My badass 7-year-old daughter makes me want to be a better feminist

What I’ll remember most about last weekend’s Women’s March in Miami is a brief conversation I overheard between a novice journalist and a 17-year-old guy marching in solidarity. It broke open my heart.

“How did you come to this march?” the young female journalist asked.

“I took an Uber,” the guy replied.

“What I’m trying to say is why did you come?” she tried again, stretching her recorder up towards him.

“Because growing up, I lived in a house that had a lot of domestic violence,” he answered. “My father emotionally and physically abused my mom. And also the Women’s March is supposed to be intersectional, for all people, all genders, all sexual orientations, all races, all disabilities; so I want to stand with the people who are being oppressed.”

The young journalist, my 7-year-old daughter, took all this in while I tried to mouth “SECOND GRADE!” over her head.

“OK. So, you don’t want to be how other people are—being mean to other people?” my daughter responded, not missing a beat.

“Yeah,” the teen said, grinning. “Exactly.”

And just like that, a journalist was born. It was my daughter’s first interview. R&B music was booming in the background, echoing off the massively bright muraled walls in Wynwood’s art district, and providing a soundtrack for a day of protest slogans, chanting, food trucks, and signs decorated with poop emojis.

I hadn’t planned on bringing my daughter to the Women’s March. I thought she’d complain about all the walking, about missing her friend’s soccer party, and about the hot Miami sun (sorry everybody else in the country). But when I mentioned the march, she jumped at the chance to participate, asking if she could bring her voice recorder. And there we were. I still don’t know how to do justice to the feelings that flooded through me as the two of us strolled through the crowd, her small fingers wrapped in mine, her other hand clutching the recorder.

Frances Colon, 43, stands with other Puerto Rican activists seeking more aide for the Commonwealth. Previous Photo: Jessica Fremson stands with her daughters, 17-year-old Remi and 10-year-old Misha Khamvongsa.Laura Wides-Muñoz

Frances Colon, 43, stands with other Puerto Rican activists seeking more aide for the Commonwealth. Previous Photo: Jessica Fremson stands with her daughters, 17-year-old Remi and 10-year-old Misha Khamvongsa.

There was something so deeply moving about that moment—about this moment: the ease with which my daughter captured the essence of such a difficult story and empathized with the teen’s humanity, the ease with which this young man shared his story with her, the crowd and its energy inspiring trust in her (and me).

Maybe it was the way that my daughter’s golden-brown eyes crackled as she mouthed along with the chants of “power at the polls,” and the other slogans championing the strength of girls and women. Or maybe it was watching my daughter witness and record history for the first time.

There was something deeply moving, too, about the mix of people gathered for the march: those seeking rights for formerly incarcerated women of color; those demanding more research money for and more women in science; those working to end domestic violence; and those trying to elect more women to political office. In all of this, the promise of her future, and her generation’s future, slammed into me until I could barely breathe.

I was elated, and I was ashamed. I have never questioned that I am a feminist. I hold a black belt in the martial art of Hapkido. I am about to publish a book on the history of the DREAMer movement. I have an important-sounding title at Fusion TV. And yet I remember, not long ago, recommending to a group of international journalists visiting Harvard University that they avoid using the word “feminist” during interviews. “People here are funny about the ‘f’ word,” I told them. “It’s just a loaded term.”

Feel free to cringe. I still do.

In the long year that’s passed since the first Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration, and after learning that one of my mentors is involved in the #MeToo story, I’ve discovered how much more I still need to learn about the feminist movement. I’ve reawakened to how much still needs to change, about how many things we’ve mistaken for normal for too long.

I’m not just talking about the things we’ve always known are wrong—sexual harassment and assault—but the more subtle things that keep half of this country’s population from being represented and heard in boardrooms, in editorial meetings, in Hollywood writers’ rooms, and in Washington.

I know my daughter will never utter the words I told those visiting journalists at Harvard. She will not have to. As I walked with my daughter on Sunday, I couldn’t help imagine what my mother must have felt as she held my tiny hand when I was 7, knowing I would live in a different world than the one she’d grown up in. I wondered what my grandmother must have felt before that, and her mother before that. I felt the weight and the breadth of their dreams. I have to step it up now, not just because I want to be a badass feminist, but because of the budding young journalist next to me, the 7-year-old trying to keep step—who I have no doubt will soon outpace me.

Laura Wides-Muñoz is author of “The Making of a Dream: How a Group of Young Immigrants Helped Change What it Means to Be American” (Harper Books)