Feminist Girls Walk in the Sun
I Want to be the One to Walk in the Sun. Tell yourself that. Society can turn girls inwards as they feel shy of standing out…
When I was 11, I turned inwards…
When I was about 11 years old, I found myself turning inward. Where I once was bold and outgoing, I became quiet and often timid. I thought that my experience was somewhat unique – the result of what had been going on in my home life. I thought I would be liked and thus treated better by certain members of my family if I was less brash, loud, and forthright.
At the same time, I began to cling to an active fantasy life. I lived and breathed reading, and my books usually included underdog heroines and heroes who lived happily ever after. I wished to one day open my closet door and find the pathway to Narnia, or to find out that I was actually a princess from another land that had been kidnapped at birth.
I wished for something more, and at the same time, I wished I was something more. Something more than an ordinary, albeit nerdy, girl going through puberty.
After reading several books on feminism, I found it sad to realise that my plight during those formative years was not unique. While my home circumstances certainly helped bring me to that place of repressing my identity, the terrible truth is that it probably would’ve happened anyway.
Society enourages girls to turn off the light
Most girls in the West (and probably other places too, but my readings have been mostly about Western feminism thus far) undergo a similar alteration during the junior high/early high school years. Girls who were once brimming with confidence, standing tall like the blooming lily, become shrinking violets and wallflowers. Girls stop raising their hands in class to give answers, for fear of being wrong or seen as “too smart”, or even just to avoid being seen. I remember a friend telling me around that time that I should stop playing kick ball with the boys, because boys don’t like girls who play sports with them. We all bought into this. We wanted to be liked, desired.
The effects of this turning inward still trouble me today, and I imagine it is the same for the countless other women who have suffered this. I hope that the young me – the brash, outgoing, fearless girl – is still inside somewhere. I see glimpses of her. Writing this, for example.
Feminist options: Mentoring girls and encouraging self development
What’s to be done about this problem – for our young girls and for women who wish for the confidence of their younger selves? One of my favorite feminist books, At the Root of This Longing by Carol Lee Flinders, addresses this issue and calls for women to mentor young girls (as with feminist girl guiding) and help guide them through those times to keep their selves and confidence intact, and to become empowered as the wonderful, unique women they are meant to be. I believe doing so would help us women, too. Often, what we teach can help us in the process.
There are other thoughts, too. As our society often lacks rites of passage to help us become women, we can create our own rites of passage that mean something personal to us. We can participate in empowerment circles where ideas can be discussed, personal past stories can be shared, etc. For those of us that are spiritually or religiously inclined, finding the feminine face of the Divine can be empowering and encouraging. Also, we can find older women that can mentor us and give us their wisdom. There are even books and groups that focus on the inner child and finding our true selves again. The ideas are countless.
And no, in a patriarchal society it’s not easy for boys. They’re encouraged to fit in, too.
And as I write this I think, and what of young boys? Do they not go through something similar? They, too, are taught that they need to be, think, and look a certain way to become men. They lose pieces of themselves, too, in the process. In this patriarchal society, no one truly wins. We all sell ourselves short to fit in, to be liked, to get ahead.
When I was becoming a mother, I was afraid of having a girl. I thought, girls are too hard! Now, after having my son, I feel ashamed for thinking that way. I feel I have much to pass on to my children, male and female, as I am becoming the woman I was meant to be – as I am going through a new metamorphosis as a woman aware of the society I live in and what we face and how we can work to change it in our communities. I feel I have a responsibility to help my son be the best he can be – not what society dictates he should be, but the beautiful, confident, kind, compassionate, loving, and fearless (his fearlessness has given me more than one grey hair on my head!) self that he was born to be.
One quote I love is: “We are never truly alone, for our inner child is always with us”. May our inner children guide us to metamorphoses, to stand strong against the lies we are told about ourselves, and to become the people we are meant to be. Perhaps being our true selves is the bravest, most revolutionary act we can accomplish.