On Women Heroes

It’s hot. And when it’s hot outside, my kids hibernate inside. My non-loving-reading ten-year-old becomes a reader when it’s sweltering. If I find the right book and the temperature hits the right degree, the only place for her is downstairs in the coolest room reading. Although we have a mandatory reading rest time each day (really, its 30 minutes of downtime for this mama), it is on these special sweltering burn your feet on the sidewalk days she reads more than her share.

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On a recent library visit I found Women Who Win in Sport and in Life by Christina Lessa. Spurred on by our recent conversations about Jackie Joyner-Kersee I wanted my oldest to read more about women who overcame adversity to find success in their sport. She is reading each story, lingering over photographs, thinking about what it means to find success even when it’s hard. Ah, the joy of a good-fit book.

What I didn’t expect to find when I rounded the corner this afternoon was my husband holed up downstairs lost in its pages. That’s funny I thought as I walked through to the dining room. Then I heard him say this to my oldest daughter:

“Oh my gosh honey! Look! This is really great! This book has some of my childhood heroes! Come here, let me show you!”

“Who Daddy? You mean in my book?”

“Yes! Let me tell you about Missy Giove. She is a world cup champion in downhill mountain bike racing from the 1990’s. I used to watch her ride and think ‘that’s how fast I want to go – I want to be like her!’”

“Really? You wanted to be like a girl?”

“Absolutely. Women and men both excel. It doesn’t matter the gender – your heroes are those who you look up to; those that inspire. I can have women heroes, and you can have men heroes. Look for both. Both are valuable. Now, let me tell you about another woman hero of mine named Cammi Granato. Oh! She made me want to play ice hockey!”

Yes. I was absolutely unabashedly eavesdropping. For my daughter to know that her dad looked up to, admired, and was inspired by women leaders in their field is vitally significant in her life as a girl. To know that women are admired for their skill, determination, commitment, and intelligence is key to her becoming a self-confident young woman in today’s world. I don’t have to tell you what she sees admired on the covers of magazines, in television, or what she hears on the playground about being cute – you all are self-aware enough to know the cultural messages our young girls receive loud and clear each and every day. But this conversation was contrary to all of that and a moment that I hope she hides away in her heart to think on later when the other messages weigh down upon her shoulders. I want so much for her to know a diversity of heroes – both male and female and from many cultures. And most of all I want her to know that she could one day be an inspirational hero – yes, even to boys.

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