Guest Post by Lyz Lenz
When my daughter was three months old, my older sister came to visit. My sister has a five year-old son, who lives, eats and breathes Batman. My nephew is a wonderful creature, who is constantly damp with exertion and barrels into any room holding before him a fierce imagination that can make worlds of sticks a mud. As my sister held my daughter, she said: “I’m glad I don’t have a girl, too much drama.”
Perhaps those words were a defense mechanism. My sister has been trying to have another child and has been stymied at every turn by an uncooperative body. Perhaps she was disguising her longing or perhaps there was another motivation behind her words. Regardless, I felt betrayed.
“Didn’t you love growing up a girl? Don’t you love having sisters?” I launched a series of loaded questions.
“Sure. I like who I am, but girls ‘in general’ are all drama.”
It’s not just my sister. Since having a daughter, I’ve heard other women denounce the “drama” of having girls. And the irony of women maligning other, littler women in such a way never ceases to smack me full on in the face.
Historically, the “emotional” nature of the female gender has been used as an excuse to deny women suffrage, the ability to own property and even the right to defend their country. As recently as this year, during the Republican Primary, Rick Santorum declared women to be too emotional to serve in the front lines. But it isn’t necessary to look outside the home for examples of people dismissing women because of their emotions. As congress woman Shirley Chisholm once noted, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl.’” And there is no better example of that gender-based stereotyping than when women accuse little girls of “drama.”
Every time I hear those words, I want to fight someone, anyone, except the woman in front of me. Because such casual dismissal of one’s gender comes from a place of pain.
I know. I too hated women. Despite having four sisters, I often dressed like my brother, hid my hair in a hat and declared girls to be “trouble.” Because even now, even as early as this moment, it’s hard being a girl. As a result, so many of us grown women reject our femininity and all the pain it’s bequeathed us. We blame other women for the bickering, the backstabbing, the “drama,” because we’ve been unable to come to terms with what it means to have a vagina and own it. So, we look at our wombs and say, “GIVE ME BOYS!” If you can’t beat boys at their game, why not join them? Why not reject those troublesome girls and enter into the world of men?
Rebecca Woolf of Girls Gone Child writes:
“Until I had daughters, I was angry with myself women. I was afraid of myself women. Women were the enemy with their judgement and their beauty and their bodies. I didn’t want to be one of them. I didn’t want to be like the other girls. I heard the boys throw around words like “tease” and “drama.” I didn’t want to be a tease and I certainly didn’t want to make drama. It was easier to laugh it off. Act strong. Let the boys steal my skateboard. Curse myself for trying to ride one in the first place.”
“With a daughter,” she continues, “I would have to change. I would have to respect myself for her.”
Before I had a child, instead of rejecting a specific gender, I rejected all genders: girl, boy, I wanted none of them. It’s too scary to be a woman and face the groping fingers of the world, looking to pluck and plunder. It’s too hard to be a man and face the shifting ground of expectation and blame. It wasn’t until a kind woman told me, “It doesn’t have to be that way.” That I began to exit that place of fear. It took me three more years to finally work up the courage to put her words to the test and have a child and create a world where it isn’t that way. And I’m still trying and it scares me.
Rejecting the idea of a daughter because of “drama” and “emotion” says so much more about a woman’s ideas about herself and her place in the world than it does about any future child she may have. As a woman, having a daughter means we have to come face-to-face with that little girl we once were. Having a daughter means we have to learn how to accept the awkward limbs, the botched dates, the boobs, the period stains on our shorts, the thousand humiliations of womanhood and we have to look at that little girl before us and say “I love you” to all the things we don’t love. And we have to mean it or else we’ll create something we don’t love—we’ll create ourselves.
A rejection of women is really just a rejection of a singular specific woman, the one we see everyday. And this is why I want to fight everyone except the woman in front of me, warning me about “high school” and all the horrible “drama” I am in for. Because I know that she is a woman, still haunted by the little girl she once was—a little girl still hurting, still self-loathing, still wondering why it has to be that way.
I think of the little girl I used to loathe—arms and legs folded into a green velour chair, imagining herself to be Lousia Violetta Evangline Mont Clare, or a Duchess, or a martyr, or the wind in a Tennyson poem, anything but who she was. And her years later, cropping her shirts, hiking her skirts, kissing boys she didn’t like, just to be liked, secretly borrowing accessories and clothes from her sisters, her mother, her roommates so she could dress like anyone but herself. And I want to hold her and tell her she is lovely and she is wanted and she is perfect and amazing. But I can’t. It’s too late.
Instead, I can hold the little girl in front of me and tell her “I love you” and “you are beautiful” over and over, to arm her against the endless humiliations she will face, so that in the end, for her it will no longer be the way it was for me.
I, for one, can’t wait for the “drama.”
Lyz has written for Babble, The Huffington Post, and is a regular contributor to Mommyish. But you can always find her on LyzLenz.com, lamenting pants and talking about her baby.
(Image: Lyz Lenz)