Right on, 5 year old feminist!

I love this clip – and not in a a clucking, “aw, isn’t she cute” kind of way.

No, I love this video because I have great hopes for this girl’s future. Billions of cultural products – from ads to movies to music – will inevitably cross this girl’s path in the coming years, and just about all of them will try to “instruct” her regarding the crowning role that a man/partner/love will play in her life and her happiness. But if this girl is starting out with her eyes on the prize, so to speak – which is to say, establishing financial independence, and putting herself first – than hopefully, she stands a fighting chance at keeping such messages in check.

Indeed, from a wholly practical, financial standpoint, it just makes sense for young women to focus first on a career that they might find both fulfilling and fiscally sustaining. Because as we all know, love doesn’t always work out; and to this day, too many women are stuck in lives they don’t necessarily want because of their economic circumstances.

Finally, I’ll confess to having deeply personal ties to this video as well. Though I wasn’t 5 when I started saying such things, I did, at a pretty young age, repeatedly state that I would never marry or have kids, and that I just wanted to find a job I felt passionate about. Admittedly, the former things were said partly as a defense mechanism – I was afraid that no one would ever find me attractive in any way, so my answer to this was to act as romantic love was of no importance to me – but I did honestly have a desperate desire to be successful and do something I loved, too.

As it happened, I was fortunate enough to snag both a career and a partner that I loved beyond reason as I grew older. It wasn’t an easy path through early adulthood, of course, but I’m grateful to my younger self for having the right priorities from the get-go – certainly a benefit of growing up in the “Feminism Now!” ’70s. (There had to be some benefit – how many times can I look at the floppy-collared shirts and feathered hair we all sported back in the day without shuddering anew?)

Hand-wringing, of course, followed this video going viral, and some argued that this girl was merely parroting what she’d heard, and that she might be shutting herself off from love and other possibilities. Nonsense. As I noted above, I said similar things and found my own circuitous path to a career and my marriage; and even if she is parroting what she’s heard, as far as I can tell, only good can come from the central message she’s voicing: focus on yourself, ladies, and let the other stuff come as it may.

2 thoughts on “Right on, 5 year old feminist!

  1. Erik Kuszynski says:

    I think your point here is well taken, but the “concentrate on yourself” mantra, like all mantras, can be detrimental if taken too far. If all we do is concentrate on ourselves, we become self centered, lonely, nasty people.
    If we want a successful long term relationship to be part of our life, we have to make it a goal, which means we have to concentrate on something and someone other than ourselves. And in the ultimate irony, by concentrating on something other than ourselves, we enrich our lives immensely. Indeed, this works best when we first know who we are as an individual, but if all we do is concentrate on me, then me is all we will have.

    • Jenn McKee says:

      Perhaps. But as far as I’m concerned, this is a very real danger zone for young women in particular, so I’d rather their default setting be thinking of their ambitions before considering what their boyfriend wants them to do – at least until they’re old and wise enough to see the forest for the trees.
      And the likelihood is that no matter how focused and determined a young woman might be in regard to figuring out what she wants to study and pursue, career-wise, she will inevitably be hit over the head, repeatedly, with the idea that as a woman, she’s expected to/should be “soft” and giving and maternal and sacrificing, putting her own needs and desires in the backseat.
      I faced this when teaching college courses. Students of both sexes presumed that I’d bend for them, believe their excuses, and not follow through on tough policies because I was a young woman. My male counterparts had much less of a struggle with this, because the gender assumptions are totally different.
      So ultimately, I don’t believe that adopting a “me/my career first” mantra as a young woman will translate into selfishness and narrow-mindedness in the long run. It has to do battle with too many counter-messages over the span of a lifetime to not be somewhat tempered.

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