Tag Archives: girls

A Liberal Feminist Response to Mr. Walsh: It’s Not A Competition

I am a liberal feminist. I am one of the women to whom Matt Walsh’s recent open letter was addressed. And I’d love to respond. Not point-by-point, because I don’t think the letter deserves it. Rather by making one important point:

YES, Mr. Walsh. Liberal feminists, such as myself, AGREE WITH YOU.

Boys in our society do have it rough– very rough, in many ways. There is no question that boys are often inappropriately labeled with psychiatric or emotional disturbances, that they are more likely to successfully commit suicide, that they are more likely than women to transgress in ways that are legally unacceptable and subsequently end up incarcerated. All of those things are true and concerning and very worthy of attention.

But here’s the thing… Mr. Walsh seems to believe that by addressing any problem, real or perceived, in girls and young women, we somehow dismiss these very real problems that plague boys and young men.

I don’t think that’s the case. And I think what Mr. Walsh fails to realize is that this is not a competition. To recognize and address a problem that primarily affects women does not take anything away from folks focusing on recognizing and addressing a problem that primarily affects men.

I am a liberal feminist and I am intrigued by the “Ban Bossy” campaign. I read Lean In and I understand that it’s a call for awareness– to be aware that we may be calling young girls bossy when the word bossy isn’t warranted. Similarly, we may be calling young boys aggressive when the word aggressive isn’t warranted. My logic takes me from point A (ban bossy) to this point B (think about the words we use to describe personality traits in girls and boys). Mr. Walsh’s point B seems to be something very different.

I am a woman and I am a liberal feminist. I do not consider feminism a dirty word because I know that to be a feminist does not automatically make me anti-male (or anti any other gender in between, for that matter, because what is feminine vs. what is masculine is, truly, a comparison of the average in a way that doesn’t recognize what really may be more of a continuum… but that’s another point entirely).

I don’t know Mr. Walsh except to know that he is a passionate and articulate man. I surmise, based on his two most recent anti-ban bossy, anti-feminism blog posts, that he is mired in a state of comparison that’s not necessarily doing anyone any good.

I’ve talked about comparison before– I truly believe it to be the (square) root of all evil. (Remember that sweet math joke?) I’ve also talked about the notion of promoting what you love, rather than bashing what you hate. As conceited as this is going to sound, I think Mr. Walsh could be much more effective if he embraced these two principles.

By jumping to a place of comparison, Mr. Walsh assumes that to promote something good for girls and consequently women is to bash something good for boys and consequently men. To promote an ideal of leadership rather than bossiness in young girls, as well as in their male peers, is not an emasculating thing… because the point is not comparison. All of Mr. Walsh’s concerns about young men are not only valid, but important and timely. They are worthy of attention and of intervention. Especially as they point to systematic problems with our educational system and a lack of appropriate behavioral health services. But before I could even think rationally about the importance of those things, I had to suppress my anger about the bashing of other things I think are important. And that made the whole article hard to stomach. I imagine a lot of people, a lot of liberal feminists, won’t even note the important points he does make as a result of all the bashing.

I would suggest that instead of using his time and considerable talent to bash the tenets of feminism, Mr. Walsh instead focus on bringing awareness to the problems that are clearly plaguing young boys.

The title of Mr. Walsh’s recent post is this:

An open letter to liberal feminists: girls don’t have it any worse than boys

To Mr. Walsh, I say: or course not. But just because girls don’t have it any worse than boys doesn’t mean we don’t have issues that need to be addressed for the sake of the future of young girls. And just as many issues ought to be addressed for the sake of the future of young boys. It’s not about comparison. It’s about improvement and progress. For everyone. Regardless of gender.

Matt Walsh has a popular blog. He discusses controversial things and more often than not, he seems to be looking to get a rise out of someone. That’s fine, that’ll get you readers, it’ll get you shares, views, clicks, and likes. But will it make life better for anyone? Perhaps that’s not his point… but dang, he could do it. He knows his facts about ADHD and over-medication, about suicide and incarceration. That’s awesome– he should talk about that, do something about that.

I also believe that Sheryl Sandberg and her organization, Lean In, know about the psychological impact certain ideals can have on young women. And that’s what they’re talking about, what they’re doing something about.

Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

My Smile, My Choice

I’ve been working on this post for kind of a while, but have been struggling at keeping it from turning into an angry rant. You see, I recently pinned a little saying on Pinterest that I think is so important and I have embraced it as something of a blog motto– a blotto.

Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.
{The Art of Simple}

Buuuuutttt… I kind of want to talk about something that SUPER bugs me. So what’s a girl to do? Flip it, that’s what!  I did it when I talked about the 23 things a while back. And I’m going to do it again here. Get ready for this masterpiece!

When I smile, my whole entire face kind of goes with it and it always has.  When I was in high school, a friend once said, “Can you even see when you smile?”  The answer: not always.  My eyes get tiny when my cheeks go up, I can’t help it.

Smiling Eyes
Eyes… So… Tiny…

On me, not smiling when I’m happy just doesn’t look natural (seriously, I have wedding pictures to prove it).

Not smiling on my wedding day? Practically impossible.

But smiling when I’m not happy?  Don’t make me go there.

My smile is mine to give away when I please and I firmly believe that I am under no obligation to anyone to provide a smile on command.  If I’m not feeling it, I don’t have to do it.  And when people tell me to “smile” it annoys the pants off of me.

Don’t tell me to do it– give me something worth smiling about!  Then we’ll talk.  Or maybe we won’t, maybe I’ll just beam at you and we’ll call it good.

Either way, I think that the smile command has roots in the good girl, the pretty girl, the happy, compliant, silent girl.  And all of that is probably the reason for my general disdain.

A while ago, one of my coworkers was patted on the head and asked to be good (not literally, of course, but that was definitely the point) because of my “bad” behavior in the past .  I can’t help but think that if I had I been a man and behaved the way I did or had my coworker been a man attending the meeting after me, the message would have been very different… or perhaps not been conveyed at all.  She didn’t need to be told to be good or that I had acted badly. Instead, my actions should have been viewed as a product of an unfortunate situation– one that, if not repeated, would give no reason for anyone else to behave similarly.

Again: change the situation if you want a different outcome, don’t just offer up a meaningless command.

Asking our girls to smile for us is, in my mind, akin to asking my coworker to be a good girl as an adult.  That’s not really ok.  Because why would you ever want someone to be disingenuous?

Little girls need to know that it’s ok to express their feelings, even if not verbally, then at least on their own dang face. If we note a frown, perhaps we should be asking why. From there, perhaps we could work together on a solution, or maybe just offer a little bit of support.* But what good does telling someone to smile do except to suggest that whatever has caused them not to smile is somehow invalid?

So I guess what I’m promoting (because I’m promoting, not bashing, remember?) is this: the right of women everywhere to express their emotions on their face. If they’re happy, smiles are welcome! If they’re not, no one has any right to expect it, let alone ask for it. So who cares if you have “b****y resting face” as the kids are calling it these days– your face is your face, and I’m sure it’s lovely regardless.

And as Roald Dahl says: If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

Perhaps we need more good thoughts of which to think!


*Or you could try a really awesome joke. Here’s one of my favorites, my sister (the blood-related one, Sister Engineer) made this one up all by herself:

What did the robot say when I asked it to clean my room?

I don’t know, what?


Good one, Ab. Pure gold 😉

Or if that doesn’t work– consider a little song, like this one my little brother made up (to the tune of You Are My Sunshine):

You are my dinosaur, my only dinosaur

You make me happy when skies are PURPLE

You’ll never know, dinosaur, how much I love you, dinosaur

So please don’t take my dinosaur away!

They both make me smile, anyway! (Literally smiling right now! And with good reason!)

Embracing your STEMininity.

I went to grad school with a brilliant woman named Christina.  (Seriously, brilliant!)  She got her PhD a couple years before I did and then moved on to bigger and better things in the form of a post-doc.  I was especially curious about her experience as a post-doc because she is, to my knowledge, the only grad student to have survived a PhD experience in Dr. Money Machine‘s lab, making her an incredibly trustworthy source regarding all things painful.  Well, not only did she survive her post-doc, she freaking flourished and is now making her way through the ranks as Harvard faculty.


Holy.  Crap.

Like I said, Christina is amazing and absolutely, 100% inspirational.  She will undoubtedly do very big things in this world– big and important things.  And yet for some reason, she likes to read my blog…

Brilliant.  Harvard.  Reads my blog.  Cheese and rice!

Christina is the one who suggested I share this (the below, not above…) with you today on my blog, and how could I possibly deny such a simple request from someone I admire so very, very much?!  The answer: I could not!

In the last couple of days, I’ve seen several posts on Facebook related to Goldieblox— engineering toys specifically designed for girls where the tagline is “more than just a princess.”  They recently put together an absolutely genius advertisement where they show three little girls using Goldieblox to design a seriously intense Rube Goldberg machine.  (Kelly– do you remember our Rube Goldberg machine for math class in like sixth grade?!)  It’s too cool– watch it here.

(Oh, and it’s a music video.  Beastie Boys.  Got to watch it!  Click here.)

Honestly, the whole idea of Goldieblox is genius.  I’m not sure if people really realize how important early STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) experiences can be for little girls, but I am here to tell you that the impact is HUGE!!

When I was in middle school (I think middle school– definitely before high school, anyway), I got to go to a little conference called Girls + Math + Science = Choices.  I’m pretty sure it was one of the best days of my life even though all I remember from it was isolating DNA from salmon sperm.  I could lit-er-al-ly (like Chris from P&R) SEE the DNA in the tube… and I was AMAZED.  AMAZED I tell you!!!  I kept that stupid little tube in my bedroom retreat (the half of the bedroom I could call my own, anyway) for years and years and years.  Honestly, I don’t think I got rid of it until I packed up and left for college.  It was that awesome to me.

Also in middle school, 8th grade I believe, I went to MST at MSU– Math, Science, and Technology at Michigan State University.  A summer camp for nerds.  And again… LOVED IT.  (Incidentally, this is when I discovered that I am a nerd even amongst nerds.  Little bit upsetting, but I’m over it now.)  I decided on chemistry as my major someday right then and there.  We shattered things frozen with liquid nitrogen, made huge fountains of foam explode from bottles, grew huge logs of charred blackness by adding sulfuric acid to sugar, made stringy gooey polymers, and shriveled marshmallow snowmen in vacuums.  I loved every second of it!

I loved other things too, of course, and I legitimately came thisclose to majoring in political science (thank goodness I didn’t make that life choice!), but those early organized STEM experiences made a huge impression on me.  Especially given constant encouragement to think, think, think and experiment from my parents.  (I spent more family dinners contemplating whether a flame is matter or energy than most people probably do in their entire lifetime…)

Sure, little girls should be allowed to play with dollies and pink things– that’s totally fun (I loved me some Cabbage Patch and Popples when I was little), but when toys become branded and targeted specifically for one gender or another, we perpetuate unfortunate gender stereotypes.  Girls given pink dolls and boys denied them are told that women should be caretakers and men should not.  Boys given erector sets and girls denied them are told that men should be builders and engineers and women should not.  It seems to me that even if we don’t really believe those things to be true, our society is set up in such a way that its pretty difficult to show your children otherwise.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a woman that doesn’t want to go into a STEM field, just like there isn’t anything wrong with a man who does.  But I am of the opinion that all children are essentially made of perfectly dried kindling, ready to ignite when touched by the right spark… and it’s important that we don’t deny that spark, whether it comes in the form of DNA isolated from salmon sperm or the (only slightly) less creepy Goldieblox engineering toy.

(Am I trying to say I’m like Katniss– girl on fire?  No, of course not.  (Actually, yes, definitely yes.))

Anyway, Intuit is hosting a competition called Small Business Big Game where you can vote for one of four small businesses to run a commercial during the super bowl.  Obviously, I watched all four videos (two had clever names and one had a dog in a lab coat, couldn’t resist) and they were all pretty good, but when better than to remind people that women can do it too and that girls should be encouraged than during the Superbowl?  The ultimate “man” time.  So maybe you could click to vote for Goldieblox— vote for change for your girls!  And their brothers!

Still don’t think we need a change?  My husband just sent me this from Walmart:

Girl Aisle
Sigh. (But dang, what a good husband to humor me like this!)

Yeah.  Vote for Goldieblox.  Engineers are kind of cool… and some of the best ones I know are women.  Good enough to earn free cupcakes even.  That’s really good.