One day when my twins, a boy and a girl, were about 7 years old, we were out running errands.So, his daughter is about to go off to university, where women are coddled and men are punished for the crime of being male, and he's already preemptively outraged by the fact that she might get paid less if she decides to work fewer hours than her hypothetical male counterparts.
We left one store and headed for the car. I entered the driver’s door, my son got in the front passenger door, but I noticed that I didn’t hear a rear door open and close.
I looked around to see that my daughter was still outside the car — her arms crossed, one hand clutching a little green purse made of stiff paper — staring disapprovingly at the door.
I rolled down the back window and asked, “What are you doing?”
She responded, “I’m a princess, and princesses don’t touch doorknobs.”
Having no idea where she had gotten such a notion, I was equal parts amused and irritated by it. I said, “Get in the car, sweetheart.” She repeated her refusal.
This was now a standoff.
So, I started to inch the car forward as if I was going to leave without her. She jumped in the car in a huff: “Why didn’t you open that door for me, Williams?”
“Who is Williams?” I asked.
“You,” she said. “On TV when people have servants they’re always called Williams or something like that.”
I had had enough. I turned in my seat and explained to her that, yes, I did call her my princess, and although I loved her dearly, I would not pamper her. I told her that her value and worth were not in what men would do for her, but in what she could do for herself. I told her that in our family, as in life, she would have to be self-sufficient and self-reliant, and that included deigning to touch doorknobs, or in this case, car door handles. And I told her that if she ever called me Williams again, she would be punished.
Williams disappeared into the ether.
Now my daughter is a high school junior, a great student who often makes the honor roll, and a championship fencer who is ranked No. 2 in the country in her age group and weapon. She wants to go to college and study to become a doctor.
She has blossomed into the self-assured, self-sufficient and self-reliant young woman I hoped she’d become, and she now rails against, and writes about, gender bias and gender stereotype. But she still likes to carry a nice purse. Some things never change.
When I think of my amazing young lady going off into a world where there is still a gender-pay gap, it makes me furious.
Then again, perhaps she'll get lucky and hook up with a lazy, unemployed guy with a prison record who is content to live off her salary. That's a model that is not exactly unheard of in the Black community, after all. Won't that be empowering!