Photo by: Corby and Ruah, June 2018

Letter to My Daughter

by Corby J. Caffrey-Dobosh
Photo by: Corby and Ruah, June 2018

When I was only a daughter, a sister to brothers, a sister to one sister, a wife to a husband, and a mother to sons, I prayed to a father-God. I did not doubt, sway, or psychologically challenge the camouflaged examples of sexism. I hardly questioned the existence of veiled capitalist-North American social-structure yolks that were to be borne only on the shoulders of women. I rallied against abortion. I submitted to touch and affection against my gut’s will. Blind, unwilling to see the pieces of woman-hate that pushed their way into my life’s puzzle, I was a soft feminist who focused on fitting in with patriarchy, earning validation from my family, and being under-welcomed by a church unworthy of my fealty. I bestowed more value on men’s accomplishments. I felt guilt and shame. I hated my body, my curves, and the shiny swirls etched in my skin that marked my babies’ becomings. I ignored the sanctity of my femaleness. I blamed my mom. I trash-talked other women, while comparing my shortcomings to theirs. I buried my needs, and blamed myself for the sexual violence I experienced. I was insecure and incapable of seeing and wielding my power. I cared for people and things that would never understand me, appreciate me, or return my care. I laughed at girly-ness. I thought my qualities and traits unimportant when they weren’t applauded by others. I disguised my voice with pixie pleasantries when I needed to rage. I dieted.

And then came you. My baby three.

You we named Ruah, for the breath of existence, the totality of the male-female divined as equal. Spirit. Holy. Divine soul.

You made me a mother to a daughter.

You could walk in heels and color coordinate at two.

Ninja baby, you’d wield a plastic sword, tackle your very big brothers, and with fiendish delight grinning ear to ear, attack and (pseudo)assault.

Unafraid. Unabashed. Unyielding.

At four, you were already steadfast in your girl-power, unconcerned with our society’s bitchification of strong women.

Tender Aunt Katie mused when you refused affection and compliance: “I like her. She won’t put up with any shit. No one will mess with her in school. And if they do, she won’t care. She’s that strong.”

You would not be bridled. You would not conform to the societal definition of woman.

You removed the pirate patches that covered my eyes… simply by being you. I started to feel all of my previously ignored wounds, skin scraped raw from skidding and sliding against the cultural pavement that I walked on to work, to the store, to church. The hurts, so new to my awareness, burned and ached. The booboo’s needed air to heal, because a band aid would only hide and cause infections and pus.

Because of you – FOR you – I opened my eyes wide, no longer psychologically distanced from institutional and internalized sexism.

Now more aware of power differentials between men and women, often encouraged by women against women, I saw woman – my sisters, myself – in focus. I watched as we fake-smiled and choked back words, tears, dreams, and our sensuality in order to assimilate. I saw us noose one another in competition, going against the grain of our cooperative being in order to climb one small rung in the hierarchy. I witnessed as men in power pawned and prostituted our bodies and beauty. I heard young women scoff at feminism, claiming boys make better friends because they aren’t petty. I watched as women all over the world were united in rape, abuse, and harassment, only to be disempowered and blamed when they dared to speak out, speak up. I heard the propaganda used in media, politics, education, religion, and our homes, telling us we are different and incapable of leading our reproductive lives. I heard the whisperers, murmuring, “Women’s differences are only welcomed when they conform to the (unattainable) Barbie-doll societal image of beauty.” Beauty: our greatest power. I saw the Feminine acquiesce to the Masculine. I saw the Mother devoured by the Father in a history of half-truths and cover-ups.

In less than five years of you with me, I am changed, body to spirit.

I took an undergraduate Psychology of Gender course 19 years ago. I opened that aged text book the other day. The words don’t swim and dance anymore. They shout, pump their fists, echoing in my skull: you owe it to your daughter. Live the change – teach the change – make the world safe for the Feminine.

I temper my bitterness. Your (and your brothers’) world will be better than mine – if only because you will be more aware of the Feminine’s importance, more empowered to be true to yourself.

So now I pray to a Mother-God. I read Enheduanna. I challenge your brothers to stop saying things like, “You fight like a girl,” reminding them that there are plenty of girls who could kick their asses. I hold you when others want to hug or kiss you against your will. I educate children about the importance of the Feminine in our culture – the importance of working together as men and women to prevent and heal from sexual violence. I forgive my mother and consider how her own roles of baby girl of three, young wife, young mother all influenced her world view. I don’t diet, and I call others out who fat-shame. I am no longer competitive with my sisters. I do not need to be seen by anyone in order to be seen by you, by me, by those we love.

I will not apologize when I use mean words to people who try to walk on others. I will wield my power to protect and love. I will nurture and care for life, including my own. I will not be ashamed of my body and the changes she experiences.

I will support and guide your choices, helping you navigate friendly in a hostile world. I will teach you about Herstory, feminism, suffrage, The Bell Jar, Joan of Arc, Frida Kahlo, Gloria Steinem, and Ina May Gaskin. I will play Billie Holiday, Etta James, The Breeders, Ani Difranco, Tori Amos, and The Savages for you. I will help you protect yourself from those who would do you harm – and I will teach you how to devour powerlessness. I will help you unearth your potential. I will validate your needs, whatever they are. I will help you make choices. I will cheer your attempts. I will help you find and listen to your voice. I will teach you to love yourself every day. I will love you as you are.

With you, I will protect the Feminine and show the world that She is equal to He.

Mom of two teenage boys and a preteen girl, I work as a therapist for children and teach undergraduate courses in Sociology. My passions include the woods, fairy tales, poetry, the sacred space that happens between people, and social justice.

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