'To My Dearest Daughter' was written and performed by Anna Reading at the Phenomenal People launch in July 2014.
This letter, written to Anna's seven year old daughter, imagines and asks what the world will hold for her in 10 years as a young women of 17; will she face the same battles as women do now in work and careers? Will most of the worlds wealth "still mostly belong to the minority of men"? Will she struggle with her body, will it "be too thin or too fat;" her "hair will be too long or too short?"
Anna Reading is Professor of Cultural and Creative Industries and is Head of the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King's College, University of London, UK. She has been active in the feminist movement for over thirty years, co-founding and working in Rape Crisis in York, editing the free zine New Tracy and writing and directing with Strip Search Theatre.
Take a moment to read her letter and perhaps share it with your own daughter...
To my dearest daughter
At seven you tell me you and all girls and boys can do and be anything you want. And it will be the same when you are big and I am small. You tell me this with certainty and a sense of righteous indignation that I should even ask. And yet all the research says by 18 the majority of young women no longer think they can be Prime Minister, an Astrophysicist or simply be the glory that is themselves.
At the moment you are extraordinary. You wake up fully charged at 6.00 am and by breakfast you have been a writer, a dog and a scientist; you have built a rocket in the living room and flown to the distant reaches of the universe, while writing a volume of poetry and discovering the cure for cancer on your return. There is nothing to stop you.
And yet this is what I know for sure: that in ten year’s time the world's wealth will still mostly belong to a minority of men. That violence against women will still be rife. That mass rape will continue to be at the heart of genocide and war. That more will be spent globally on military weapons and armies than all the money spent on health and education and refugees put together. And I know for sure that young women like you in wealthy countries will spend around ten hours a day looking at screens - big, small, mobile and the mini wrist embedded screen to come all of which will annihilate you every day with their absence of women, and their depiction of women as sex objects in various forms. [This is why we need the digital garden of phenomenal women!]
I also know my daughter that your body will be a site of battle. There will be a public struggle over what you can and should wear. You will wear too little, or too much; your body will be too thin or too fat; your hair will be too long or too short. The genitals of other girls will be mutilated.
And, while I don’t know whether by 2025 if there will be a contraceptive pill for men, I know that getting pregnant, or indeed not getting pregnant, will be your fault. You will get pregnant too young, or too old. You will go back to work too soon, or, too late. And I know then that you will work seventeen times harder in whatever job you do to get on, but you will be the first to be fired. I know that you will then begin to feel tired and wonder if all this is just you. And I know, at first you may deny such gender inequality as something from the past, until you realise you are not alone in what you feel, and you discover and reclaim, yet again, the stories and lives of women who tell you that you are not the first and that this struggle has a history and memories to inspire you lasting thousands of years.
And while I don’t know what you as a young feminist in 2025 will believe is important, I would like to imagine that you will want a world where the 2010 Law on Historic Sexual Abuse that your mother’s generation fought for, really has made a difference and girls and boys grow up without being sexually abused; a world where rapists receive twenty or thirty years group therapy in a secure environment. I imagine that you will want a world where half of all Professors are women in all Universities whether in science, medicine or the arts – and that is normal; a world where parents, male or female can and do take parental leave for at least a year and where both men and women and employers support paid work part-time for parents to be with their children, if they choose.
You, I would imagine, will also want a world where all girls can have a free education without intimidation; a world where the banks are half owned by women and all the world’s parliaments and board rooms are half filled with women. I would imagine that you would want healthy food and clean accessible water for all. I don’t know but I would think you would want to see more equal shares of land, money, pensions, property and housing. I would imagine that you would want a world in which safe childbirth in a place and manner of your choosing is normal.
But, perhaps, you will want more: you will dance in front of drones campaigning for the entire demilitarisation of the planet; you will do a mass women’s burrow to draw attention to the hidden rare earth mines essential for our digital gadgets that are part of the rape and pollution of our planet; perhaps, you will berate me for excluding the rights of non-human persons, the wisdom of dolphins and the voices of 800 year old sentient Oak trees. Perhaps you will join with indigenous Australians and call for the reburial of the uranium stolen from the land of the Rainbow Dragon Serpent to fill the bellies of nuclear weapons. Perhaps you will call for an end to cloning, to the end of the server factories; perhaps you are part of a DIY culture making the largest quilt in the world, whilst sending personal postcards and handwritten letters as your own rebellion against what you see as the tyranny of the digital.
Yet, I would also hope my dearest daughter that you will roundly reject (for a time) what you inherit from your mother and make your own path with as much energy, optimism and rightful indignation at 17 and seventy as you have at the age of seven. Let this also be so not just for you but all the world’s seven-year-old girls.
Your loving mother
A minor activist and a Professor of Culture, Media and Creative Industries; Head of Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries, Kings.