His sister loved this t-shirt (a beloved gift from a beloved chum, who now runs the women’s center at Ohio University, thankyouverymuch). I was tickled whenever I saw our daughter wear it, but must confess I am even more tickled to see it on the boychild. I wasn’t the one who dressed him this morning, but I can see him picking this one out because it’s a pretty color. That, and he remembers seeing it on his the sun rises and sets on her big sister.
I can’t recall whether she asked what a feminist was. If she had, back when she was little enough to fit into this shirt, I’m not sure what I would have said. I’d have been tempted to go to Rebecca West’s gem, from way back in 1913:
I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute.
Problem with that is that then I’d have to explain what a door mat was.
I could have also gone with something simpler and more recent, like Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler’s 1985 pearl, so oft-quoted: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”
But then I’d have to explain irony. Which would be a challenge, since I would probablyÂ be ironic as I explained it. I learned long, long ago that irony, like youth, is wasted on the young. But this does not help me resist its siren temptations. I go to it over and over, in spite of my certainty that it will be, as it almost always is, a colossal flop. When given the choice between (a) make sense to kid, or (b) entertain the self, I opt for (a) only with a show of great personal fortitude. Which I muster intermittently at best. Hey, I’m going to be on this parenting job for years and years; may as well enjoy myself at it.
Truthfully, if I were to hazard a working definition for someone small enough to fit into the t-shirt, I’d probably go with “A feminist is someone who sticks up for girls and women.” Which the lil’ peanut is all about. Heck, to his preschool chums, he explains his preference to wear skirts thus: “I like girls.”
I think he’s going to do just fine.