(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 18 March 2011)
Do you have a little girl who likes to be rambunctious? Do you spend your day trying to reshape her personality to be less adventuresome and more retiring? If so, do you also impose those traits on your son – if you have one?
It is simply unfair for girls to be locked away and told to be quiet and submissive while the boys are allowed to get dirty and explore the world. When that girl grows up, she will then be told that she does not understand the real world. Of course she doesn’t. Her parents and society did not allow her to learn about the real world.
Moreover, those retiring traits that are too often instilled in little girls and subsequently taken into their adult lives, are often the same traits that put them at severe disadvantage when they enter into relationships, the workplace and leadership positions.
Some believe females are more given to a quiet and submissive life. I do not agree. I was never given to being submissive and if I am quiet, it is because it was beat into me as a child – not because it was my nature. I am not the exception, either. I know scores of women just like me.
Girls should be encouraged to be themselves, even if that includes climbing trees and getting dirty. Young women should be taught how to stand up for themselves in the real world. And young wives should be told that a marriage is an equal partnership in which her opinion matters as much as that of her husband.
The truth of the matter is that if young girls were raised in a world where equality is taught from birth – to both boys and girls – there would be far less friction between the two sexes. It is because boys are deferred to throughout their lives that they feel they are somehow superior and feel the need to put females “in their place.”
There is no superiority. Women and men should be able to navigate life on earth together without the superficial trivialities humans have created to rule over each other. Each gender has its strengths and weaknesses, but when they are put together the human race makes a powerful species.
I understand the frustrations of a little girl who is required to be something less than what she truly is inside. While I was in college in a Gender Communications class, the students were asked to explain where we saw ourselves on a gender line – masculine on one side of the line, feminine on the other and androgynous in the centre.
We were to complete this assignment any way we felt most comfortable, which for me, of course, was writing. The following is the poem I wrote for that assignment:
Who Am I?
Frills and lace are for the prissy
Give me some jeans instead.
Bikes and dirt were my toys
Barrettes never stayed on my head.
I was Momma’s only girl
Though she could never get me in a dress.
Although there was that one big fight
When she had someone to impress.
Me and my little brother
Our bikes answered the call of the city streets.
Boys gave me kisses and hugs
But knew better than to give me sweets.
Don’t ask me to share my feelings
I’d rather share what’s in my head.
Don’t open my door or pull out my seat
Until I’m in my casket, cold and dead.
Chivalry equals dependence
Don’t make me feel small today.
I won’t be kept and I won’t be bought.
No thank you, I can make my own way.
Women cower and cringe at my actions
They think me arrogant and bold.
Some men find me intriguing
Others find me quite cold.
I don’t conform to society
I am the master of my own values and goals.
I won’t allow myself to be used by others
It would equate to selling my soul.
Am I a tomboy? No, not really.
I just don’t fit your mould.
I have more energy and potential
Than a simple structure like that can hold.
So let’s talk, I promise not to bite.
Come on now – let me in.
I know my confident stride can be intimidating,
But I fit just fine in my own skin.
When I write on the situation of women in society, I do so because my one great desire is to see women function in an equal capacity on every level – political, spiritual, educational, business – and in every other conceivable way. It is not because I want women to push men out. It is because I believe that when women and men begin working together – without the unfair disadvantages placed on women from birth – we will see a world that is far better than the one in which we currently live.
When I finally gave up trying to conform to society’s expectation of what a woman should be, when I finally allowed myself to be the real me, that is when I realised that I fit fine in my own skin.
I know who I am. Why not allow your daughter to know whom she really is deep inside, too. Better yet, why not allow her to be whom she really is deep inside.