Dear Little One,
Last week, we arrived at the theater early and, before a movie about beauty and beasts, we saw a preview for a movie about men and machines. We came for a story about love and we got a preview about war. I’m okay with that—it’s the world we live in and I’m used to it.
What I’m not okay with is the young girl we saw in the preview.
She looked directly into the camera, covered in sweat and dirt, and she said, “Some kids used to tease me…they’d say, ‘You run like a girl, you throw like a girl, you fight like a girl.’ Fight like a girl? Yeah, I fight like a girl. Don’t you?” Then, for the rest of the preview, she exuberantly participated in the blowing up and destruction of everything.
I felt like that little girl had punched me in the gut, too.
Because I looked over at you—seven-years-old, eyes wide behind 3-D glasses, already wondering what it means to be a girl—watching the not-so-subtle message that to be a strong girl, you have to fight like the most violent of men.
Little One, as your father, I want you to know, this was not a message about how to become a strong woman; it was a message about how to become an extinct woman. This was the message of a war-riddled and violence-obsessed hyper-masculine culture, hell-bent on victory, knowing that the only way to have victory over your womanhood is to erase it.
After all, what is the most effective way to eliminate the other? It’s to make them exactly like you.
Don’t fall for it.
We have enough ego-driven, angry, aggressive, and violent men on this planet. We don’t need you to become one too, just so you can prove to those very same men that you are a “strong girl.”
No, Little One, the way to become a strong girl is to resist your assimilation into the worst elements of masculinity. The way to be a strong girl is to grow into the best and strongest parts of your femininity.
To be a strong woman, you don’t have to push others down; you simply refuse to be pushed around yourself.
To be a strong woman, you don’t have to relish aggression; you simply resist it.
To be a strong woman, you don’t have to use violence; you just need to use your voice, steadfastly, resolutely, and unceasingly.
But most importantly, you don’t become a strong woman by acting like a man; you become a strong woman by acting like yourself.
At the center of you is your soul, your heart, your truest self. It is the least tangible part of you, yet the most indestructible part of you. It is the least violent part of you, yet the part of you from which you will fight most resiliently.
You don’t have to be like a man, you only have to be like you.
You won’t become your truest, strongest you by struggling violently against others. You will become your truest, strongest you by struggling to love the world in the very specific, very unique, perhaps ordinary, but always beautiful way that only you can love it.
Little One, if we all loved the world with that kind of beauty, the beasts wouldn’t stand a chance.
Peace to you,
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
Connect with Kelly
Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.