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"I don't want to be a girl."
July 24, 2014 10:03 AM   Subscribe

A young girl's questions about the Boko Haram abductions reveal an increasing consciousness of a misogynist world. How can her mother—a survivor of kidnapping and abuse—respond?
Lacy M. Johnson writes for Dame Magazine: "I Don't Want to Be a Girl."

[TW: graphic recountings of gendered violence]

Other work by Johnson includes:
  • Her most recent book, The Other Side: A Memoir, excerpted here: one, two, three
  • An interview with Alex Layman for Kirkus Reviews:
    "I've found a way to be brave," she says proudly. "I'm not going to hide anymore, and I'm not going to stay silent. I'm not going to be ashamed of this story. I'm going to be outspoken and honest and talk about it to anyone who asks. That's a different type of justice."
  • An interview with Melissa Chadburn for The Rumpus:
    It's crazy how so many women lead the kind of double life you're talking about, where the price for feeling safe at home is vigilance in public. So many of us do it in a very automatic way; we must have learned it somewhere, how to carry our keys between our knuckles like that, how to listen for a rush of footsteps approaching from behind. Men don't get that same kind of education.
  • Dirty Words, an autobiographical essay for Tin House:
    I am sick of men like George F. Will, who can deploy this brand of rhetoric used by rape apologists — "she was asking for it" — without consequences. The misogyny and implied violence in that particular statement isn't even the most offensive thing about this column. The most offensive thing about this column isn't calling rape a form of "micro-aggression" or even the way he throws around the terms "victim", "victimization" and "victimhood", as if they mean the same thing. [...] What is most offensive, most sickening, about the recent column by George F. Will is how he positions himself as an authority on the experience of a woman he's never met.
posted by divined by radio (45 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
"I don't want to be a girl."

I think this is the most tragic single sentence I've ever read.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:10 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


Heartbreaking. There were years that I did not want to be a girl, probably 12-16 or so. And that was well before I realized, cognitively, how disproportionately badly women are treated.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:24 AM on July 24 [8 favorites]


I felt that way until well into my 20s, although not due to fear of being kidnapped (or worse). It's a crime that things continue to be so difficult for women and girls. There is damage being done here, even to those girls who are never in immediate danger.
posted by blurker at 10:26 AM on July 24 [4 favorites]


I feel like this every day I walk around in public and am greeted by, and greet in turn, what appears to be a friendly man, only to have him hiss "sexy sexy" at me as I pass.
posted by mchorn at 10:31 AM on July 24 [8 favorites]


"I don't want to be a girl."

I think this is the most tragic single sentence I've ever read.


I would be immensely surprised to hear from any woman during this thread who did not say that silently to herself at least one time in her life, if not out loud, repeatedly.

And we women in the west are so damn lucky.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:31 AM on July 24 [58 favorites]


I would be immensely surprised to hear from any woman during this thread who did not say that silently to herself at least one time in her life, if not out loud, repeatedly.

I'd be shocked if that wasn't near universal, if often only momentary.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:41 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Dreading the day I hear it from my daughters.
posted by jfwlucy at 10:51 AM on July 24


And we women in the west are so damn lucky.

Hmm, sort of.
posted by sweetkid at 10:54 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


I would be immensely surprised to hear from any woman during this thread who did not say that silently to herself at least one time in her life, if not out loud, repeatedly.


Every day, for as long as I've been aware of having a gender that is "girl."
posted by like_a_friend at 10:55 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


I mean, I don't wish I had been born a boy. I like a lot of culturally "girl" things, I have mitigated the "womanly" parts that I found disgusting, and I enjoy being a woman. I just wish we lived in a society where that was worthy.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:58 AM on July 24 [15 favorites]


I am very girly and like the culturally girly things too, but I'm pretty sure I've thought "God, I wish I weren't a woman" at least once this week so far.
posted by thivaia at 11:07 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


It's less "I wish I was a man," and more "I wish I was less visible/vulnerable/targetable."
posted by mchorn at 11:13 AM on July 24 [24 favorites]


"I don't want to be a girl."

I think this is the most tragic single sentence I've ever read.

I would be immensely surprised to hear from any woman during this thread who did not say that silently to herself at least one time in her life, if not out loud, repeatedly.


Not me. Not once for a single millisecond. Being female is a blessing -- a beautiful, wonderful blessing, and I will never let any misogynist fill my head with a lie or make me feel sorry for myself or inferior under any circumstances. If his masculinity is weakened by the presence of my estrogen, that's his problem.

The problem has never been being a woman or a girl -- it is with those people who cannot deal with reality. Is it a struggle for me because I am a woman? Yes, absolutely. I have to push, push, push in my career where I see men who get a free pass and it does not help that I am an eccentric maverick by nature. I have had to argue, shout, threaten, push, offend and I had to cajole, persuade, and defend just to get where I am or get a chance, and you know what? Yes, it is a stupid waste of time, energy, and resources when I could used all of my talents elsewhere, but then again, I am the one who never crumbles under any circumstances.

I can survive an Armageddon with ease even if the rest of world was against me -- but those who kept me back cannot say the same -- one little hiccup and they retreat.

So, no, I love being a woman. I would never want to be anyone else but myself -- so the chauvinists of the world can just choke on it...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 11:18 AM on July 24 [14 favorites]


And we women in the west are so damn lucky.
Hmm, sort of.


Not sort of. Enormously. I've lived in places where young women were handed over as part of peace settlements between local tribes. Where I'd fall asleep at night listening to our neighbor screaming as her drunk husband beat her when he was drunk, and no-one interfered - because that was his RIGHT. I remember my mum visiting her in the hospital where pins held her knee together, my mother sobbing and asking what she could do to help - and the neighbor looked at her, sort of blank, sort of puzzled, and asked for a bottle of shampoo, if my mum wouldn't mind - ?
I was eight. I can not forget.

We had another set of neighbors, and when they fought, their little daughter would come over and knock on our door, and Mum would quietly let her in and set her down in front of the TV with a Disney movie and a plate of cookies, and the sound on the TV turned up loud to drown out the shouting. But never TOO loud. Because, you see, it was shouting. Not screaming. When her mother had married, her maternal grandfather had refused to accept a bride price. He sat his daughters down and told them "I am going to do this thing. It is a terrible thing. When i do it, your connection to your kinship groups will be broken in a very important way - and it will be so for your husband - and for all of your children and their children - forever. I don't know if i can find men to take you like that, because you will not belong anymore in the way our people have always belonged. And THAT is why I am doing it. For women, belonging becomes owning. I will not let anyone own you. No-one will ever have a right to you - or to your daughters."
He found good men who understood, and would accept a woman without bride-price. And when when our neighbor's husband shouted, she shouted. And when he hit her, she hit him right back. And he let her. And that was progress to be proud of.
That little girl next door was the best beloved of her mum and her dad, but when she was eight, her mum got pregnant with her second child, and the sonogram showed that it was a boy. Overnight, she turned from a happy, confident bouncing child into a small creeping shadow. She'd seen what happened to girls who had brothers. Nothing we could say, nothing her parents could say could make her believe any different. We knew it wouldn't happen, but why should she believe us? She'd seen it.
The day her new brother was laid in her arms, she fell in love - instantly and forever. And nothing changed in her home. This year she graduates from law school - the pride and beloved of her parents.

But i can not CAN NOT forget those terrible six months where all of her parent's love could not stand up against that child's lived experiences. That terrible knowing fear. She was only eight. And the memory of her face, as it closed in on itself, watching and waiting for the boy to be born -

Today I live in a different culture - one where divorce has been legal for less than ten years, and the rights of women are... well, let's say they're on the books. But socially, politically and legally, I am far less than my husband in ways - both subtle and overt - that people born in Australia, Western Europe and North America would simply not comprehend.

In the west we've a long way to go. But we're lucky. We are ENORMOUSLY lucky. Because we've come as far as we have.
posted by tabubilgirl at 11:21 AM on July 24 [110 favorites]


And THAT is why I am doing it. For women, belonging becomes owning. I will not let anyone own you. No-one will ever have a right to you - or to your daughters

I hope that man had a long and happy life. Seriously. Now, we just need ~4 billion more men like him...
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:25 AM on July 24 [7 favorites]


Back in the dark ages, when I was five years old, I asked my mother for black high-top sneakers, rather than the same ol' white Keds every girl I knew wore: Mom sighed, and said "Black sneakers are only for boys."
When I was eight, and a teacher asked each of us to tell the class what we wanted to be when we grew up, I said a doctor; the teacher said, "only boys can be doctors, girls are nurses."
When I was ten and announced I wanted to be President, a neighbor told me that girls can't be President, but I could be the President's secretary.
I've been in a seriously-male-dominated profession for the last thirty years; there have been hard times and easy times, but I've never, not for one minute, been able to forget how much of an outlier I was and still am.

I've seen vast improvements --- I remember when abortion was totally illegal, with all the horrors that entailed; when it was completely acceptable for a man to beat his wife and kids, since they were his property, and he had a right and a duty to punish them however he saw fit; when "common office behavior" started to be called what it truly is: sexual harassment. Vast improvements, indeed. But we still have a ways to go.
posted by easily confused at 11:34 AM on July 24 [11 favorites]


In my fourth grade year, I stopped trying or doing homework, dropped out of advanced math and nearly failed regular math, along with my other classes. I had to go to the counselor, but all she gave me was a lot of happy talk and useless visualizations. I finally snapped out of it, but I never returned to advanced math. Plus, I was often told that girls weren't really "good at" math so it wasn't surprising I couldn't keep up. It was just too hard. I kind of...faded, tried to be invisible in lots of ways. I remember consciously trying not to be noticed.

That was also the same year I started having to deal with bra-snapping and comments on my body, with being stared at by adult men as well as boys. All the kinds of gross comments you read in the street-harassment threads, I heard those in jr. high and high school hallways, or in notes. Or the guy who grabbed me between the legs in broad daylight at the school bus stop with dozens of people around. I fought him off and yelled at him, but no one else cared. Not all boys were that way, but I had no way to tell the difference. I mostly just didn't talk to boys. I was afraid, a lot. Of course, I also became aware of what rape was, and told to be safe, not to trust strange men or boys, that even the "nice" ones would "try things" with me. It made me paranoid.

I didn't really start to come out of all that until my 20s, and only by being angry and a bit nihilistic. I was never raped, except for that one guy never even attacked, but I was stunted by having that threat around me every day.

I never wanted to be a boy. I did daydream about wearing a magic suit of armor that would let me be safe in the world no matter what.
posted by emjaybee at 11:39 AM on July 24 [23 favorites]


stunted by having that threat around me every day
stunted by having that threat around me every day
stunted by having that threat around me every day
stunted by having that threat around me every day

^this
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 11:44 AM on July 24 [11 favorites]


I'm not sure I ever wanted to be a boy, but I certainly did sometimes want to not be a girl.

When I expressed this to the older women - mothers, grandmothers, Girl Guide leaders - they came back and told me things that ultimately held me back. That I could have babies. That my children would love me best. That the world would blow up if women were leaders, because women in fight. That men are not made to raise children. That men are too stupid to think about things other than sex and violence. That men cannot be tender or intelligent. That men are jealous of women. That feminists highjack things and make them worse. That I could breastfeed and this made me better than men. That if I didn't throw like a girl, they wouldn't criticize me. That I'd have something men wanted if I didn't give it (sex) away.

Those were women who actually encouraged me to take risks, to take on challenges, to use computers and ride bikes, to build forts and to speak out in public and be smart and take charge. But, still, there were many limits.

When I read The Handmaid's Tale in high school English, I started to question what I'd been told. I was able to break free from those traps. I was able to call myself a feminist.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:53 AM on July 24 [4 favorites]


The problem has never been being a woman or a girl -- it is with those people who cannot deal with reality

This is true for me, and it is also true for me that there have been times I wished I weren't female. I get so tired of being tired, you know?
posted by rtha at 11:54 AM on July 24 [6 favorites]


When I was ten and announced I wanted to be President, a neighbor told me that girls can't be President, but I could be the President's secretary.

I think an excellent retort should be "I would actually love to be a dictator."
posted by zombieflanders at 12:00 PM on July 24 [3 favorites]


That's heartbreaking. :(
posted by zarq at 12:21 PM on July 24


I haven't actually wished that I wasn't a woman.

However, I have fervently wished, frequently, that there weren't quite so many jerks.

...This is actually something I've been thinking about a lot in the wake of the Santa Barbara shooting and #yesallwomen and whatnot - that was around Father's Day, and I was thinking about how my father always let me see that he valued my brain - and it hit me that what that meant was, I have always had in my life the experience of having a man who treated me as a person. From the time I was born I had that influence. And even better - I've also done extremely, extremely well in finding men to date who were feminist allies and valued my brain and my spunk and my sass more so than my looks.

And it made me realize how very, very lucky I am to have had this influence - because this means I am a woman who has always, ALWAYS, had the core belief that my brain and my personality and my being are just as valuable as a man's. If I ran into a guy who ignored what I had to say in favor of commenting on my ass? Well, fuck that, I'mma go talk to my friend R who digs what I have to say rather than how I look. When someone tried to tell me that guys don't like it when girls are smarter than them? I was able to say "pfft, I can name you five guys that actually LIKED me outsmarting them, and one came with me to your damn wedding." Because of them, I have always perceived the misogynist bullshit some dudes lay down as being bullshit, and as being their problem, and not mine. The double-edged sword about that, though, is that there's just so damn much bullshit it gets really old really fast.

So I've never wished I wasn't a woman - but I do frequently wish there wasn't so much of this particular flavor of bullshit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:22 PM on July 24 [15 favorites]


Tabubilgirl - sorry for being dense but what happened to girls who had brothers? Were the girls neglected or given away or forced into marriage early or killed?

Totally not making light, I'm just not at all sure what's meant by that and want to understand it.
posted by sio42 at 12:34 PM on July 24



This week I had something really, really important that I needed to find out if it could be done at my parents house. It involved contacting someone on the phone to make an initial contact. Even though I have no problem doing this sort of thing I and my Dad decided that he would make the initial call, one because he is the owner of the property and two because I am female and I sound really young in general, especially over the phone. It was so important that we both just didn't want to take any chances.

It sucks to even have to consider doing such a thing but over the years there have been times where I've had issues with someone or something and haven't been able to get far in dealing with it or it's become obvious that I'm being screwed around, likely because of femaleness. When I've gotten a guy to help, well wow, look at how easily things get solved.

When I was younger I went through a time where I felt bad because I thought it was the way I was saying it, or the words I used. I stressed over finding the right or better way to communicate. I thought it was me. Over the years I became better at figuring out when it was me and when the problem was me as female, something I obviously have no control over. Sometimes I fight back and most of the time just persevere through it anyways but there are times, like this call, where I've decided that it's not worth it to take a chance that me being female could affect the outcome.

It's not something I'm horribly proud of doing, but older and I hope wiser me, has decided that sometimes I have to pick my battles so to speak and get these things done using a different strategy.

Thankfully it's a fairly rare thing to happen, but even so every time it does happen I do have that momentary thought, "Gawd this would be easier if I was a male.'
posted by Jalliah at 12:47 PM on July 24 [6 favorites]


I love being a girl. I love my female-ness; it's an essential part of me and my identity. I struggle a lot with my relationship with femininity, and I haven't always been at ease with embracing that side of me, but that's all part of growth and change. I cherish my gender.

But it is a rare day when I don't think "I don't want to deal with being a girl". Because that's what we do. We deal with, and cope, and smile and grit our teeth and move on. Like rtha said, I just get so damn tired of being tired.

Heartbreaking post.
posted by Phire at 1:05 PM on July 24 [6 favorites]


It's not, so much, that I don't want to be a girl (or woman, as the case may be).

It's that, at times, I would like to simply be.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:36 PM on July 24 [12 favorites]


sorry for being dense but what happened to girls who had brothers? Were the girls neglected or given away or forced into marriage early or killed?

Fair question, sio42! They aren't routinely given away, there simply isn't the same... value. Or priority. It's a strange dichotomy - in a culture where children are cherished to the point where childless adults are given children by relatives who have many (and I love this!), simultaneously, girls aren't necessarily valued as boys are. Think some of the more... patriarchal parts of India that have come up in the news lately.
I recall once, a few years ago now, walking past our local airport. A family from a local village was there picking up a box that had come as cargo. There was a dad, a mum, a boy of about 8 and a girl of about 5. The box was a big box. Big and heavy. When they left the airport, the mum carried a big string bag around her head with a whole sack of potatoes inside. On top of that, she carried another bag, with a baby inside. She walked bent over at about a 45 degree angle under the weight of that load. The dad walked in front of her, carrying his little wallet. The little boy skipped along carrying a machete (an Extremely Useful Tool and kids learn early how to use 'em without destroying themselves). And the little 5 year old girl? She was carrying a sack almost as large as the one her mum was carrying. And while her brother skipped along with his machete - swinging at weeds and singing, SHE was given the enormous box, so that she walked doubled over, crouching and humped over the load. At 5 years of age.
Hell of a metaphor, that. Real visceral. She was learning really early what her life was going to be like. In a country with one of the highest rates of male-on-female violence in the WORLD. Where penetrative rape statistics for women approach 70%. Where 2 out 3 women are beaten by their husbands. Where more that 14% of males admit to having participated in a gang rape.
(Hell, a man tried to abduct me out of a hotel elevator when i was 18. Out of the arms of my mother. Because when the elevator doors opened, a man at a table in the hotel bar had decided that he wanted "that one' that night, and sent his minion to do the taking. There was a tug-of-war between my mum, the minion, and the head waiter of the hotel restaurant who saw the struggle and ran to help. With me in the middle.
Very dramatic - my mother yelling, the waiter hitting, my younger sister huddled terrified in the corner, the minion hauling diligently because his boss had told him to take this one home for a night of gang-rape and tossing her in a ditch in the morning. The waiter got the man out of the elevator, shoved me back inside and the doors closed and got us up to our room. He sent up a tray of food with a coded knock, and my sister and i spent the night locked in the bathroom while my mum piled all of the furniture in front of the hotel room door. And sat against it with a bedside lamp base in her hand.
The hotel never bothered to record the incident in the security log. Didn't even kick the man out of the bar. The waiter tried, but the management didn't want to bother the bar patrons. That one of the bar patrons had tried to abduct a hotel guest was of no moral weight, apparently. And that was a respectable hotel!)

I'm not saying all families use or abuse their children. I'm not saying that families don't love their children. Our little neighbor had all the love, attention, education and priority any two parents in the world could provide. But she knew the relative value of a girl and a boy in her society. And the relative interest in their progress and their suffering. And the message was SO strong and the difference SO great that the words and actions of her own PARENTS weren't enough to stop a fear that approached terror. I love very much the country of my childhood, but there exists a systemic problem there that... I cannot find the words for it.

And all those people in all those threads who can't' QUITE make up their minds "whether women experience this even more than other men," you know - the ones that "can't really say first hand" as to the veracity of the endless onslaught of crazy stories woman tell about being-spoken-over, being-marginalized, being-assaulted, and being made-less-than?
They can shove it up the hiney of my life.
posted by tabubilgirl at 1:45 PM on July 24 [42 favorites]


I have so much to say about this article (and Johnson's work in general; I think it's enormously important), but for me, it's not that I don't want to be a woman, it's that I don't want to exist as a specimen of the marked gender. I love women, I love being a woman, but I don't want to have to deal with gender compliance and I don't want to be treated like an idiot just because I was born with an innie rather than an outie. I don't want to be condescended to and I don't want to be assumed to be exaggerating by virtue of my secondary sex characteristics. The phrase that most often echoes in my mind whenever I have to deal with stupid sexist bullshit isn't "I don't want to be a girl," it's "I didn't ask for this."

For as long as I can remember, I've felt like a person stuck in a woman's body. Femininity -- the term assigned to the traits stereotypically assigned to the gender I was born into -- is painted as weak, ineffectual, helpless, easy to entrap. I didn't ask for this. My physical presence defines me, represents me, limits and objectifies me. I didn't ask for this. I get fucked with when I "look like a man" (because I have tits, so dressing in "men's" clothing means I am inadequately performing femininity), I get fucked with when I "look like a woman" (because women are the sex class, femininity is bad/lesser than, and my tits are small, which means I'm ALWAYS inadequately performing femininity), and I get fucked with when I'm utterly androgynous (because subsuming all types of gender performance altogether at once is gross and/or terrifying). But short of desexing myself altogether, which I'm not terribly keen on, it's all going to keep happening, every minute of every day, whether I agree to it or not, for the rest of my life. I didn't ask for this.

Worse, the men in my life -- of which there are many, I'm straight and most of my friends are dudes -- are socialized to disbelieve me and minimize my truth when I tell them any of this. They tell me it's not so bad, they tell me that shit happens to them, too. They are quick to remind me that assholes are everywhere, that heinous behavior is an equal-opportunity insult, and that maybe I'm overreacting. It makes me clam up, handwave, hide my soft parts. Trust doesn't come so easily when you're treated like a hysterical exaggerator just for daring to open your mouth when you were born in possession of a uterus (which I didn't ask for either, thankyouverymuch).

One of my earliest memories is from kindergarten, when I was asked to be in a school play. I'm a super-double-plus extrovert and I LOVE being on stage, so having my presence requested for a public showing equated to a pretty great time for tiny dbr. Then I was told that my part -- because I was a girl -- would be to play one of many princesses, all swooning over a single prince, trying to charm him with our beauty in order to win his hand in marriage -- we were all supposed to don princess hats and dresses and say shit about our fine dresses and sparkly makeup and how we wanted to look pretty for him, you know, because pretty girls are dumb? So I dutifully put on my Girl Uniform and marched up to the little microphone when it was my turn to speak, after several princesses had already fluttered their five-year-old eyelashes and taken a bow, and I said, verbatim, I will never forget this: "I would rather die than act stupid just so I can marry a boy." I got sent to the principal's office tout suite, but it was my first feminist action, and even though it was almost thirty years ago, I haven't stopped speaking up and out ever since.

To this day, I would rather die than act stupid just so I can marry a boy. No, I don't want to be a girl. I just want to be a human being.
posted by divined by radio at 2:12 PM on July 24 [70 favorites]



To this day, I would rather die than act stupid just so I can marry a boy. No, I don't want to be a girl. I just want to be a human being.


Can I favorite this six billion times?
posted by tabubilgirl at 2:21 PM on July 24 [6 favorites]


this thread has been incredibly illuminating! as a cis presenting woman that struggles with where i am on the spectrum of genderqueer-ness, i had sort of assumed that the background drumbeat of "i don't want to be a girl/woman" was entirely related to my problem of sometimes being surprised that i didn't suddenly have a penis/i still had boobs. it's interesting to look at it through the context of the patriarchal system and maybe sometimes separate from my confused feelings on my gender.
posted by nadawi at 2:32 PM on July 24 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I often said I wanted to be a boy as a kid, but all I meant was that I wanted the life my brother had, not the life being forced on me that didn't fit me at all. I didn't really want to be a boy, I just didn't want to be a "girl". I wanted to be me.

I feel really, really bad for parents answering questions about Boko Haram.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:04 PM on July 24 [7 favorites]


That it is worse in other places does not make us lucky here. It's all bad.

For me not wanting to be a "girl" is also about wanting people to take me stop assuming that I'm straight and want children. I want to be taken seriously as a professional and an intellectual, and not to have other people's perceptions of my body dominate my interactions. I dress and act to minimize gender performance and I wish other people gave me more space for that.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:21 PM on July 24 [7 favorites]


That article is such a solid piece of writing. I love the sound of her voice, even if the story she is telling breaks my heart.

Can someone help me understand the deeper meaning of her use of the cave painting elements in her writing? I know she is saying something there that I'm not quite getting (not her fault; I'm just not connecting the dots today), and I want to understand. How do you interpret it?
posted by nacho fries at 3:28 PM on July 24


Thanks for the clarification tabuligirl.

That is all incredibly horrifying but very illuminating. I don't think that people would think of that 5 year old girl literally weighed down while her brother skips along carefree when they think of oppression of women and girls. I know I don't.

Also, thank the good heart of that waiter you are here with us. Sweet christ on a pogo stick how terrifying.
posted by sio42 at 3:55 PM on July 24 [6 favorites]


Can someone help me understand the deeper meaning of her use of the cave painting elements in her writing?

My take was that even the cave paintings only show women as parts of a complete person: just the parts valued by The Patriarchy (tm). Woman is represented by her vulva; what is Man represented by?

And the final image, of the woman being subsumed into the man, well, I think that ties right into the Biblical passage about woman being formed from man. Woman is a lesser subset of man, not independent, but a possession or subpart.

That's my take, anyway.
posted by suelac at 4:10 PM on July 24 [4 favorites]


It isn't so much that I want to be a guy so much as I want to be six feet tall and strong enough to hold my own in a fight and not look like tiny weak walking fuck n' kill bait just existing down the street. Oh yeah, and the respect and male privilege thing, I want that too.

If you're a woman, being raped and/or murdered (and if you're very, very lucky, they'll do it in that order) is like having an anvil dangling over your head from birth. The anvil starts at/is on average two inches away from your head. Every time you run into one of those guys it lowers. Maybe when you're 80 years old it'll raise up to three inches above your head. But the anvil can and will land on you at any point in time, multiple times, until you are squashed.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:06 PM on July 24 [6 favorites]


If this thread has moved on, i apologize, but i wasn't able to properly articulate the answer to sio42's question when i answered it last time, and I'd like to do her justice -
What my young neighbor feared was being replaced - that in a boy her parents now had the PROPER receptacle for all that love and cherishing and pride, and that she would be put aside, left behind, forgotten. That it would all be taken away when the REAL child of the house arrived. That is what the lived experience of being a girl meant to her.
In her case it did not happen, but her fears were legitimate, based on the world that she lived in.

And yeah - sio42, that elevator experience was deeply... disquieting. I got lucky. Very lucky. We came through it because, as you noted, there was a person in that lobby with a good heart who got us the hell out of there to somewhere safe with a lock. I've often wondered what that man at the bar did for amusement that night after i was off the menu. And on other nights - before and after.
posted by tabubilgirl at 8:25 PM on July 24 [5 favorites]


It's not, so much, that I don't want to be a girl (or woman, as the case may be).

It's that, at times, I would like to simply be.

posted by evidenceofabsence


Flagged as an absolutely fantastic comment.

Learning how to be simply me has been the work of a lifetime. Even without all the baggage that comes with being female, there would have been a major load of crap to carry and sort out, but add female on top of it, and hoo boy, what a bugger.


And we women in the west are so damn lucky.

Hmm, sort of.

Not sort of. Enormously.


Tabubilgirl, your experiences are exactly what I was thinking about when I wrote how lucky we western women are. Some of us have experienced horrific things as women, but for most of us, our lives are so damn easy.

I'm not sure I ever wanted to be a boy, but I certainly did sometimes want to not be a girl.

As a girl I envied boy privilege, and wanted to be a boy for that reason. Oddly enough, when I became a woman, I never wanted to be a man, I just wanted to have the advantages.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:33 PM on July 24 [2 favorites]


“Until I started doing the cross-dressing, I had no idea of what it was like to go out into the night and be afraid. That is what a huge portion of the human race has to go through, and I really get it now.”

Vollmann admitted that, after he went public with Dolores, some of his friends “were really disgusted.” This only underlined his point about what becoming Dolores meant. After a career of hanging out with neo-Nazis, pursuing sex workers, doing drugs, dropping thousand-page books the way Updike dropped short stories, and being suspected of being the Unabomber, Vollmann, without even meaning to, had managed to cross the last line of decorum. He had dared to abdicate his masculinity.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 11:22 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


Just a small note of appreciation for everyone who shared their stories - fantastic thread!
posted by ersatz at 12:02 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


That it is worse in other places does not make us lucky here. It's all bad.

Exactly, and not to take away from this great post too much but "the West" is not one thing and "not the West" isn't all tribal violence. I just find it a bit reductive.
posted by sweetkid at 12:39 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


I find it reductive, and it also makes me wince when I think of the experiences of women I know, or who I've read about, who have been through living hell here in the U.S. by dint of being born women.

It feels a bit like rubbing salt in the wound to those among us who have had horrific experiences. I know absolutely that it wasn't said in the spirit of being dismissive or diminishing, but I do feel the need to stand up for the women I know who have been brutalized here in the U.S. and say: We are not your lucky ones.

Many of our protections and laws are great in theory and in application, but when there are forces at work that prevent those protections from being enforced, and girls and women fall through the cracks...dunno. I feel it doesn't honor their experience to lump them into the Lucky group.
posted by nacho fries at 2:23 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


well said nacho fries.
posted by sweetkid at 8:08 PM on July 25


stunted by having that threat around me every day

Yes. And as nacho fries is saying, there are many threats which soften here in the west because of my white skin, citizenship, non-aboriginal, English, blue eyes, fast walk, safe location, middle class, housed, mentally healthy, able body, cisgendered and passing, straight girl privileges.

But they soften, they don't stop. And I have friends who share all of those privileges and who have been beaten and raped by loved ones.

I know the keys through the fingers. My mother taught me.
posted by heatherann at 6:45 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


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