A letter to my teenage students: Yes, you can shave your armpits.

With one of the biggest elections of our lifetime (almost) past us (eye roll), I wanted to take this moment to offer up my take on one somewhat political issue.

For your parents and grandparents, the word Feminist conjures up all kinds of feelings. The idea stirs up anger for most. I literally heard a male radio talk show host say that the feminist movement came about ONLY to help unattractive women get better jobs. Unreal! On the flip side there are some feminists who’ve claimed that being married and having children is the worst thing that a woman can do. Both sides are wrong.

Ask your parents what they picture or think of when you say the word “feminist.” Some will say they picture a man-hating, angry, pants suit wearing aggressive type. While others picture women wearing no bras with hairy legs and arm pits who are liberal to the core. Some will ONLY see women from the LGBTQ community. 

As for me, I picture myself – a moderately conservative southerner, CEO, mom and wife who is confident, successful and refuses to let anyone limit me. I’m a fighter, but I’m not angry. I’m not a victim because no human deserves that much power over my emotions. I’m a mom, and I believe that is way more important than my career. But I also believe that it’s important to show my daughter (and you, my students) that hard work pays off and success is not easy. 

I know that history is probably your least favorite subject in school following closely by Chemistry and Geometry, but humor me for a moment and keep reading.

The Bible was written by men. Before you gasp at my audacity, that is a fact. I believe Jesus is my Lord and Savior. There are parts of the Bible that sometimes get twisted. You may hear that the Bible says that women have to be submissive to their husbands. The Bible does in fact say that, but what you may not realize is that the Bible also says that husbands are to love their wives the way that Christ loved the church. That’s a pretty TALL order. There have been centuries of teachings that have conveniently left out portions of the Bible in an effort to convince women, minorities and immigrants that they aren’t quite as worthy as some.

The Constitution of the United States was also written by men. Even as late as the mid-1800’s, women in our country were seen as property of their husbands (and some still are). If a couple got divorced, the husband received custody of the children, all property, all money and the wife was to leave the home with only one thing – the clothes she was wearing. Can you imagine?! Did you know that freed male slaves received the right to vote before women? Now, history is very clear that our fellow black Americans were terrorized and murdered when attempting to exercise their right, BUT I mention that to show that our culture’s disdain and lack of respect for women in general runs very deep. It wasn’t even until 1963 that someone decided women and minorities should get paid in a similar manner to white men. In 1975 (the year before I was born) the Supreme Court decided that women couldn’t be excluded from serving on a jury. Wow! Seriously? It took until 1975 for the “men” in charge to decide that women WERE actually smart enough to serve on a jury. And there are still states in our country who have loopholes in their laws preventing victims of marital rape from prosecuting their offenders.

I want to be clear as day. Women are not less than men nor do I believe that white men are the source of all evil. However, as you move forward in this world, I want you to understand how your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and so on were fed ideas that shaped their beliefs. Think about it for a second. Who decided that women didn’t deserve the same rights as men way back when? Was it some higher being? No. At no point does Jesus claim that women are a lesser species to men. Like I said before, there are men who were afraid of losing control who decided to change the Word of God to fit their narrative. Those men aren’t Jesus. They aren’t my Lord and Savior. They are not my God who created me in His image.

So what does it look like for YOU to be a feminist:

  • You believe in equality for women.
  • You believe women are not less than men.
  • You choose to turn your back on any ideals to the contrary.
  • You refuse to live in victimhood because being a female does not make you a victim nor does it make you an angry person. It makes you “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
  • You are strong.
  • You can be a mom and wife because that’s what YOU choose.
  • You can NOT be a mom and wife because that’s what YOU choose.
  • You can pursue your dreams because they are YOURS.
  • You can be conservative, liberal and everything in between.
  • There are NO beliefs that limit you.
  • You can choose to sit quietly, watching the chaos without choosing to be a part of it.
  • You can choose to stand up and fight right in the middle of the chaos.
  • You can be the CEO of a major corporation.
  • You can be the CEO of your home.
  • You can wear dresses, makeup and all the things (or not).
  • You can shave your armpits and legs (or not).
  • You will move through this life with the knowledge and understanding that history has created certain ideals that have become norms, but those norms were created solely to empower the few and NOT because of some divine proclamation.

That last point is important. There is anti-feminist rhetoric out there that claims female equality is against human nature. These people will try and convince you that many of the beliefs we hold are born into us and have been there for eternity. That is simply not true. Now, I’ll be the first to agree that there are inherent qualities of men and women related to things like child birth, parenting and our own attractions for one another. But the ideals that women aren’t as smart, savvy, strong, goal-oriented or capable of leadership is a belief created by history – by men who wanted to be in power.

Here’s the great thing. YOU, my teenage students, are going to be voice of change. You are going to be the voice of reason. I see it in each of you. You are different than any generation before you. You aren’t angry. You’re accepting. You’re still innocent and brave. You are more aware. You are AMAZING!

So go into the world. Stand for something. Shave your armpits. Bust down the doors. And do all the things they say we can’t.

2 thoughts on “A letter to my teenage students: Yes, you can shave your armpits.

  1. Patrick Denney

    Best yet, Shannon. You nailed it. Growing up in the 70’s with my widowed mother. I saw all the hurdles first hand. Minority women were the most persecuted. What Rosa Parks did on the bus in Montgomery rang out in many ways for equality for both minorities and women. Need not forget.

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