lady, but like a human comfortable in her own skin.
And perhaps that bothered you because you were raised without that kind of freedom and confidence.
And perhaps it bothered you because you believe that girls should act or sit or be a certain way.
Thank god my daughter knows better.
Author: Jeanette LeBlanc
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Nicole Cameron