By a Girl

On Tuesday I was inspired by all things romantic and Valentine’s Day to write a super sweet post for today. I was so inspired that I even started it. But then something happened, namely Wednesday and Thursday. So you’ll have to come back on Monday if you want to read the softer side of me. Because right now I’m pissed off. Royally pissed off, full Mama-bear mode with a side of oh-so-tired of this bull crap.

You see, on Wednesday when I was at karate with Littlest, a little boy taunted another little boy “you got beat up by a girl.” He found it to be so hilarious that he came over, sat besides me and repeated the whole thing to his father. Twice. I had witnessed the whole brother-got-tackled-hugged-by-his-sister-and-knocked-off-balance event in question, so I waited for the dad to take this perfectly teachable moment that the parenting gods handed him. Because when we parents are given those rare opportunities, well, we know to take them. Right?

Or as was in this case, a parent could mumble “really?” and turn back to playing a game of Angry Birds.

I waited. And waited. And then the boy went back to teasing the other boy about having been being beat up by a girl.

I want you to use your imagination here. I want you to drum up that taunting tone bullies use out on the playground. The one used to demean and establish societal order. That vocal inflection we have all heard whether it was spoken to us or just near us. That tone. By a girl.

Once I was a girl. I got my height early and was a “tom-boy”, more comfortable in jeans and sneakers than dresses and saddle shoes. I had no brothers, only cousins and classmates. I could run as fast as the boys, climb as high as the boys, ace the math tests just as well as the boys. But over and over I heard the little boys and grown-up boys in my life clarify my actions. Pretty fast for a girl. Pretty strong for a girl. Pretty smart for a girl. And as I got older, I realized that being compared to girls was how boys ranked other boys.

I cannot remember a time in my life when the word “girl” hasn’t included imagery of prejudice, violence, and inequity. Yes, hundreds of words are also used just as horribly. “Boy” can be just as demeaning. But because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of “girl”, it is the word that wounds me.

After all, just what is so bad about being a girl? It isn’t like I am living in a country such as China which actively tries to limit the number of girls born each year.

When the boy came back to sit next to me again, I casually turned to him and said, “You know what? Girls can be just as tough as boys can be. And the important thing to remember is that teasing can hurt people’s feelings.”

The boy’s dad? He just rolled his eyes at me and went back to slinging birds at things.

Now some folks might think that I’ve climbed high upon some feminist soapbox and need to get down before I risk toppling over. But my ire isn’t based on feminism. It’s humanism. It’s based on teaching kids to treat each other with respect regardless of size, shape, gender, or ability. And when we implicitly teach our boys that there is something wrong with girls, we teach both boys and girls that some people are more worthy than others. The biggest, toughest boys are on top of the stack. And the weakest girl is on the bottom of the pile.

The result of this implicit teaching is a society only as strong as that weakest member. A society that will never be what it could be.

How do I know this? I see Chris Brown make millions of dollars and get standing ovations in spite of having viciously beat only two years earlier the woman he supposedly loved. I see school districts allow bullying of gay students. And I see women’s access to birth control be a conversation that men, supposedly celibate and God-filled, think they and only they are qualified to discuss.

What is the correlation here? What is pissing me off so much? Besides the fact that I am a woman who was once a girl?

In addition to two sons, I have a daughter. I have a little girl who is loving, kind and compassionate, and oh so very wonderful. And I know what she faces.

She’s eight years old. She has middle school, and high school and her adult years ahead of her. Statistics say that she has a 1 in 4 chance of being sexually assaulted in her lifetime. If she is a college student, those numbers are 1 in 3.

Go on. Think of 4 women in your life. 1 of them has been assaulted. Who will it be more hurtful to imagine? Your mother? Your sister? Your wife? Your daughter?

1 in 4.

In January of 2011, actual political discussion took place debating the addition of the word “forcible” to the definition of “rape”. That discussion included just what constituted force and how much resistance a victim needed to demonstrate in response to that force. The entire discussion ignored the rapist’s actions in the matter.

And just yesterday, Thursday February 16, 2012, a group of men had the audacity to say it violates their religion for women to have access to birth control.

A year has passed and we are no further in our progress.

It is 2012. We should not be telling girls and boys that they need to make sure they do “x” so they don’t get raped. We should be telling rapists that they have no place in our society. It is 2012. If a woman wants birth control, she should be able to get it.

But it is 2012. And humanity is no more humane in many ways today than before the Age of Enlightenment. So I think it’s time to teach all the little girls and boys out there one important lesson: being tough has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with respecting others. Being tough means doing the right thing.

Oh and this is one Mama-bear that is going to make sure all her precious children know how to defend themselves. This parent doesn’t play Angry Birds and instead role-plays with her kids how to shout “No!” This is one woman who is sick and tired of reading headline after headline showing just how cruel people can be to one another.

It’s 2012. It’s time to be better.

This is one girl who thinks it’s time to teach all children, both boys and girls, that treating anyone less than how we’d want to be treated is wrong.

All those little girls out there? Many of them are going to grow up to be somebody’s mother. Let’s give them better odds that they can be healthy and happy mothers without the memories of being victims.

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13 thoughts on “By a Girl

  1. Thank you for this post. I’m disgusted by what has passed for Politics in the past year or so, and I’ve emailed (and tweeted) my State senator to let *him* know that I don’t stand behind this, or those who do.

    You’re right. It’s 2012. It’s time to be better. For all of us.

  2. Kristina, AWESOME article. This message needs to be repeated again and again until everyone finally gets it.

    I would love to share this around, but one sentence caught my eye: “It isn’t like I am living in a country such as China which actively tries to limit the number of girls born each year.” This is not true. China’s government has policies in place to limit its OVERALL population. It’s the age-old cultural preference for boys that results in the gender imbalance. This article: www. pbs. org/kqed/chinainside/women/population. html (remove spaces) provides an in-depth look at China’s policies towards population, women, and the many imacts of the gender imbalance.

    Again, your piece is GREAT. Thanks very much for writing it, and channeling your anger into constructing such an articulate response. I would have been too PO’d at the boy & Angry-Birds-Dad to think straight.

  3. As a warrior-survivor who can also be counted as a 1 in 4, I really have nothing else to add other than amen, and thank you. I share your outrage.

  4. I’m not a regular reader, but this was awesome. Thanks so much for sharing- I look forward to making sure my kids don’t suffer the same prejudices, and where my peers have learned to be better parents.

  5. Yes, Agree’d. My wife is a 1 in 4(from previous relationship) and my daughter I think narrowly escaped being one.

    Beyond that, the whole gender inequity issue seems like one that should have been resolved ages ago. As you said, it’s 2012. I’m afraid the ancient reptile, or perhaps monkey brain seem to be the predominant functioning level of many still.

    Thanks for this, unpleasant as it is.

  6. Kristina, you are awesome. SO many important messages. And so many parents spending more time communicating with their handheld video game devices than with their children. Or giving their kids the games to avoid looping them into the present, not teaching them about the world around them. As a teacher, I have a front row seat to this. And a bunch of evangelistic folks are gonna tell other people they don’t have the right to have easy access to technology for DELIBERATE parenting instead of accidental??? I want the word tomboy to go away as much as I want the words “for a girl” and the sneer of “you got beat by a girl” to go away. I want boys to be free to grow up gentle as well as strong, empathetic and brave, and be good partners or friends for another person so everyone can have someone to watch their back. As for the people who think the word “forcible” has to be added to the definition of the crime of rape, they REALLY don’t get it. No means no. That’s it. Nothing more. With such terrible role models on TV, on individual televisions in kids’ bedrooms being watched as they fall asleep, it’s no wonder values are getting warped. Instead of being read to at bedtime by attentive parents, prepared and willing to engage with the story, their child’s thoughts and fears and preconceptions, kids are being programmed. You know the child was not born thinking girls are inferior; he was taught. And it is a lot of work to “unteach.” But with all of us willing to try, we can make a difference. Thanks for making a difference in a dozen ways a day, Kristina.

  7. Awesome! Too bad that little boy’s dad was too busy playing his little cartoon bird game on his cell phone to parent his own child. Bless you for not being afraid to step in and do it for him. I agree with every word you’ve said, sister! That’s why I try to teach my 11 year old son to treat his female friends with the same kindness and respect with which he treats his guy friends. We’re lucky he goes to a school that agrees with me on this. I also was the tall girl who got made fun of for being good at math. And by the way, my best friend in high school was the poster above, MsPattyB, who directed me to this blog and also was and is a very smart person, boy or girl!

    Debbie K.

  8. Good post. Good intervention. I think I’d raise the story of Graunuaille (spelling may not be absolutely right), Pirate Queen of the West or perhaps Constance Markievicz – rebel leader, political pioneer and government minister. I’m sure you have your own militant arse-kicking women over there.

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