Saturday, June 21, 2014

"Girls are harder to raise than boys"

I, once again, found myself in a conversation about how girls are harder to "deal with" in their adolescence than boys. As the mother of girls and being a girl myself I take offense every time I hear this. I try to stay calm and make my argument about how we are different and sometimes what's hard is just not understanding girls or just the impression that people have about what's "hard" societally. Some of what's "hard" is that we do not, as a society, respect women and that begins with when they start changing hormonally in their adolescence.

My father-in-law, who raised 4 boys, said this to me many years ago and I was VERY offended. He explained that it was because you had to worry more about girls than boys. Boys have more freedom and girls have to be worried about and protected. I had a friend growing up that suffered this in her house when the rules were very clearly different for her than for her brother. Her brother could walk to the store, but she could not, among other things. My daughter has a friend now that has very similar "protections" in place that do not exist for her brothers. I was grateful to my own mother, who raised both girls and a boy, when she explained that she found both to be difficult. She didn't have safety issues, she worried about each of us equally (or at least according to personality not gender), she found that we were each difficult for different reasons. We girls were hard because we did emote more, and this CAN be challenging, but on the flip side she said, "I always knew where you were with things; sad, happy, angry... I knew." For my brother what was challenging was not knowing how he was doing. "I never knew if he was okay. He wouldn't talk about anything."

Here's the thing... if boys are so much easier than girls, why are so many boys arming themselves and killing people?  Girls have drama. Girls emote. Girls might fight with one another emotionally and there is no doubt that is painful, even scarring, but, for the most part, girls aren't shooting people in anger or frustration. You might not appreciate girl "drama" or how we share our feelings when we are feeling them, or that we feel things so deeply that we have to talk about it for hours on end, but we are dealing with it, we try to deal with it. Boys seem to be bottling it up inside too often and this is leading to more "explosions."

Boys aren't easier, as far as I can tell, we just aren't worrying about them enough. Silence is not a sign of "I'm okay." Just as society unfairly classifies women as "too emotional" or writes off their feelings because "it's that time of the month," it also unfairly burdens boys with not being able to show their feelings. Anger seems to be an emotion we allow boys to express and humor, but sadness and pain, these are emotions they are not allowed to express or even feel because they have to "man up" and deal with it.

Now, I will apologize to those who have boys, because I don't have boys. So just as I don't appreciate when parents that do not have girls try to tell me that girls are harder, I suppose you might not appreciate me saying that, indeed, boys are harder than we think. I am not, however, saying they are harder, I am merely pointing out that both genders have their issues and they are difficult for different reasons. I am trying to say to the parents with boys, do not assume your boy is okay because he's not giving you a "hard time."  

Friday, June 6, 2014

"It sucks to be a girl..." It doesn't...

My daughter came home from school the other day. She'd had health class that morning and she said, "It sucks to be a girl. It's not fair." I said, "Why? Why would you say that?" "Because boys just keep getting bigger and stronger and we don't, we get weaker. We have cramps and bleeding and... it sucks." I tried to console her with words of the awesomeness that is to be a girl and then a woman. I'm not sure she wanted to hear it just then, but I do hope she was listening.

It is a gift to be a woman because we get to grow life in our bodies. Even if you never choose to exercise that gift, or if you are/were not able, the gift is there for all of us as a group and makes us  extraordinary.
It is a gift to be a woman because our bodies are softer and gentler and therefore produce less destruction. The "gentler sex" is not a criticism but a complement.
It is a gift to be a woman because our blood flow remains almost fully to our brains and can therefore maintain thoughts and decision making.
It is a gift to be a woman because we can be feminine and wear dresses without having to fight for our right to do so.

It's harder to be a girl because Society makes it harder. All of the responsibility of being mature is placed on the woman. She can't be herself because she might be too promiscuous and therefore "bring on" unwanted sexual advances to herself. She can't be herself because she enjoys going to a particular bar for particular music and dancing, but it's not safe for women to go there. She can't be herself because she's bossy and wants what she wants but society says she has to want for others and to be self sacrificing. She can't be herself because she's told that other people's needs are more important than her own. She can't be herself because she feels powerless, because strength is used in a threatening way to subdue her, to scare her, to make her feel "less than."

I don't want my girls to grow up feeling like it "sucks to be a girl." I want them to grow up knowing and seeing the beauty in our sex and to not be afraid to ask for what they want. I want them to grow up feeling good about the choices they make for themselves because they are women, not because society told them to act or behave a certain way. In fact, I want that for all people. I want all people to feel comfortable in who they are... the feminine boy, the man that wants to wear dresses, the girl that loves all the things they were told only boys like, boys loving boys and girls loving girls... I want them ALL to feel OK.

Society is not going to hell because the changes make YOU uncomfortable. Society is going to hell every time hatred is spewed because you feel uncomfortable.