Thursday, September 24, 2009

About a Girl

My mom says that I basically came out of the womb yelling about gender inequality and scaring the boys as early as preschool. My friend Joe confirms this, as he has several negative memories of encounters with the 3 year-old me. Sorry, Joe. I remember being overwhelmingly angry in elementary school when the gym teachers would say they needed some "strong boys" to help carry equipment outside for a game...these "strong boys" were generally ones who I could beat in a race or a game any time and had proven so at recess. Why was I, as a young girl, being told that boys had this physical strength to be prized and I should just sit by the sidelines when I could be helping? Why couldn't I carry those mats or be in charge of distributing the balls? Stubbornly, I'd raise my hand any time anyone asked for a boy volunteer and I got picked every time. Maybe my gym teachers were also afraid of me.

As time went on, gym class receded into the background but the comments that men would send my way became my new battleground. Sexist jokes, comments, small slights that were said in passing. If you are someone who decides to speak up against these you are told "I'm just kidding" or "Don't take everything so seriously." As if a slight on my very identity is just a dumb joke not to be listened to. Who started that lie? Why is it funny to essentially demean someone solely based on her gender? So, I fought back. I've spent most of my life angry at men, trying my darndest to prove that I can hack it alongside them no matter what. I tried to outsmart them in school, outplay them in sports and, in the process, ended up treating a lot of them pretty poorly and contributing to the strife between the sexes.

The thing is that when it comes down to it, I'm jealous. I'm vaguely angry with God that he made me a woman and not a man. There it is. After 30 years, I've said it. All those years I was mad in gym class, all those oral reports on the glass ceiling or tirades against a guy who had the temerity to make a joke about women and inside I was thinking, "I wouldn't have to deal with this crap if I were just a guy. People would assume I was strong, would encourage me to play sports, would never make jokes to my face about being barefoot and pregnant and then laugh when I got upset." And it would be one more moment of bitterness, one more moment where I let my identity get even more skewed becuase I couldn't understand why I didn't seem to fit into the "model" of what a woman was. Why weren't all these other women upset? Why did they laugh at these jokes? What was wrong with me?

Every once in a while I think I'm over it and am glad to be a woman and then something sets me off again. Some ridiculous book I've read that tries to fit all women or all men in some kind of box. I find myself at square one, like the 3 year-old who somehow already felt that she was at a distinct disadvantage in life for being a girl and so she was going to fight. At this point, the fighting looks different. Less vocal, more internal. The fact remains that I'm still not sure I'm happy about my XX genetic code. Add to all this chaos the extra baggage of the church and gender and, well, you get a blog post that becomes a novel. So, I'll wait until another day to tackle that. In the meantime, for all you guys who've been on the receiving end of a gender-based tirade, I apologize. God's working on me, I promise.


  1. Thanks for sharing, Carolyn. I don't know how you're feeling about the whole blogging thing so far, but I'm starting to find it very refreshing. Sometimes it just feels so good to get it all out in the open, when I'm so tempted to pretend like I have it all together (which I clearly don't). I'm enjoying reading what God is doing, so keep it up!! :-) Love ya sis, Sarah

  2. This was a really good post. It's good hear your perspective on these issues. I definitely identify with a lot of your frustration and indignation, and the struggle to figure out how to be yourself without isolating yourself. And don't even get me started on church/gender issues. :)

  3. Thanks, ladies. Amber, I know we see eye to eye on a lot of this and I'm surprised we haven't talked about it more. I do intend on tackling some of the church stuff soon but I'll need to pray a lot before I do!