Growing up sucks. It is absolutely horrible and arduous. There is no way around that fact. It’s hard, it’s often unpleasant, it’s sometimes disgusting, it’s occasionally shameful and sometimes it’s downright tragic. Our bodies are never the same two days in a row, we see beloved pets and family members die, we get bullied and we lose friendships along the way.
Growing up female is even harder. Now, we live in the United States, where it’s not really that bad, considering; we have access to well-paying jobs and education, and there are powerful women in this country, both in politics and in the media. However, there are first-world problems here, and one of them is the contradictory messages that we, as females, are bombarded with from birth.
Our mothers and grandmothers were just told to be quiet, delicate, sweet, domestic and to provide support but never take charge — in short, to conform to the old standard of femininity. That’s a message that society is still telling us, only now it’s got a contradictory flip side that’s just as prevalent. We have to be strong, we have to be tough, we have to be stoic if we want to be professional, we have to stand up for ourselves, we have to be tender mothers and powerful CEOs and we have to hold our own against any man.
There are other messages too that are just as contradictory. A typical women’s magazine will have an inspirational article on how to love your body the way it is, and then the very next page will have an exercise plan for losing twenty pounds in a month. We are given Barbie dolls and our female relatives immediately argue over whether they’ll warp our psyche or if they’re harmless toys. I subscribe to the second view, personally, because I used my dolls to tell stories, then wrote the stories down, and eventually I cut out the middle-man and just started writing, so I have to thank Mattel, an American toy manufacturer, for nourishing my instincts as a story-teller.
However, to get back on track, girls are raised in a confusing environment. In high school health classes, we were blasted with warnings against both obesity and anorexia. We are shown graphic videos (at least my class was) about the consequences of bulimia or the anatomy of a heart attack as seen from the inside out. We get told that real women are meant to be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen one day and the next we’re told that real women never wear dresses, skirts, or the color pink. We’re told that men are either our gallant, chivalrous protectors or an oppressive, brutish enemy. We get told to be both demure and militant, gentle and tough, or domestic and career-driven. In Hollywood, female characters are written as women first and characters second, with few exceptions (Ripley from Alien is a good example; the part was written for a man until Sigourney Weaver was cast). It’s like being a woman means we have to act a certain way.
These messages need to stop. We’re not automatically going to behave a certain way just because we were born with ovaries and two X chromosomes. We’re humans, first and foremost. Our gender is another category entirely. We need to be treated as people first and women second. We do many of the same bodily functions that men do, and we behave the way we do because we are human, not because we’re female.
It’s already being established that the binary gender mode no longer works for society, and will probably be seen as old-fashioned and outmoded in fifty years, but we need to get rid of the associated behaviors. The sooner we can see the common humanity in everyone first and then look at race or gender or religion or sexual orientation or national identity second, the better off and less messed-up society will be.
We will be more accepting, fairer, kinder, more diverse and more intent on making things better. We will be consistent in our morals and values, we will stop sending mixed messages, and we will truly and honestly be able to tell our children, “You can be anything you want, no matter who you are or where you come from, because you are smart, brave, kind, talented, and unique. You are special because you are you, and that’s all that matters. You will always be successful, and we will always love you very, very, very much.”
Allison Chase is a junior Creative Writing major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Females are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages along their growing up process.
The binary gender mode is no longer working for society, so we need to change things up, starting with our generation.
We, going into the “real world” need to be committed on making things better.