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  • Whitney Olson

The Gentlest Person Who Ever Threw A Brick

In 1951, the former mayor of Cincinatti introduced Louise Noun as the "the gentlest person who ever threw a brick." Noun, a feminist and historian from Iowa, had accomplished what I still struggle with 65 years later- how to have a point of view that transcends stereotypes assigned to gender.

I've spent the past 28 years raising three daughters. From the first moment I held my oldest, I knew that I wanted her to more confidently move through the world than her mother did. I wanted her to kick ass in athletics and feel kick ass in a dress. I wanted her to be confident in her point of view without being labeled for having a point of view. I wanted her to be a gentle, yet strong-minded individual.

Of course, the things I want for my daughters reflect my own insecurities. I spent most of my youth playing rough and tumble with the boys in the neighborhood. As a young teen, I carried a yo-yo in my front pocket, a comb in my back pocket, and a purse on my shoulder. As an 17 year old, I played on the boys soccer team and fell the first time I tried on high-heeled shoes. As a 30 something, I coached in a man's world, negatively labeled as a strong-minded woman. Even at the mid-century point, I struggle with my authentic voice and negotiating an event while wearing heels.

I admit to feeling pretty good about my efforts to foster for my daughters an

environment where they are confident and comfortable with their bodies and their point of view. Until last month, when my youngest (a natural born brick thrower) called me out for claiming she should appreciate her body while at the same time discouraging her clothing choice.

Wait. What? My stand for modesty had put me in a thick, gooey sinkhole of hypocrisy and feminism. I stood there and realized I had lost touch with what it means to be a girl today. Worse, I had forgotten what it meant to be a girl all those yesterdays ago. I had transferred my own insecurities onto my daughter.

It was a great reminder of how easy it is to anchor our children with our issues and it was the perfect moment to simply say, "I'm sorry." Really, I should say, "Thank you." Thanks to my daughter, I have finally started to emerge from a lifetime of hiding behind my imperfections and insecurities. It's time for me to become the girl I want my daughters to be. Let the bricks gently fly!


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