Megachurches, Malls, and Me: The Orange County Feminist

Julia F. P. Ostmann

orange countyMany have called Orange County home: “The Real Housewives,” Disneyland, Richard Nixon, Rick Warren’s church/empire, California’s largest shopping mall, “The OC.” And then there’s me. Join me in my new, biweekly column as we parachute into hostile territory, and discover if you can survive as a feminist on the ground.

7 Steps to Brainwash Your Baby

Some little girls are raised Protestant, Buddhist, or Disney Princess.  I was raised feminist. “I tried to engineer your worldview about gender roles,” my mother gleefully confesses.  If you aim to “raise strong, intelligent, confident girls!” of your own, here’s the definitive guide.

1. Birth female babies.  “I told your father I was not going to have boys,” says my mother.  “I willed you into being a girl.”

2. Ban everything Disney.  “Cinderella is porn for girls,” says my mother.  (You can infer where she falls in the feminist porn debate.)  She blames Cinderella’s popularity for causing, among other things, high U.S. rates of divorce and housewives.  I did get to watch Pocahontas and Mulan, though – apparently, culturally-caricatured women save their princes.

3. Name your daughter’s dolls after important women in history.  Phyllis Wheatley, Susan B. Anthony, Emma Goldman, Simone de Beauvoir – the playmates of my youth.

4. Change all picture-book protagonists into girls.  I cheered when Corduroy found her lost button, cried when the Velveteen Rabbit learned she’d be burned with all the other playthings, and toot-tooted as Ms. Little’s noisy train rattled out of the yard.  But Ira (of Ira Sleeps Over) got to keep his manhood – “If you grow up and get married, you want to marry a nice, sensitive boy who has his teddy bear.” Or who, like my father, has no qualms about expunging his own gender from literature.

5. Actually, just give her books about women.  After I learned to read, my mother would borrow from the library anything age-appropriate and female-centered and “throw it in your room.”  The Paperbag Princess and Brave Irene lead to 100 Great American Women and a collection of world folktales entitled Not One Damsel in Distress.

6. Build her strength in body as well as mind (if possible). My mother signed me up for softball because she’d played it as a kid.  Once, when I was standing in the outfield, a pop fly came hurtling toward me, and for the first time ever, I didn’t run away.  My shocked mother cheered, shouting at me to point my mitt and brace my legs!  And then the ball hit me in the eye.  At the end of the season, my mother let me quit softball, quietly removing athleticism from her feminist checklist. 

7. And when all else fails, co-opt Santa Claus. Once I made the mistake of writing a letter to Santa asking for Barbie dolls.  Next morning, amidst the cookie crumbs, I found the following response: “Santa doesn’t think Barbies are positive role models for girls, so he got you some historical novels about suffragettes instead.  Signed, Ms. Claus.”

If you follow these rules religiously, after 18 years your daughter will go to college, take a women’s studies class, and start writing satirical blog posts about you for a feminist magazine.  Congratulations.

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