A reader sent me a link to this Dear Daughter letter.
Dear daughter –
You should know that you are hated.
It’s true; she needs to know that.
There is nothing worse than being a girl. I’m not saying this as a former girl- I quite liked being a girl. I’m saying this from the POV of the entire rest of the world. There was a lovely feminist TED talk – A Call To Men – where a man discussed his conversation with a twelve year old boy, and the boy said he would rather die than be called a girl. And the man thought, Good Lord, how do these boys view girls, if being compared to them is the worst thing in the world?
I watched that talk – it’s very good – and actually what the boy said is that it would destroy him to be called a girl. That’s even worse, in a way. It’s not at all surprising though. I already know that’s what boys and men think, unless they’re consciously feminist. I see and hear it all the time. I have a corrupt taste for shows on the Discover channel about people doing backbreaking dangerous work in the worst possible conditions, like fishing the Bering Sea while huge waves crash over the deck every few minutes, so I see lots of “You do that like a girrrrrl” followed by loud jeering laughter. But then I heard the same thing when I was a laborer for the parks department. It’s familiar. All-male workplaces are awash in contempt for women.
Intelligent design? Don’t make me laugh.
I remember watching that talk maybe a year ago? I can’t remember why but at the time something about it rubbed me the wrong way. Which has nothing to do with the actual issue that these stupid like a girl are stupid, misogynistic and need to stop.
Once I taught a college comp. course with a gender emphasis. On the first day, I asked my students to write about what they’d do and how they’d feel if they woke up in the body of the opposite sex. In general, the women were eager to write; the men, reluctant.
One man in each class simply refused to imagine himself female. These students both wrote “I would kill myself” and not a word more.
Ophelia Benson says
Jeezis. That’s a horrible datum.
The description of the activity of a male as a girl is damaging on two levels, I think. The first of which is the obvious denigration of femininity, which is Bad, the second being the denial of performative self-definition which is doubly bad.
There are many chunks of my behaviour that can and have been described as “girlish” in the past. I think, personally, that one of the achievements of feminism is that a lot of these behaviours are now actually available to me while still fully identifying as male (terms such as “effete”, “womanly” or whatever no longer seemed to be applied).
I think feminism has achieved this because outside of my own experience, my female friends now frequently engage in activities that are traditionally ‘unfeminine’ without being labelled as such. Speaking out being one of the first and foremost examples that I can think of.
People seem a little more at home with this perfomative approach (“I identify as a female/male, therefore whatever I do is feminine/masculine by definition”) than they were in past generations – even if they’re not consciously approaching it on that level.
I say this all while completely and utterly not condoning, excusing or accepting the rampant misogyny in all male or predominantly male workplaces.
As to being a woman, I think I would be pretty much the same person: still idiosyncratic, still incredibly asocial, still entirely unconcerned with sartorial matters, still incapable of shutting my mouth (and saying the wrong thing), but probably slightly more violent. Not that women are more violent than men, just that I, as a person, react very, very badly to unwanted touching (including normal social stuff, like pats on the shoulder or whatever), which women seem to face a lot more of than men. So I would probably be a “bad” woman, by societal standards. Being “bad” rules.
There is a jogging-bike path right near where I live.
Last summer while jogging a young girl in a sundress ( about six) and her mother rode by me, coming up from behind.
At regular intervals along the path there are manhole covers that rise about two inces above the gravel.
One has to be careful because you can stub your toe on them.
The little girl, and she was cute, was ahead of her mother. She spied one of these raised covers, sped up, aimed straight for one, and then rode over it with a loud “thump”, all the while releasing her feet from the pedals
She looked back at her mother, her face beaming with pride because of the feat she’d just accomplished. Her mother approved.
With that one little ( self-imposed) challenge that little girl’s self-confidence and self-esteem rose. It goes one small step at a time.
I lost myself in thought contemplating what I’d just witnessed, and then tripped on the next raised cover…