I think I grew up in a time when feminism was being shouted from the rooftops— GIRL POWER was all the rage (I use the expression “all the rage” with a grain of salt. It was a fad, I feel like). I was born in 1989 and I know that by then feminism was far from new, but it had trickled its way into mainstream pop culture. Disney movies with “strong female characters”— Pocahontas, Mulan were important to grown-ups who felt it was time young girls had more empowering female role models.
I don’t know how much I was influenced by all of this but I distinctly remember insisting— for years— that my favorite color was blue. I don’t think this was as much an early twinkling of feminism than a need to be different. Every girl seemed to love pink so I wanted to choose a color that was as far away from it as I could figure, but it couldn’t be green because that was my sister’s favorite color.
But for all of this I was never athletic, not physically strong. I love drawing and reading, I love animals and babies, my hobbies include things like embroidery and cooking. I don’t dislike the color pink— in fact, I quite like it. I would someday like to look beautiful in a long, flowy, sparkly dress.
And you know what the worst part is?
I feel guilty about it. I wish I was stronger, I wish I played video games, I wish I liked sports. I wish I wasn’t in love with the idea of being in love. I wish I knew how to tie lots of knots, I wish I could be more of a leader than a follower.
I feel bad for being a girlie-girl, I feel uncool. I feel that my feminine qualities are somehow a disservice to me.
… But somehow I feel that’s not quite right.
I love Tina Fey, but when I was listening to the audiobook version of Bossypants and she was talking about trying to raise her daughter to NOT gravitate towards Disney Princesses, I felt like I was being rubbed the wrong way. I felt like that was the mother fighting for what she believed in, not for what her daughter wanted to do.
If I ever have a daughter I know that raising her will bring up issues about my own feminism. But I don’t quite agree with the idea of gently discouraging her desire to wear Disney Princess dresses with glittery plastic heels, and gently suggesting she try a firetruck toy, however gently it is done.
What I would want for my daughter to have is faith in herself— I want her to feel as if she can do anything in the world, and to experience everything she wants to experience. I want her to have the confidence to say what she feels and to challenge herself. I want her to know that her potential in any field is unlimited, and I want her to fulfill her potential in any field she feels is best for her.
I don’t really care how she looks when she’s doing it.
So if she wants to dress as Cinderella for Halloween, so be it. Children will be children. They will see what they see on TV, see what their friends are doing, and want to follow suit. That’s how people learn and grow. It’s natural for a girl to identify with other girls, and for her to see what they are wearing and think that she wants the same thing. It is the same for boys. Children will be children.
I think my responsibility as a parent would be to look past her superficial choices (what they wear, what they do with their friends, what movies they like, who their role models are) and see who she is at her core.
Is she good?
Does she love and respect herself accordingly?
Is she good to others? Does she treat all with tolerance and respect?
Is there something that she is passionate about and pursues with whatever she can muster, because she believes in her ability and loves what she is doing?
If the answer is yes, I think that is everything that matters.
"I am Atsuko Maeda of AKB48, Team A.
On March 25th, at Saitama Super Arena, I announced my graduation. I— as many as you probably know— am kind of clumsy and can’t do many things at the same time. I have been very irritated at myself, and know that I have worried and troubled my fellow members, members of the crew, and fans. Even then, everyone— all of you— have been incredibly kind, and I know that I’ve taken advantage of this.
I started thinking about graduating a while ago. I wasn’t able to talk about with all of my fellow members, but I have been talking about it with some members, such as Takamina. Akimoto-san has also given me a lot of advice, but it never seemed very real at all. There were a lot of insecurities. If I was no longer a member of AKB, what would be left for me?
We were given a Record Award, just the other day it was decided that we would have a concert at Tokyo Dome, and we were given the opportunity to be a part of the Red and White Record Contest. I felt that, at this point where the dreams we’ve chased after together are coming true slowly but surely, I would like to move onto the next stage
I know that my fellow members are thinking a lot about their own futures. AKB has opened up a lot of opportunities for me, and I thought that for the others, I need to be the first one to take the next step.
As I said at the announcement, I’m very scared. In the same way that a lot of you are concerned for me, I’m unsure that I can go off on my own. Until now I’ve had all of my fellow members to be there for me, and AKB to go home to. But I’ve come this far. I’d like to give it a try. Um.
I’d be very happy if you would support me.
At this point in time, as I’ve continued to say to all of you, the specifics of my graduation haven’t been decided on. We’re still talking it over.
But I’ve decided to withdraw from the AKB General Election. I’m sorry.
I wanted to speak to all of you in my own words. Although it has been in this form*, I have been given this platform.
I may not have much longer as a member of AKB, but I would really appreciate your support even after I graduate. And, above all else, please continue to support AKB along with me.
This has been Atsuko Maeda of AKB48.”
*By this she means, she would like to have been better to her fans, for example really talking them face-to-face rather than just posting a video on YouTube. She is indirectly apologizing for the format of her message, which she would have liked to have been more personal.