I couldn’t say why, just something I knew…
I knew that boys were faster, rougher, louder. Boys were everything I wanted to be. Boys could climb trees and no one worried about their clothes. Boys could play War and no one told them to mind their hair. Boys were supposed to be rude and obnoxious, brash and brave, cool and cunning, everything I wasn’t expected to be.
I was told many times I could be who I wanted, do what I liked, be anything I wanted to be. But I knew it was a lie.
I was a girl. Girls were supposed to be pretty, sweet, quiet and nice. Everything that was hard for me.
Boys were supposed to play games; swing a bat, throw a ball, run all day, hide and sneak.
Girls were supposed to stay put; play “house”, draw pictures, talk all day, smile and giggle.
I wanted to be me; running and talking, throwing and pretending, imagining and laughing.
Being free to play any way I wanted, whenever I wanted, no matter who was around.
But I knew that was “wrong”. Because so long as I ran and yelled, bossed and talked, pretended and threw balls, I was hearing the question behind me from somewhere, someone…
“why are you like that? is there something wrong with you?”No matter how many grown-ups told me to be myself, I could never miss the one grown-up standing silently by, frowning at me – the weird little girl who wouldn’t “play nice”.
They told me I would grow up to be a woman and there is greatness in women, but I was not fooled. Men were tall, had muscles, wore clothes that got dirty, fixed cars, gave orders, moved mountains and took charge of their families. Men played with their children and made noise, threw them on the couch, teased them, ran with them, got dirty with them.
Women were quiet and took care of their kids. Women told their kids what to do when the kids didn’t want to do it. Women kept everyone clean and polite and boring.
Even in the light of feminism and equality, I could see the truth. Men were exciting, women were dull.
I didn’t want to grow up to be that; clean and neat, polite and nice.
HOw could I command a pirate ship if I was worried about my hair? How could I learn the arts of Ninja and save the people from evil while minding my manners? How could I fly in a rocket ship to the moon if I couldn’t go anywhere without my toothfloss? How was I ever going to be president if I couldn’t get mad and bark out orders?
No matter how many women told me I could be president, I knew they were lying. Because I am a woman and I must keep my house clean, my kids polite, my schedule in order, my hands to myself.
I wanted to be a boy because boys grow into men and men were allowed to go outside. Men changed the world, while women cleaned it up.
Now I am a woman and everything is different. Everything except… the same things I saw when I was a girl.
Little girls still wear ribbons in their perfect little hair and get in trouble for messing it up. Little girls still get punished for being too bossy. Little girls still get evening dresses for playing dress-up instead of pirate swords. Little girls still learn to change a diaper before they are six. Little girls still get ignored and sneered at when they ask for help in math class. Little girls still receive barbie dolls for christmas without a rocket ship for her to fly.
When I talk to little girls now, I want to tell them the things that someone should have told me:
“You can act like a man and you will still be a woman. You can go out and get dirty, mess up your clothes, boss people around, take chances, discover new things and take charge of your life.
I want to tell them “you can be a woman and make mistakes and laugh at anyone who tells you it’s wrong. People will look at you funny and ask you why you are like that, but you just tell them this:
You can be a woman and still change the world.”