It took 30 years for me to truly understand what it meant to rise. Rise above the small-town standard of a woman. To even consider myself a grown woman with a strong voice. We, females as a collective, are constantly told “girls don’t act like that” “every girl wants to be pretty” “girls get a reputation”.

The worst comment I came across was about my own child. I posted a photo of my then 3 year old daughter, bright eyed and staring into the camera, no cheesy grin. Just her, and I wanted to share this photo with my online friends. The first comment came from a female acquaintance who said “Your husband better get that shotgun licence – the boys will be lining up before you know it”.

Is that what our daughters are reduced to now? Their looks at 3 years old, determining their value to men in the future? Is my husband the only one who can protect her, using violence because somehow these men will be a force to be reckoned with, against my helpless pretty little daughter?

I am not raising my child to become a wife. Or a mistress. I am doing everything in my power to raise a strong, flexible, open minded human being. Whose voice will not be taken away. Who will know that she is loved in this home. And that she can love whoever she wants to.

If men line up at our door with any kind of expectation, my husband will not need a gun. My daughter will have her voice.

Words are powerful, if only we allowed our daughters to speak.

This does not entitle the opinion that parents of boys have it easy. I have a son as well. A defiant, loveable little boy. At 4 years old, he already hates girl stuff and refuses to wear pink. And that’s ok, because that’s his choice. It doesn’t matter how many times I say “there’s no such thing as girl’s toys or boy’s toys, girl colours and boy colours”, there is always someone behind me saying “Yes there is. Stick to the rules”.

Let’s change the rules. Our boys can wear softer colours and play with dolls that don’t use guns or fists. They can dance around and not be scolded, told to “man up”. It’s that kind of bullying mentality that we subject them to at such a young age, that they then feel they need to prove to our daughters as teenagers.

As for our girls? Treat them with equal respect and dignity that EVERY human being deserves. Sex, race, religion – none of it matters. One is not better than the other, and we can DO better.