I was puttering around Portsmouth yesterday and saw this book in the window of a children’s store. At first glance I thought it was pretty cool and just the kind of inspiration little girls should have. They should know their looks shouldn’t be important and what’s inside of them – what pushes them and moves them is what is worth celebrating.

If I were a mom of a daughter or I had a niece, I would probably buy this book. Heck, given a little more creative time, I am someone who could write this kind of book. I am all about positive examples for little girls about never being ashamed of who they are and want to be….who they don’t want to be.

But then I got sad. You see, I am a strong girl. Always have been. But it’s only been in the past year or so that it got “hip” to accept my kind. Fierce used to mean stubborn. Empathetic used to be too sensitive. Creative used to mean weird kid. Selective meant too picky. Settling….not even an option now but would have gotten me married 10 years ago.

Individual athleticism like hiking, yoga, Pilates…were just not things kids did. Team sports were the only athletics for children. Had yoga been a thing when I was a kid, I bet I would have been obsessed with it. I actually very much enjoy being athletic. I just didn’t like people so team sports weren’t my thing. My strength is admired now but as a kid, I was just fat and a loner. Not socially acceptable in the family and neighborhood circle.

Traveling alone….enviable. 10 years ago….”so sad, she has no friends to go with her. Is that even safe?” Single at 43…well, I think that’s still supposed to mean something is wrong with me but I think I am starting to see societal seeds emerging through the dirt as hopeful buds of acceptance and ” the new happy” for women.

I have spent more than half my life in therapy trying to deal with being a stigma in every aspect of my life. Not the kid my parents hoped for. Not skinny. Not emotionally balanced. Not an athlete. Not the first girl a guy would pick. Not the Homecoming Queen. Not proposed to. Not pined after. Not the one who got away. It’s ok, though. All that therapy kept me alive so I could be living life in my terms today. I may even begin to be considered a role model at some point while I am still living. So I think I am getting to the point of being acceptable now….like not all parents would be horrified if their daughter turned out like me. Parents would just hope their girl could get there without the sexual harassment, rape and bombing that hardened my edges.

For all the things I’m not….married, skinny, docile, tame, easy, amiable….the amount of things I am are way cooler. I’m financially independent. I am not unhappily married. I am not being beaten or cheated on or just simply taken for granted. I am not disappointed by the answer to my “what if’s.” And while the body will never look perfect, it could always be worse. I take no shit from anyone. I know my worth and I’d rather grow dusty on a shelf than sell for less than my value. I am fierce. I do what I want when I want. I have zero fear about eating alone in a restaurant. It hasn’t always been that way. Definitely had moments of awkwardness starting out. But think about it….could you handle it right now, this very second? Would you do it tonight if you could? Probably not. You are still horrified by the thought and worried about what other people might think. I’m not. Not only am I not worried what other diners will think, I am aware they don’t really think anything of it at all. If anything, they are jealous.

“Strong Is the New Pretty” is a nice thing for girls to have. They do need to be encouraged to be themselves and to not worry what others think. Their parents do need to be open to who they are and not shame them for their differences. They need every buffer they can get in this world. The problem is, what about the “others?” What book are they reading? Are little boys being given books teaching them about feminism? Are they reading books about how to be better men? How to be desirable husbands? Are they reading books with strong female characters and learning to celebrate whatever traits the ” weird” girls have? Are they being taught about all the different body types women have? Are they being taught how not to make girls feel insecure about themselves? Will they try to close the gender wage gap? Will they refuse to accept their higher salary if the females aren’t being offered the same?

How does this change anything for girls other than telling them it’s ok to be who they are vs. the days we tried to stuff them in a box if they showed any signs of individuality? They will still get paid less. They will still be chosen based on their bodies and looks. Men will say they want to be with strong women but when faced with one, won’t be able to handle it. They will probably be able to negotiate great sex and no strings attached relationships but no one will marry them. They have many options available in terms of being able to have children on their own but they will be financial stifled….held back in their careers with no extra support at home. They can travel alone just fine but will always move in fear of being attacked no matter how strong and independent they are.

We can raise them in all sorts of ways now. They can run companies. They can write bestselling books. They can be politicians, neurosurgeons, Nobel Peace Prize winners, inventors. They can buy their own homes, have children alone. But their opposition will never change. At least not until we browse the children’s book store and see a book called “Feminism Is the New Strong” being marketed for the boys.