Saturday, August 25, 2012

Girly stuff

I've got some thoughts on the word girl that I felt like sharing here.

The first thought thread is about the negative connotations associated with the word "girl" or "girly". I'm gonna tell you a little bit about my childhood, so bear with me here.

When I was a kid, I was kind of a tomboy. My parents really wanted to dress me in lots of cute, frilly dresses, and I know I looked totes adorbs in them; I've seen the pictures. I was a damn cute kid. But at some point it occured to little-kid-me that being and dressing like a girl = not getting to have fun. Girls in dresses and skirts were expected to sit "ladylike". They were supposed to stay clean. They were supposed to "play nice". I never thought it was fair that because I was a girl, I was limited to being able to do certain things, if not because I was explicitly told not to, then because of the way I was supposed to dress. My parents must have gotten tired of fighting me on this, or must have been at least somewhat practically minded, because I remember many summers of running around in shorts and t-shirts with no shoes on, running around my neighborhood and getting into stuff. I think I tolerated skirts and dresses for church, or for special occasions, but otherwise, I was pretty much not having it. You cannot collect bugs and dig in the dirt when you're wearing a pretty dress, ok?

The other thing that bugged the shit out of me as a kid was being constantly reminded that girls were bad at things. "You run like a girl" or "you throw/play like a girl" was a pretty common insult, and I heard things like that all the time. Girls are prissy and fussy, they take forever to get ready in the bathroom, they're creeped out by bugs and lizards, they can't fight, etc etc etc. I used to get so angry and frustrated every time I heard these things. They didn't apply to me, and I hated that being a girl was seen as such a bad thing. I didn't want to be a girl; I wanted to be cool. I didn't want to be a boy either, because they were generally jerks, so I figured I was just a different kind of girl. A better kind, one who did not get scared by the boys dangling a lizard in her face ("Oh cool! I love lizards," I'd say, and the boys would be disappointed), and who was not afraid to punch a boy in the face if he was mean to me. With this mindset firmly in place, I got into A LOT of trouble, and wasn't very popular with either boys or girls. They all seemed kinda stupid to me. Luckily, I had a few female friends who were awesome, vulgar, and also willing to punch a boy out, and we were awesome together through elementary school, at least. However, as I got older, this mindset meant I had a hard time identifying with other girls. I always felt awkward and alien around them, and could not for the life of me understand their interests in "girly stuff".

As an adult, I'm beginning to stop judging "girly girls". I realize how much I hated being told what I could or couldn't do, and no one should have to experience that. If you really love lipstick and pink dresses, then rock it the hell out. But it has slowly dawned on me that as women, we can't win. Whatever we choose to do, society will see our interests as either appropriate, and therefore girly and weak and frivilous, or as inappropriate, and therefore we're scary dykes and feminazis, and we're ruining the fabric of society. It is INFURIATING. If you're my facebook friend, you'll occasionally see me going on a mini rant because yet another guy friend made a candid statement about Pinterest (which, OMG, is fully of girly things like flowers and weddings, so it's NO MANS LAND and totally not relevant to my interests), and I get so mad because I'm tired of things for ladies being automatically branded as irrelevant. I'm also tired of feeling ashamed or embarassed when I do happen to like something that is stereotypically girly. As a feminist, I almost feel like I have to apologize for being a stay at home mom, or appreciating the way a killer set of pumps look. Because liking those things makes me look weak, both to society, and to fellow feminists. Girly = weak.

The reason I wanted to write about this, is because I titled my Kickstarter "Girl Stories", and I know that a lot of feminists get riled up when women are called "girls," for the same reason that grown men do not want to be called boys. It seems belittling and patronizing. At the same time, I call myself a girl, or a geek girl, because it's a word I've struggled with my whole life, and because I strongly identify with childish things. I don't feel like an adult - I feel like a giant kid hiding in a woman's body. I know that my interests and favorite things are totally childish, and I'm ok with that; in fact, I love it. Watching Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba BRINGS ME GREAT JOY. So girl just seems to fit; and since my project is especially geared towards young girls, that seemed to fit there too.

So, I'm not writing this to attack my feminist friends, or society at large. These are just my thoughts about the word "girl", and why I get kinda pissed about it. Call it the word of the day, if you will. I'd love it if you all would share your thoughts about this in the comments. Does being called a girl, as opposed to a woman, piss you off if you're female? Does it depend on who says it? Guys, do you worry about having interests that are stereotypically "girly"?

So btw, my Kickstarter has 5 days left. I would LOVE to raise a ton more money, but what I REALLY want is for everyone in the world to see it. Like, EVERYONE. I'm incredibly proud of it; it was a huge accomplishment for me, and it is the beginning of a project that I will be spending the next 6 months working on. Thanks to all of you, it will be successful, but please help me out and keep telling everyone. I don't care if no one donates another cent. I just want the world to know about Girl Stories. Thanks everyone:)



Anonymous said...

Go Lori! Yeah!!

Candice Hartsough McDonald said...

I actually feel more uncomfortable when someone calls me a woman. I totally know what you mean when you say you're a kid inside a woman's body.