Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pretty Little Head

One of the many, many reasons I often daydream about a move back up North (although not on a day like today, when it’s 20 degrees out and I had to wear a coat, a COAT! The OUTRAGE! In December!) is the, uh, Southiness, of the Ol’ South. Yes, it’s nice to get a sweat-beaded glass of icy cold sweet tea on a hot summer’s day, and the biscuits are the best you can find. But there are still quiet, scary undercurrents of racism hidden in everyday polite conversations. And the men are suppose to be brave and strong and reckless (and heterosexual), and the women are suppose to be God-fearing and delicate and just a little bit helpless. And heterosexual.

I’ve never claimed to be a feminist. I’m one of the ones who constantly sets the Women’s Movement back a few paces with my fondness for cooking and knitting and baby-making. I’ve only voted once, and that was because I had a daughter who I realized needed to see her mother do it. I do appreciate the ‘hold property’ thing, though, because I despised apartment living (too light a sleeper).

However. Listening to my favorite holiday radio station this morning (the one that plays 24/7 Christmasy tunes, and had the damn Glee song on before it even aired), they had Part 1 in a ‘Point/Counterpoint’ cheesy little morning feature about Men Versus Women Drivers. Here are the three points the women said they liked about male drivers;

  1. They can parallel park better
  2. They can change a flat tire
  3. They can drop us off at the front door of the mall

I had to double-check my dashboard to make sure I wasn’t in a DeLorean and it was suddenly 1952. For the record, I am an EXCELLENT parallel parker. No, ladies of the morning show, there is not ‘something in the chromosomes’ that makes men better at it. And I can also change a flat tire, as long as the damn lug nuts aren’t cemented on. And that last one just made me really, really mad. Partially because I’m lazy and would love to be dropped off at the front door of the mall but don’t have a husband, but mostly because DAMNIT MY DAUGHTER IS IN THE CAR! Ok, she actually wasn’t, because I don’t get to listen to the radio when she’s in the car because I can’t hear it over the @#$% ‘Frosty the Snowman’ DVD on repeat. But still. I’m sure there were plenty of other little girls listening, thinking, ‘Why, yes, it IS handy to have a nice man help me shop, because I’m a girl and that’s what I do’. Obviously it made me mad enough to write in my damn blog, which I’ve ignored because the only other thing I could think of to write about were the constant migraines, and that just made me depressed.

It’s not that I am deluded enough to think that this kinda stuff doesn’t still happen in Canada, or other parts of the world. I am sure there are plenty of Australian men whose womenfolk are proud of their boomerang skills and koala gathering (see what I did there? Now I’m pretending to be small-minded about other countries and cultures. Everyone knows there’s much more to Australia. Like the criminals, and Crocodile Dundee.). It’s just that it is so natural here. So assumed. I know plenty of thought-to-be-emancipated women who won’t buy their sons dolls, or trucks for their daughters. People still laugh nervously about boys playing dress-up, or a girl with a Star Wars thermos. C’mon, people, really?

I read something last week that said the average age for eating disorders to begin has dropped again. When I was a kid it was 14. In the ‘90’s it was eight. Now it’s six. Also, I’m making those numbers up, so don’t quote me, but I’m in the ballpark; it’s something totally awful. Also, there are all kinds of special ‘thinspiration’ websites, and there’s a new term, ‘pro-ana’, as in, ‘how cool is it to be someone who starves themselves’. I hadn’t thought about it much, but the article was dead-on when it said that the new crop of tween and YA actresses gave much younger girls something to compare themselves to – when I was a teen I just had baby-fat Madonna, who was like a grown-up, and therefore a bazillion years old to me.

Very few of those youthful female role models are self-saving princesses, and not a whole lot more real girls are being raised to be so. What is so bad about encouraging independence and fostering uniqueness? Why is it so hard to break from the Disney mold of sweet and pretty and seen-but-not-heard? People like to talk big about celebrating individuality but sure as hell don’t walk the walk. Look at the whole bullying thing that’s made big news lately. Our technological leaps have made it painfully easy for someone to terrorize a victim across a wide array of social media, and in much more public arenas.

I worry, like any mother. I look at a sunny, happy little girl who bounds out of bed to greet each new morning with a song, and I get a panicky feeling. She is smart, and she is a nice person, and she knows who she is. That means she is going to struggle, and be hurt, and have to fight, because the rest of the world doesn’t play by our rules. There are other little boys and girls getting out of bed who aren’t told that they are special and that someone is proud of them, who see and hear behaviors that just should not be. Somewhere out there is a little girl who someday will tell Jenny she can’t be her friend because her hair is too curly or she’s not wearing the right clothes, and somewhere out there is a boy who is going to knock her down simply because he can. All I can do is try to teach her to believe in herself, always try her best, and, damnit, do ANYTHING. Because she is a girl. In spite of being a girl. Because she is Jenny. And she is much more than just a pretty little head.


Sarah Fain said...

Honey, you're a feminist through and through. Cooking and knitting and baby-making doesn't set back the movement even the tiniest bit. It just makes us whole, well-rounded, interesting, and fabulous feminists!

Also, I'm totally putting this post on my next weekly reading list. (Which hasn't been so weekly lately.) Loved it.

MommieV said...

go see blue milk (bluemilk.wordpress.com) for the feminist slant from Australia. I doubt she'll let anyone drop her off at the mall.

I think the feminist movement has gotten us to a place where we can embrace things because we want to, not because those are our only choices. You cook, knit (you knit?) and baby-make because you can and want to, not because that's your role in life as a female.

I worry about these things too. I so badly want to save her from the things I went through. I hope I can help her to be stronger than I have been.