Friday, November 4, 2016

Like a Girl

Recently, I watched a documentary about gender, and not in the way you might think. It was about what we as a society do to our boys and men. As a mom of two boys, it resonated deeply with me. I am afraid for how they will be viewed and treated, because neither one of them is "normal". Tristan has ADHD, and Mis has a speech impairment. They both love girly things right along with mighty machines, and Mis has a female nickname. So when I saw those little boys voicing their emotions for the camera, and the pain they were experiencing from the pressure to be  masculine, it broke my heart. When I listened to the hateful things that were said about women, and to men comparing them to women, my blood boiled.

I've always considered myself equal to a man. Perhaps it was the way I was raised. Perhaps it is my defiant personality, but there is no way I have ever viewed myself as second class. Even when I was Mormon, and I thought women were to submit to men, I still didn't like it, and I still didn't buy it. So when I see women being mistreated by men, or I see my gender being used as an insult or "motivator" I become very upset.

Recently, I had an interaction where someone said he believed that the phrase "like I girl" was not a bad thing. That it had a place, particularly in sports to help motivate young men to be better. If it were used just on the football field between guys, what was the harm? When I heard that, it was like someone had slapped me across the face with a stinky wet salmon.



Once I composed myself and had a moment to think, I realized, this person was just as negatively affected by our society's cling to chauvinism and hypermasculinity as any man who might make that comment.

Here's the thing. The football field is not an isolated place. Sure, if the guys were to stay on the field only interacting with each other, only as men, forever, it would be fine. But wait, then how would the metaphor work? Because women wouldn't be part of their existence! The problem is that the phrase "like a girl" is not only a sports term. It is used widely and in varied instances. The insult remains the same, if you are "like a girl" you are somehow less of a man. As though a woman's gender is a worthy insult to any man who isn't quite masculine enough. Because somehow, women are inferior beings.

I'm sure plenty of men wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and think to themselves, "God, I am so amazing". And the thought process might even go a little something more like "women suck, I'm so glad I'm not a woman or like a woman at all. And today I will be as masculine as I can, and I will probably use a female based phrase to insult my bro, because it is a great motivator if I want him to be a better man like me".

Let's chat about this for a moment. Why is it not okay to use a woman as an insult? Why is it wrong to classify femininity as weak or worse? Let me start off with one simple fact: women are human. We may have two x chromosomes instead of one, but we are part of humanity. Two arms, two legs, two eyes, a stomach, colon, and toes. Studies have indicated time and again that the male and female brain are not so different, and yet the stereotypes of women being less smart, more emotional, less capable remain. The idea that women are for men's pleasure and purpose still permeates our society. The idea that a man is better than a woman is rampant.

Studies have shown men exhibit a wider and more dynamic range of emotions than women. They just portray those emotions as appropriate, and even desirable. Emotions such as anger, rage, jealousy, hate, etc. Those are good and strong emotions. So the fact that men are quantitatively more emotional makes the statement "women are emotional and therefore not well suited for --" you fill in the blank, completely absurd. Perhaps the fact that men are prone to these emotions more than women actually makes them less suitable.

My favorite story from last week surrounded birth control for men. It's not the first time I've read about studies and trials for male birth control, but it was certainly the most ridiculous one I have read. Trials for male injected birth control were ended due to unwanted side effects, such as depression and mood swings. I read that and I just had to laugh. As a woman who wanted to have sex, I had to go on birth control, or risk pregnancy, or abortion. Taking birth control screwed with me mentally and physically. I gained weight, I got acne, I had irregular bleeding, I became depressed, I had horrible anxiety, I lost weight, I had mood swings. It was terrible. But it was the price I had to pay if I wanted to have sex. The label of my birth control said: "do not take if you have a history of breast cancer", which there is a significant history of breast cancer in my family. It also said "may cause blot clot, stroke, bleeding, mood swings, depression, weigh gain, irregular periods, infertility, etc". And all of those things women are simply expected to endure, they are expected to take those risks. It is just part of being a woman. But ask a man to do the same thing? To share the burden of sexuality? Oh hell no! They can't handle it! That, my friends, shows such a despicable privilege towards men in this country, it makes me sick.

And instead of addressing this problem, we perpetuate it! We feed this mentality and make it stronger. Our little boys are expected to grow up to be hard and emotionless men. Young males do not see the problem with gender based insults; they do not see how damaging and discriminatory those remarks are. How they cause men to view women negatively. How they cause women to view themselves negatively. How unequal standards are applied, and men equate women with weakness. How young girls in athletics feel poorly about their performance because they inherently play "like a girl".

We need to do better at educating our children, and we certainly need to do better and breaking down gender segregation. Women are not inferior to men, men are not stronger than women. No gender is better than the other, we are all human. It's time we started acting like it.

I am a girl. I am female. I am strong, capable, able, smart, understanding, kind, vulnerable, witty, imaginative, quick, artistic, compassionate. I am also irritable, agitated, selfish, reclusive. I am all these things and so much more. I'm a mom, I'm a photographer, I'm a student, I'm a wife, I'm a daughter, I'm a sister. I have hopes, I have dreams, I have goals. I have two sons. Two sons that I hope to raise to have some of my qualities and some of their dad's qualities. Two sons I hope will look at women as they look at themselves. Two sons I hope will never say "like a girl" unless they say "smart like a girl," "talented like a girl", "able like a girl". I hope they never address a grown woman as "girl". I hope they never blame a woman's response on being "emotional", I hope they never discount woman's feelings because they think she is "hormonal". I hope they never call a strong woman a "bitch", and I hope they never use a woman's genetalia to insult their friends. I hope they always show respect to men and women. I hope they never view a woman as an object, as something to obtain or control. I hope when they look at women, they remember me. A woman who, with two young children and a husband, started a business, maintained a home, and went back to school. I am not so weak.

But I am a girl. And I am PROUD to be.

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