I love being a girl.
With statistics like one third of women are raped or abused in their lifetime, news about a charter school in Louisiana kicking out pregnant girls, the defunding of Planned Parenthoods, increasingly restricted access to birth control and healthcare, abstinence-only education, the objectification of women that goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I’d say we have come a long way, but, man, do we still have a long way to go.
Patriarchy and the powers that be, the image makers and media moguls, the history book writers who focus on gloss and glorification instead of the truth, the editors of Cosmo who publish tired article after tired article on how to please your man and New York Times Bestsellers like Fifty Shades of Grey teaching young girls that virginity makes you desirable and abuse is love, are all working together to shut us down, turn us off and box us up.
This is coming from a reformed good girl. A girl who was completely out of touch with her body. A girl without a voice. A girl completely consumed with needing to be nice and sweet and pleasing—oh, so pleasing—and virginal, waiting for marriage like I was told to do. A girl who was so sunken and shrunken and shy and concave and ashamed of everything she was and everything she did. A pretty little passive virgin without a voice.
Then I went to college and it got worse. I think being raised Catholic set me up pretty well for deep, dark shame spirals. You do something wrong and you get on your knees and you repent. I regret the years I spent regretting and repenting being human. Regretting and repenting for living my life. When I finally did sleep with someone I was so consumed with shame and guilt and utter loathing of myself and the “bad” things I had done. This destructive cycle continued for years longer than it should have, but it didn’t have to.
So for all you “good” girls, here are 30 things I wish I would have known all along about being a girl:
1. You don’t have to please. If you don’t want to do something, say “No.” Without guilt, apology, explanation, hesitation or second guessing.
3. You don’t have to be “nice.”
4. Take care of yourself.
5. There is nothing “less than” about being feminine. Femininity is a powerful source of abundance. It is the source of all life.
6. Speak up. Speak out. Speak loud. Be heard.
7. Be gentle with yourself in your thoughts and in your actions.
8. Forgive yourself. You are a woman, but above all you are human. You will make mistakes. Get over it.
9. Love yourself—all of yourself—even the crazy messy parts.
10. Take it from Muriel Rukeyser and tell your truth, “What would happen if one women told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”
11. Don’t limit yourself.
12. Don’t rely on the opinions of others. Your instincts are all the validation you will ever need.
13. Be a bitch. Not because men love bitches, but because being ambitious and having an opinion you’re not afraid to voice is crucial.
14. Take responsibility for yourself.
15. Be curious.
16. Have a little fun. “I know one kiss can take away all my decision making ability and you know what, sometimes it should.” ~ Eve Ensler
17. Know your worth and the worth of the work that you do.
18. Never settle.
19. Sensitivity isn’t a weakness, it is a strength. It builds compassion and empathy.
20. “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of the revolution.” ~ Emma Goldman
21. Delete the phrase “bad foods” from your vocabulary, put down the diet book, ignore any article that uses the word “superfood” and tell all you the things you shouldn’t eat and find what works for your own body. No one knows your body better than you do.
22. “A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.” ~ Naomi Wolf
23. Create the world you want. Don’t rely on someone else to create it for you.
24. Educate yourself.
25. When it comes to finding a mate, remember this: “I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.” ~ Anais Nin
26. Disrupt dinner parties.
27. There is nothing shameful about consensual, mutually pleasurable, misbehavin’. It does not make you a whore or a slut or easy. Anyone who has a mind small enough to believe that or tell you that isn’t worth a second glance. Get out of your head, into your body and enjoy it. Enjoy it with someone who cares about and appreciates you and let those who don’t go.
28. Let yourself be open and vulnerable and emotional.
29. Vote. Unfortunately, our right as women—as human f*cking beings—to make our own decisions about our bodies is still being challenged by the state and powers that be. Vote for the rights of your daughters, sisters, mothers and best friends.
30. Raise some hell.
Carolyn Gilligan is a daughter, sister, best friend, listener, lover, ice cream eater, sometimes writer, easily excitable, embarrassingly gullible yoga teacher in training who drinks too much coffee, makes a lot of mistakes and has too much fun for her own good.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta
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July’s Full Moon in Capricorn: The Heart wants what it Wants. The 4 Stages of a Good Divorce. How to Love a Woman who Scares You. Our Soulmates are Rarely Who We Expect. Men, Let’s Stop Fooling Ourselves: Size Matters. To the One Who Tried to Break Me. A Letter to my Children: You do not come from a Broken Home. An Open Letter to the Fixers. How your Stored Memories in the Amygdala can lead to PTSD. How My Sister’s Death Transformed my Self-Perception.