A few years ago I watched a home video of my 9th (or maybe 10th) birthday party. My mother went through a lot of trouble to put together this lacy delicate tea party for my girlfriends and myself. The video shows tea cakes and good china, pink punch and sweet little pastries. There are my girlfriends and I in our best Sunday dresses, pastels with lace and bows. Everything seems in order until you pan over to Jill sitting in a chair (not in the most “lady like” fashion) behaving in a way that is not quite befitting a “lady”.. shocker.
I watched this video and although all the elements were in place for this feminine affair it is like I (my 9 year old self) am doing everything possible to rebel against the hyper-femininity taking place around me.
Not all little girls are made of sugar and spice.
If you were going to write a poem about what my childhood self was made of it would include belly laughs, tree branches, bare feet, river water, frogs, tangled hair, fresh air, and a bossy mouth.
I was a tornado of dirt and noise as a child. I was not always kind, or quiet, or sweet. I was rarely obedient and am still known for my stubborn disposition.
I am finishing up my feminist theory project, it is one of my favorites I have worked on (maybe I already mentioned that). Today I was thinking about gender stereotypes and double standards and the early messages we receive about who we are supposed to be.
Women are taught to be submissive, kind, nurturing, pretty, clean.. but what if you don’t fit in. You are a problem. The message is internalized either way, whether you subscribe to it or not. We are too young to filter these messages out ourselves when we first receive them.
What ends up happening for women is this internalized oppression where we feel shame, guilt, and self-loathing for our perceived shortcomings.
They are not short comings though. For example, I have always been messy. My entire life. I am not a failure as a woman, I was a disaster from day one. So what? Why does that have to mean anything?
I am not making any ground breaking claims here. Feminist theory has been around since the 60’s, feminist liberation long before that, and sexism is sure as shit nothing new.
It is just wild to think how much has NOT changed since I was a kid. Walk into any chain store and you will see a division in the toy aisle – Pink and Blue. Just last night Isaac asked me if I had any boy movies, I asked him what that meant. We are still sending kids these messages about who they have to be in order to be accepted, to receive love.
When will it stop?
I mean why am I considered radical for using a word like pretty to describe a boy? Since when do words like pretty have a gender specifier? I looked up the definition of pretty: