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For My 8-Year-Old Daughter on International Women's Day

Photograph by Serge Bielanko Private

Hi Violet,

So, today is March 8 and as you know, it's a special day across the globe: International Women's Day. Lots of women will pay attention. And lots of men too. And that's a good thing. That's why the day was created, so people pay attention. We've talked about this. Even though you're still a little girl, your mom and I know that you have a wonderful mind and a beautiful heart, and so we've discussed what life is like for girls and women in 2017. Or what it was like in 1817.

"Some things have changed," we've told you.

"Yeah, but some things haven't changed at all," you shot back.

(Damn, I love you.)

Anyway, as much as I'd like to say that this is a bigger day all over the world than Christmas or even Halloween, the truth is, it ain't. Many human beings, including many many women, will go to bed tonight never having even known that today was the day. No one told them. Or worse yet, someone didn't want them to know. At the same time, a ton of girls and women will ignore International Women's Day because they have what amounts to bigger fish to fry. Every morning, when they wake up, some girls your age have to walk a long way just to get a bucket of water. Imagine that? Other girls your age have to be at work out in the middle of a field or standing in the middle of a factory even before the sun comes up. They don't make much money at all, certainly not as much as most boys who do the same job do. That's a sad reality.

History is tainted by tales like that, by girls being treated less equal than boys. Imagine if I gave your little brothers Frosted Flakes every morning for breakfast and then turned around and handed you whatever was left in their bowls, told you: "Here's yours. Eat up." That would blow your sweet mind—and with good reason. But guess what? That's what much of the world wants to do to you. It sucks but it's true and I'm only tell you because I love you. Some people want you to have what your brothers already have, no questions asked, Violet. But many others really don't.

These girls, then—these ones that honestly don't really know that it's International Women's Day today, or even care—they're the ones we need to think about first. They're too busy or scared to pay attention. Truth is, it's kind of tough sometimes to think about fighting for your own human rights when you wake up most days having to listen for breathing in the dark. Got to make sure your youngest baby hasn't starved to death in the middle of the night, you know?

A girl's life is harder than a boy's. A woman's life is harder than a man's. Men used to be able to use their muscles to get women to be their servants, to do what they told them to do. Lots of men still do that today. Sometimes they use their money instead of their muscles, or their power or their pull, but it's all the same thing. Some of these guys know it too. They know who they are. They're monsters in the night.

But worst than that, believe it or not, are the men who don't even realize what they're doing. It's all so natural, you see. So many men—and I'm talking right here in our town, some men who are the dads of kids in your class, probably—they still just act like they're better than women without ever thinking twice about it. Why? Ugh. It's hard to explain, honey. That's the way their dads were. And that's the way their moms had to let their dads be. It's complicated and hard to know who to blame and yet it doesn't even matter, because that's what today is all about, you see. It's about letting the women and the girls and the men and the boys all over the world who can hear your voice (and my voice, and Mom's voice, and your brothers' voices) to hear them, loud and clear. To know that we know that women are equal to men in every possible way. And that we are not alone.

"Hellooooooo world!!!! Thanks for listening! We want Violet to be treated the same as everyone else!!! She deserves it! And so do all the girls in her class too!"

That's what we holler off the front porch all day long today.

Yet that's also what we say in the way we think/speak/vote/and treat others today and every day. So hopefully, if the wind is just right and the air is just right and the day carrying a little magic on its back, our voices will travel long and far. Then somewhere out there, a little girl who had no idea that lots of people want her to have a better life will hear us.

How wonderful would that be, kiddo? Our voices tumbling out across some dusty road. Hot sun beating down. Our voices—YOUR voice—landing in her ear, right when she never expected it.

"I know you're out there!" you say. "I'm out here too!"

Pretty cool, huh?

OK, I love you, Violet. And I'm with ya, kid. Today, tomorrow and all the days.

—Dad

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