Sunday, September 29, 2013

Girl Talk: Discovering that Being a Girl is a Problem

    I am very fortunate to have grown up in a family that treated me as if they truly believed that I could be anything. I was never pushed to "girl things" or steered away from "boy things."  I was encouraged to try everything that interested me in any area--arts, sports, academics.  I was supported in the things that I self-selected as being "my thing"  (theater, music, outdoorsy things like hiking and camping).   My academic successes were celebrated.  I always had a sizeable fan club in attendance at my school plays, piano recitals, softball games, and soccer games.  When I missed the mark, I wasn't shamed or otherwised punished.  I was razzed good-naturedly for my failings.  There is no getting around being teased in my family.  It's actually a sign of affection. None of this was about my gender, though.

     In fact, I do not remember ever being aware of being expected to fulfill any gender roles.  My one attempt at learning to sew was a disaster that is still joked about today.  My mother, in exasperation at my mess and incometence in culinary efforts as a teenager told me to get out of her kitchen.  Her recommendation, "Marry a chef." (Best advice she ever gave me.)

     I wasn't born with the competitive gene,  and I was clumsy and slow.  In a family of scholar-athletes, it was a source of shame for me that I sucked at sports.  Never for a minute, though, did I think it was because I was female.

     I was fairly aware that being female was something my mother and aunts and their mothers before them made them "less than" in the man's world they were born into.  My mother had to fight to get off of the teller line and into the management training program at the bank.  I realized that it was a major victory when she beat out a male Harvard MBA for a bank manager's position several years later.  What I was completely unaware of was that other girls in my peer group still had to fight the idea that they were less than simply because of their gender.  I was an adult before I realized this.  And it blew my mind.


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