Measuring Womanhood / Thoughts on Raising Girls. Pt. 1

8 Mar

It’s tricky to be a girl, sometimes.

I get tired of hearing women talk to each other. Our conversations are so caught up in pettiness, in competition, in such self-devaluing statements. (And yes, I say “our conversations” because I’m certainly guilty of it too).

My boss, for instance, loves how small her feet are. She feels insecure about her body, but she loves her small feet, and her short frame. She loves them because they allow her to forever claim the adjective “small”.

I, on the other hand, have always felt insecure about my feet. They’re on the larger side of the shoe size spectrum, and I’ve always been a little bit ashamed of them. “They’re big, and that’s never going to change, and so that means I am big. It means I will always carry the adjective ‘big’.”

We are so obsessed with smallness, with fitting into tightly defined areas, with complying, with acquiescing.We learn to value and identity and see our selves according to the shape of our body.

We’ve learned that to be shriveled means to be beautiful. Just like being small.

We compare how much we’ve eaten during the day….(if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard a woman tell another woman: “I’m so hungry, I’ve only had ______ today!”).

Whoever’s eaten the smallest amount, wins!

Why? Why is self-sacrifice and denial and, well, being shriveled associated with such larger ideas of beauty, and goodness, and womanhood?

I think the problem is that, as women, our identity is tied so completely and deeply into our physical selves. With our body. And, though I’m not a man, I think the concept of identity is much different for men.

With women, being attractive seems almost like a prerequisite. It’s harder, I think, as a woman, when asked to use words to describe ourselves, to stray away from words that describe our physical self. I sometimes feel as though I have no place in the world unless I am pretty first.

“I get worried for young girls sometimes; I want them to feel that they can be sassy and full and weird and geeky and smart and independent, and not so withered and shriveled.” —Amy Poehler in an interview for Bust Magazine

“I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls.” – J.K. Rowling

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”. Erin at A Dress a Day

I hope this will be the beginning of a series of reflections about what it means to be a woman, how we learn what is means to be a woman, how we define ourselves, how the idea of womanhood is associated with morality, where “pretty” fits into the picture, and how to cultivate healthy ideas of femininity in young girls.

“I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me. Now you understand Just why my head’s not bowed. I don’t shout or jump about Or have to talk real loud. When you see me passing It ought to make you proud. I say, It’s in the click of my heels, The bend of my hair, the palm of my hand, The need of my care, ‘Cause I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me.” — Maya Angelou

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