A few weeks ago, I have a morose little girl at my supper table. Granted, she’d been working through something (no idea what) for a few days, but when supper was over, I snuggled on the couch with her and started asking her about her day. Finally something came out that shocked me: “I wasn’t allowed to play with the cars today because I was a girl.”
I was heartbroken for her. I was angry at her classmates. I was frustrated with the world.
And I was proud.
“Then Eva and I got out some more cars and played with them together because girls can play cars just as well as boys. And then some of the boys joined us, too”
I don’t know whether the situation played out exactly as she relayed it. I don’t know whether there was actually sexism at play, or simply a couple kids not wanting to share or change their game (my girl tends to try to be large and in charge and I get that isn’t always appreciated). But the fear is there: that she is experiencing inequality based on a predetermined factor when she is only 3 years old.
It’s kind of horrifying being a mom of two little girls when I hear all the stories about the disadvantages that they may face throughout her life. It’s also horrifying to know that despite these disadvantages, they will still experience far more privilege than others out there, simply because their skin is white, their parents bring in two incomes and they live in a democratic country with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But considering that the stories that I hear coming home from preschool tend to focus on C’s compassion, I hope that she will remain sensitive to making sure that any headway she makes in this world is not made on the backs of others.
I had to resist the urge to channel some Margaret Atwood and quote “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” (don’t let those bastards grind you down) that day on the couch, not just because it’s not quite age appropriate, and not really Latin, but because I didn’t have the translation for what I feel is an important addendum to the phrase: and don’t be the bastard that grinds other down.
The modern world has been built on the backs of women and I’m so proud that we’re taking strides to gain our rightful place in the world. But we also need to be careful that we’re not raising ourselves up without raising up other minority groups with us.