My story: I was born on a Sunday afternoon to Linda and Charlie Senger. My parents met when my mom was transferred to my dad’s division when her boss wouldn’t promote her because she was – a woman. My dad had a package on his desk addressed to his good friend from college, who turned out to be the beau of my mom’s best friend in high school. I don’t believe in coincidences. I do believe in the virtue of tenacity. A couple marriage proposals later, my mom finally said yes and here I am.
A few important notes: 1) my mom had been married before, which produced my awesome brother 2) my dad is a geeky guy and a total sports fanatic – I mean FANATIC and 3) my dad always said he wanted a little girl. When I was old enough to inquire, I asked my dad why didn’t he want a boy. He said matter-of-factly he already had my brother and all the things he wanted to do, he could do with me. And it’s true. He taught me how to throw a ball and swing a bat as soon as I had the coordination. I grew up playing every sport under the sun.
I also grew up with an older brother who was an engineer, straight out of the womb as my mom likes to say. I probably ruined more of his train sets, stereo, computer and guitar equipment than he’d like to remember. My brother is a smart, successful man but of all his accomplishments, his greatest achievement, in my opinion, is my niece. I adore her. If I never have children, I’m okay with it because my brother and sister-in-law already created this amazing human being who I have the great privilege of loving.
Which brings me to the point of my story. Over the years, I’ve watched my niece grow up. The kid is notably smart, clever, funny, observant, well-mannered, talented…all-around perfect. Not that I’m biased:) She’s taught me that children are either able to become the person they are meant to be or they’re taught to become mirrors of the world around them, no matter how distorted or tainted that world might be. The first time this point was thrown in my face was when she was six years old. We were talking about what she wanted to be when she “grew up” and she said a princess. Walk into any girls section of Toys-R-Us and it’s no surprise why. I told her she’d probably have to marry a prince to become a princess because although she does descend from royal lineage, she’s not in line for the crown. I said an alternative is President of the United States. And this is when she said the words I will never forget:
“Aunt Amy, girls can’t be President.”
The insolence I felt at the notion that this person, so capable of being anything she wants to be, would inherit the idea that she couldn’t be leader of a country known by the rest of the world as the land of opportunity reached Maleficent-level proportions in me. I told her, in a very serious tone, that girls can be President and she would see a woman President one day. And then she apologized. For saying it. She apologized for the ignorance and discrimination and bias of the rest of the world.
Two years later, we were at the mall and the half-pint requested a visit to the book store. I said okay and asked her what she wanted there. In a very soft whisper, she answered. I had no idea what she said, she uttered it so quietly. I leaned down and asked, “What did you say?” Again, this time looking around like a cagey KGB agent, she whispered, “Pokemon.” “Pokemon?” I repeated. “Yes,” she confirmed. “Why are you whispering?” I asked. “I don’t want anyone to hear,” she replied. I started to think. “Do your parents not want you reading this?” I asked. “No,” she answered. “Then why are you being so weird?” And this is when my niece, who has never been into dolls, has never gotten anythings but A’s in math and science, who can figure out any gadget faster than I can, made the second statement I will never forget:
“Pokemon is for boys.”
The way she was acting, you would’ve thought she was running drug shipments for the Colombians. So I had a little talk with her. I told her if anyone ever questioned her interest in Pokemon, she would aptly inform them: That’s just how I roll.
My niece is ten years old and there are three responsibilities I feel very earnestly because of her:
1. I must leave her a world that isn’t trashed, literally.
2. She will see a woman President of the United States.
3. My niece will be able to grow into the individual she’s meant to be, without the confines of gender stereotypes.
The third responsibility is the reason I am supporting and promoting She’s Geeky. It’s why I’m being vocal about events I see as gender-biased and why I won’t be spending money on any company, product or event that discriminates or appears to discriminate against women. It’s why I participate in Ignite DC and the BvB DC charity football game. It’s why I started 1×57. I can’t expect somebody else to make the change happen. I’m responsible for clearing the path for whatever my niece is meant to be. God help you if you get in my way.