I am struggling with this idea. An idea that I feel is going to be contested, hell, I’m contesting it even as I formulate it. But I can’t fight the feeling that even if I’m wrong, I’m still a little right.
Growing up my parents, family, and siblings (two older brothers) did an exceptional job of giving me a vivacious attitude towards life. I never felt inhibited, I was taught to play tough, be strong, run fast, and never ever do less than my best. This gave me a strong sense of independence and self; I never thought that I was less able to do something than anyone else. I was driven to be the best, no matter who I was competing with. Isn’t that swell? Sure, I mean, I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I love my, at times unnecessarily, independent style. It taught me that if I wanted to achieve I just had to work hard, it taught me that I could be the best at something, that I shouldn’t be afraid, and that I was a fierce competitor.
So what’s the problem? Well this is all well and good, it has driven me to try all sorts of things, play sports, travel alone, work hard, the list goes on. Again, as I said before, I wouldn’t trade it. My issue is that as I started to get older I slowly started to realize that this isn’t always the easiest road to walk. I began to notice female friends of mine dumbing themselves down, down playing their abilities, generally occupying less space, not wanting to be seen eating in public, always acting, well, little.
I remember being told that one of my friends in high school was a very ‘datable girl.’ You see she was petite and not super athletic; I was informed that guys like girls they feel they can take care of. Guys like to feel ‘like a man,’ and if you can tell me what that means without in some way insinuating that they like to feel bigger, stronger, and smarter I’d be surprised. I don’t want to come off disgruntled or anything, but isn’t that odd? I mean if we are telling the young ladies of the world to grow up big and strong, shouldn’t we tell the boys that the women they’re going to be living with are also going to be big and strong, but not to worry, it won’t take anything away from their bigness and strongness.
I like to know that I can head out on my own, take charge of a situation, and I would in no way say that this negatively impact my daily life. I just think that I’d like to be referred to more as ‘a strong leader’ and less as ‘intimidating.’ I’d like to not have to watch girls underestimate their strength, look at a challenge and have them say ‘I bet I can lift that’ instead of immediately looking for their nearest, strongest, counterpart. I’d like to not have that moment of realization that I’m the only one in the room stuffing my face with pizza, because all the rest of the girls have ‘had my one piece’ (based on real life experience, though maybe I just eat a lot of pizza?).
I guess what it all comes down to for me is if we’re telling our daughters that they can be strong independent thinkers/beings, maybe we should be telling our sons too.