Friday, April 24, 2009

Ode to a Girl's Birthday

I want this post to be, for the most part, positive because today is Mina's birthday. Ten years ago my brilliant baby came out all head and hair. Papi, Maya and I were over the moon about her. Look at Maya's face with newborn Mina. You couldn't pry that smile off with a crowbar.
Here's Mina this morning, freshly 10, in her new birthday outfit with a Carmen accessory. Not suit, though. Not birthday suit. She probably would love to be photographed naked. She's a bit of a nudist when not adorning herself in high fashion.In honor of my girl -- both girls --I want this post to be a feminist one too --- wait, don't leave . . .we're reinventing this concept, haven't you heard? Pumping new life into it. We might even freshen up the word. We're having a meeting about it later, but the point is the cause can't be forgotten. Not as long as women are still being born, which they are, like, daily I heard. I know we're tired, sisters, but can't we keep up the fight just a while longer for ourselves, our sisters, our daughters? For our even more tired mothers and grandmothers? So many hard-fought issues have wilted over three decades and women’s rights issues get more and more blurry and we're left scratching our heads, at odds with each other, clinging to protective laws. I don't know about you, but as a mami to girls, I feel it my duty to put my girls on a seesaw while I sky-jump on the other end catapulting them into the stratosphere where they are not diminished or disempowered or told this and that about themselves. And if you're not a mami, you should want to jump on it with me too. Those girls were once you.

We watched Girls Rock! last night. It's a documentary about a rock and roll camp for girls ages 8-18. It was almost a great movie, and just from a film standpoint I think it missed some marks, but the concept of the camp had me choked up from when the beginning frame rolled. Seriously I wanted to burst into tears many, many times. It's that uncontrollable crying like when I watch the girls play basketball sometimes or when they used to do TaeKwonDo, or even at holiday pageants when they sing their hearts out. Something about the breaking down of self-consciousness to just let yourself be something. Kids are so pure about that and girls seem to learn to be self conscious and coy and withdrawn so quickly that when they are open without pretense in the most natural of ways, I get the waterworks. And this camp was all about checking all of that and breaking down and through what girls should or shouldn't be. I'm a stone-cold sucker for an awkward and unique girl. I can't help but think they are granted a halo of specialness and this camp was full of those types from troubled girls to girls completely on their own planet. I loved them all. The camp counselors floored me the most though. They were the coolest most patient and mixed group of women ever. They spoke to these girls like we all ache to be spoken.

The documentary would rattle off facts such as a boy will name a talent as what he likes about himself best while a girl will name a body part. And Maya and Mina would say, "Really? That's weird." Or a girls ability to say "I love myself" diminishes from 60% to 29% between the ages of 9 and 18. And Mina said, "Shoot, I love MYself." And Maya said, "I love MYself." And I said, "I love MYself." Or that girls tend to bottle up how they feel and I said, "Do you guys let out how you feel?" and they said, "Uh, yea." As in, duh.

And I'm left to wonder about the perpetuation of the squashed female spirit. How empty do the overused and well-marketed slogans of You Go Girl and Girl Power! seem? Does this still raise our daughters' esteem? I think so. But do they address any real issues of a girl feeling ok to speak up loudly in school or not keep crap bottled up or to not feel so self conscious. Do girls feel any sense of real entitlement yet? I'm not talking about the Queen Bees of school who bully themselves into that place of power. I'm talking about girls possessing a natural, comfortable, confident empowerment. Do any of us?

Why the hell not yet?

I wish the awesome rock and roll women from that camp would hold a national forum and help us change this. I mean, they are changing it 100 girls at a time every summer, but I mean . . .help, all of us.

I often ride the line of empowering Maya and Mina as girls and teaching them a solid sense of humanitarianism. I think being a decent human being is a priority, being thoughtful and respectful and compassionate and polite. And the fine line is teaching them that it is ok to be selfless yet still feel empowered. We are selfless and compassionate because we have enough power to share and NOT because we feel we are less deserving of anything, especially because we are women. If I had a son, I would teach him the same lessons of being a human. I would not teach him to be less selfless because he was a boy, and I say this because I want the girls to know I don't teach them these things because that's how girls should act, but anybody. I think they know that.

I think the girls have never felt disempowered because they are girls, but we are starting to navigate through the most tricky of territories, which is their observations of women in videos, on TV, in magazines and how these fabricated and cookie-cutter looks relate to their budding relationship with boys, and other girls frankly. Girls are told to be modest, be a lady for f sake, yet every woman on public display is tramped up. I'm trying to buckle on life preservers for my girls to wade through these treacherous waters. I tell them it is ok to reject what everyone thinks is the way you should dress or look. I tell them that this may not be easy. It takes a lot of bravery to be the awkward and unique one no matter how special you are or feel.

I can only have constant conversations with them about everything all the time. I can only let them know it's ok to question everything and have constant conversations about everything all the time. And this really is the only real gift I can give them.

Oh Mina, you are definitely my shining unique soul. Ain't nobody squashing you! I love you so much. Happy Birthday, baby.

And Sisters? I'm in your corner.

25 comments:

Dora said...

Text is cool and I really love your red shoes on the header!:) They're awsome:)

DJ said...

Yes, yes, yes and yes! It is a MINEFIELD and to be perfectly honest, I'm terrified, and my little girl is only six. The only thing I have on my side is that I've been the freak and the geek, and its suited me far more than trying to conform, so I feel no fear in encouraging my kids to do their own thing. But still... Happy Birthday, Mina! I don't know what's cuter - Mina in her birthday threads or Maya's big old grin with her baby sister!!!

Marigoldie said...

Thank you for this -- especially the comments about balancing empowerment and selflessness. Nobody ever talks about this, and you lay it out perfectly. This is something for every girl, every boy, everybody. You rock it all the time, my sister! And happy birthday, fantabulous Mina.

Rebel Girl said...

xo!

hotelindialima said...

Right on, sister! Feminism needs a MAKEOVER!!!
PS. I am nature.

j-boo said...

Happy (late) birthday to Mina! I hope it was an amazing day... and with a mom like YOU, I have a feeling that it definitely WAS!!!

Thank you for being such a strong woman and for showing your girls that they should want to be too! It's inspiring and wonderful and one of the many reasons why I adore you!!

That photo of Maya holding Mina is just way too precious for words!

Enjoy your weekend; all of you (including Papi) =)

Winx, Jinxi

Melinda said...

I'm so grateful for you.

nola said...

YES!

I am so happy for your girls, that they have a mother like you!

Love your blog.

Isabella Asher said...

I've gotta say I think you're pretty c00l BUT as a doting daddy my daughter Isabella Asher is the coolest girl on the planet http://www.isabellaasher.com

Amy said...

You're daughters are incredibly lucky to have a mother like you opening the world for them. The best thing I can give my daughter is the freedom to be curious and adventurous. She's done things to surprise us both and not once have I been disappointed with the person she's turning into. I wish our daughters were on the same side of the country so we could introduce them. What a world changing team they would be!

nec said...

Happy Happy Belated Birthday to Mina! Double digets baby! You look marvolous!!

You are such a wonderful Mami... Keep talking and sharing please :o)

Molly Chester said...

I was raised by a dad and mom who made me feel no different from my brother, in terms of what I could do if I set my mind to it. Some slight stereotypes came up later from my father with regards to marriage or career (do you want to have kids?), etc. But, still pretty open.

So, I went off like a rocket in the world doing what I felt like doing. But then, the world made me feel different (especially the south as a teen.) And what my parents didn't yet know how to do (understandably) is talk to me about the fact that how they raised me was different, and that I might face a shove back from the world - that I should ignore with humble pride.

That is what you are giving to your girls. It completes the cycle that I have just recently (30) learned. Hold your head high Mami, you're doing a great job.

Kellie said...

Mina's smile says it all. 10 yrs old and ready to take on the world with what you have instilled in her. Madness, you are spectacular!! Here is to every oddly unique girl/woman out there. Keep being you and LOVE yourself. GIRLS REALLY DO ROCK!! This post just made me smile so big. Love ya Madness!!!

hotelindialima said...

Update time!

tara said...

i am in tears over this post.
the paragraph about camp rock, i feel i could have written myself. those are the words and feelings in my own head. the champion of the awkward special girl!

madness rivera said...

Thanks Tara.

jen renee said...

beautiful and really well put. thank you for that.

Jana said...

Wow, great article (found thru Ali E). As a mom to 2 girls/women (20 & 24) I enjoyed watching them adapt to life as they became teens, thru high school, into college, and beyond. Many social issues, then & now, but two very strong women, comfortable (mostly) with who they are. Also very different from one another too! Good luck as you continue to watch & help your girls grow in todays society... It only gets more interesting & harder, & also better!

madness rivera said...

Thanks Jen Renee. Yo, I want a "42" tshirt come August! Do you sell adult sizes?

Thanks Jana, 'ppreciate it.

madness rivera said...

Albert Giesbrecht don't comment here again.

Mr James said...

I must say what a photograph, the shoes on the bike, just great ! It reminds me of a place i visited called orion in the UK for some strane reason.

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Warren Bolton said...

Very uplifting post. Well written

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