Listen Up! Part 1
“I deserve to live free of shame…my body is not my enemy…pleasure is my friend and my right.” ~Alice Walker
I just finished the first part of my book, Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation called Your Life as a Girl and I have so much to say. It’s a bit disturbing to me how I could relate to these essays on so many levels because what each essay talks about is the seriousness and the tragedy that girls suffer on their quest to becoming women.
This part spoke about how when you’re in grade school, before the pressures are placed upon girls to be subservient to boys, they’re on an equal level with them and intellectually they still are even when they hit Junior High and High schools, but they’re taught not to be so agressive or they’re not picked on by teachers or they’re afraid of being teased by the other kids for being too smart, setting girls up to dumben themselves to conform to societal needs. I know I felt this same pressures in school. I was never one to really speak up in class after I reached Junion High because I didn’t want to be thought of as dumb. I didn’t want to ask questions when there was something I didn’t understand for that same reason, and I also didn’t want to give off how smart I actually was. This was more along the lines of peer pressure than anything else, because my mother was always telling me that I was smart and I could do better. My teachers were more concerned about my behavior because I was always one to question things and I was always a bit rebellious, even before I was a teenager. I was a handfull! I started noticing boys in 4th grade, and I think from then on out thing went down hill.
I also remember the different expectations that were placed on my brother than were placed on me. My brother was allowed to play and run around and be a mess, but I was taught to cook and clean and iron and sew from early on. I don’t mind the crafting portion of this, because I’m a pretty crafty girl (check out my other blog Crafty Girly.com). I think I read somewhere that Debbie Stoller, the editor in chief and mastermind of Bust Magazine considers crafting a way of taking back what is truly feminine by crafting because you want to not because you have to, but I’m digressing here. My brother was told to stop being a sissy, boy’s don’t cry, don’t throw like a girl, and all the other cliche’s you hear people tell little boys. I was primped and put in cute little dresses and told that I had to sit with my legs closed and that I had to act like a lady and stop getting so dirty. Then, when we were older, my brother was allowed to go out alone from an early age whereas I had to be chaperoned everywhere until I was 15 years old. It’s as if my mother felt I couldn’t be trusted because I was a girl, whereas because my brother was a boy he would be ok. She would tell me it was for my own safety, but I highly doubt that. What’s the difference between 14 and 15 in terms of safety? I feel that if somebody really wanted to do something to me, if they were to rape me, then they would and age would have nothing to do with it.
Finding Your Sexuality
There was also a story in here from Rebecca Walker which I felt was excellent because she truly touches on the shame of being a sexually active girl because this is supposed to be something girls don’t do. She touched on how girls when they’re young are masters of transforming themsevles to become what they think the boys want them to be and how they wear all these different masks until it becomes apparent to the girl that the boy is interested in this fantasy girl and not the actual girl. I think at some point all girls fall into this trap in order to get the attention they want from boys. I was one of them until I realized how stupid it was for me to lie to myself because I was denying myself the ability to be truly loved and accepted for who I am, not for who I think they would like me to be.
What really catches my attention is how in all these stories they talk about labeling women and there is never the middle-of-the-road label. It’s always two extremes. Either she’s a good girl (pure) or a slut/whore, even if she’s still a virgin. All of these stories talk about how if you’re raped, you’re considered easy to the boys and a whore to the girls. If you’re with a boy you like and someone doesn’t like that , you’re a whore. If you hang out with a group of boys, you’re a whore. I was one of these in high school. I had more male friends than female because I could relate to them more. They understood me better and we just had a better friendship than I could ever have with the girls at my school, and because of this I was labeled a whore and was considered easy. I struggled with my self-esteem as most any teenage girl does. I had my little group who would make me feel better about myself and that was all I cared about. It was in Junior High that it was really bad. I don’t know what it is about that age but boys were dehumanizing in Junior High. They felt they had every right to do whatever they wanted to you. They would grab you inappropriately, label you to put you in your place if you stood up to them, things you hear about all over the internet and in books, and if you develop early, even more so.
This is how most girls are raised. This is how girls are taught to be a women. It’s no wonder that girls self-esteem is an issue. It’s no wonder that girls and woman are constantly struggling with their self-image and are prone to anorexia, bulemia, and will put themselves through plastic surgery.
This book, so far, has made me realize that I’m not alone in how I feel about the state of women in society and has encouraged me even more to be more active in helping to make woman equal in the eyes of our society.