A few days before Christmas, I shared a picture of my daughter, Michele, dressed up as Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her school’s superhero day on my Facebook page. You might have seen it:
The picture went viral, and then it went more viral.
I shared the picture because I knew my friends and family would get a kick out of it. They know Michele well, and this picture is the essence of her. I had no expectation that it would be as appealing to strangers as it was to her adoring grandfather.
But to my surprise, it was, and the image began to fly through the channels of social media.
As I sifted through all the shares and comments, the reason for the picture’s popularity became clear – people are inspired by the idea of a strong little girl with a mind of her own. I read dozens, if not hundreds, of comments that ran along these lines: “Your daughter gives me hope for the future. I wish all little girls were like her.”
There is no doubt that my daughter is a strong little girl with a mind of her own. I bought her the book “I Dissent” because the title sums up what she has been doing her entire life: dissenting and disagreeing, and making her voice heard. Her willpower has willpower and she will grow up to be someone who fights for what she believes in. She is fierce and mighty.
And if one little girl like this gives people hope, then I have good news for the world: She is not the only one out there.
Because here’s the thing – little girls are fierce and mighty. They all are. They are smart, and generous, and funny, and tough.
Michele is surrounded by little girls who are ready to grab the world with both hands and shape it to fit their vision of how things should be.
She has a cousin who at the age of three — when Michele couldn’t decide if she wanted to be a mermaid or a cat when she grew up — decided she would be a paleontologist. More recently, she has said she wants to be a lawyer for children.
Michele has another cousin who, for both her last birthday and Christmas, asked people to give her gifts to less fortunate children.
And when her little sister was 4, she told me that she “was put on the earth to make people laugh” — because when people laugh they are happy and she was “born to make people happy.”
Little girls around the world are using their voices to help others, to fight injustice, to make life better and happier.
I know a lot of little girls – and I also know a lot of moms of little girls. You can ask any of them and they will tell you: Little girls are made of tough stuff.
The problem isn’t that there aren’t more tough little girls who think for themselves and stand up for what they believe in. The problem is that there are millions of girls just like that who go unnoticed because we don’t expect girls to be that way.
When I first found out I was having a daughter, I had this thought in the back of my mind that, if I wanted her to go as far as her potential could take her, I would have to teach her to think for herself and to use her voice to get where she wanted to go. That I would have to teach her to be a strong woman.
What I didn’t realize was that she came to me pre-programmed. She and her sister and every other little girl I know have that strong woman in their DNA. It’s taken me years to understand this, but my job isn’t to teach my daughters to be something they already are – my job is to make sure they never listen to the message that they shouldn’t be that way.
If our goal is to raise strong women, the best thing we can do is to understand that little girls come to us strong. That they are born mighty, with voices they are ready to use.