I have some things to say, lady-to-lady.
I also have some things to say, lady-to-guy; or really just, lady-to-who-ever-happens-to-be-reading-this.
I was not raised with any sort of feminist or anti-feminist agenda. I feel like my mother did a fairly good job at balancing out the ooey-gooey saccharin-tine cartoon-princess archetype, with the Rosie the Riveter go-get-em modern-lady enthusiasm for female independence.
I was never made to feel like my life should be a certain way because of my gender or the way I looked or anything. I was always encouraged to simply make choices in life that made me happy.
But regardless of the background our perspectives come from—whether our households were a haven for female empowerment or female subordination—there is a thought that rides the cultural under-current of Must fit in! Must be normal! Must get it right! that tells the ladies:
Gotta get you a man, girl. And once you get you a man, you gotta keep you a man.
Even though I didn’t grow up with an assigned perspective on the female condition, I felt by high school torn between all of the female identities that I had been prompted with: the damsel in distress, the girl who will marry for money; the girl who wants to be the prettiest girl in the room; the girl who just wants to be smarter than everyone and prove them all wrong; the girl who wants to be funny because girls aren’t funny and she wants to be the first and only one because then guys will like her a whole lot; the girl who only wants to have guy friends; the girl who has a list of plastic surgeries she wants to get ordered by which fixes are most pressing.
I hadn’t fully subscribed to any one perspective on the female condition, but I did draw one big conclusion from the cacophony of all of this: it was not advantageous to be a woman.
By college, I was almost a little pissed that I was born a girl. I never felt out of place in my body, and I didn’t feel any more alienated from other girls than other girls seemed alienated by each other. But I felt deeply and truly that my life would most definitely have been easier and probably more worthwhile if I was born a dude. Plus, I could pee without taking my pants off and that, right there, is enough to bemoan being born with my genitals locked inside my body.
Someone make me a penis, please!
I had this fantasy of starting the third wave feminist movement to…do what? I’m not quite sure. I never fully answered that question, except that I wanted other people to know how pissed off I was. I daydreamed about kicking it off by creating a year-long documentary that would detail my theoretical experience of going from a mostly-agreed-upon attractive young lady to shaving my head, gaining thirty pounds, denying the use of makeup or other physical enhancers and cataloguing how my life changed by screwing with my level of fuckability. People were going to see this and become pissed off, just like me, and revolutions would start for sure.
I was very serious about this.
This was definitely going to happen.
But…none of it did.
I was pissed off at guys for treating girls the way they treated girls—cheating on them, ignoring them, lying to them, etc.; and I was pissed off at girls for creating situations where guys were treating them like this—using their bodies to get free drinks (or, you know, like a free red bull at the co-op), stringing guys along, or becoming manipulative by mastering the fine art of passive aggressive outbursts.
As you can see, that way of thinking is very sharp and deliberate and it feels kind of stabby. Like, when I just wrote that, I felt a stabbing motion in my chest. It feels abrasive and unkind.
So clearly, I had to get rid of that way of thinking.
I’m not entirely sure when or how my position on all of that changed. It was definitely going strong when I graduated from college, because I remember showing up to social events around the time of graduation feeling very alienated and paranoid, like all the people at these gatherings were now firmly categorized as either a girl or a guy, and without knowing any of them, I could already tell they would all be a disappointment.
Something about my yoga practice changed this. I found yoga near the end of college, but to say I found yoga isn’t really what I mean to say. I mean to say, I found the place where I know I’m God, and I simply call it a yoga mat.
I could write about me and yoga until I reach enlightenment in the 14th life I have from now, and I still don’t think it would do justice to the relationship that my breath and bones have with each other.
So I will save that for later or for never, and let my practice be just for me, and this writing be for me and you: may these meanderings promote only healing in both of us, and whether you agree with me or not, may you feel free and clear after reading this.
I only entertained the idea of writing about this because now when I think about all this gender stuff, I am able to talk to myself in a way that doesn’t feel completely wretched. I don’t feel pissed off anymore about being a girl.
I don’t even really believe there are qualifications for being a boy or a girl—I look at it more as if we are all equally distinct human beings, and we may have certain body parts in common with some people and not with others, but that does not dictate a set of characteristics that we are obligated to uphold.
I feel absolutely disconnected with gender politics and it feels so good to have given up the grip on the million perspectives I have nurtured near and dear to me at one point or another.
So now I get to spend a lot of time traveling to all those yoga classes that changed my life a couple years ago, except for now I teach them. And now I get to spend a lot of time in my car, just by myself, learning to enjoy the company I keep and trying to align thoughts and words and actions and all that good stuff.
I still pull out these old topics from time to time, just to see what’s poking around in there, and it dawned on me the other day when I was sitting in traffic why we maybe have the stereotype that women are bad drivers.
Please bear with me, and please know that I realize I am making pure conjecture and I believe none of my hypotheses are correct about anything (they just are what they are).
I like traffic (sometimes, let me clarify that: sometimes) because it lets you slow down enough to actually look into other peoples’ days. And as we scooch just forward of each other 30 times in 30 minutes, there are often long periods of private moments that become available by just looking into the car of the person next to us.
And I saw these very…distracted looks on women’s faces. Women who are my age (mid-20s). Women who have only the best ahead of them. Women who were beautiful and dressed nicely and driving cars and having cell phones on the seats next to them—you know, girls like me.
And the highway suddenly became a hot-bed of girls in cars who are just sitting there thinking about what some guy is doing right now.
Now I realize that these girls were maybe not thinking anything of the sort.
But what this whole experience really elucidated for me was this: that there is maybe—possibly—a cultural undercurrent that goes something like this:
Gotta get you a man, girl. And once you get you a man, you gotta keep you a man.
Whether we realize this or not, women are collated to one of two places: a) the group of women who freely agrees to this way of thinking; or b) the group of women who does not agree with this way of thinking and wants to prove it.
And this runs so deep and so low inside of us that we perhaps do not realize it is happening, until little snippets of thought start surfacing and distracting us. Little thoughts like, Am I prettier than her? or, I don’t really get what people see in whoserwhatsit; or even something as seemingly innocuous as, I wonder what this group of people think of me?
If we are unconsciously stuck inside or just outside the idea that we need to secure the partnership of a man, and once we have it, we need to make sure that partnership stays in tact, then we are probably also a little distracted while driving.
I’m not saying that men do not experience distraction on the freeway, please—we all have distraction in our lives and we all have things to hold ourselves accountable for and we’re all doing our own thing. It’s lovely.
But the idea that we need something else to complete us—that’s the idea in our magazines, on our TVs, in our Black Friday sale ads, in our dating history and our jobs and our circle of friends—I think that particular idea is fed intensely and intently to our women.
So of course women aren’t driving very well—we’re all distracted by the thought that we aren’t good enough, of course that’s going to impend our ability to confidently apply focus when operating heavy machinery. Duh.
Of course I’m halfway kidding when I mention this, but at the same time, it makes energetic sense to me.
And if something is making energetic sense to me, I generally see that as a good thing, because being able to make sense of something is like eating a big ol’ mouthful of peace-pie—feeling like things make sense minimizes suffering greatly.
Given our current circumstances, everything makes sense. It all makes sense how the world came to be the way that it came to be.
I like that feeling.
I like feeling like a human being female, and sitting in traffic watching other humans be exactly who they are, whether they fit into categories, sub-categories, whatever…
I like that I technically got me a man, and I have every intention of keepin’ me a man; but not for the reasons why they think I should.
I like that right now, I just feel like myself. I don’t feel pissed off at being who I am, or anxious about being a different way, or worried that I’ve lost good-graces with my neighbors who don’t like that I play my music at the completely reasonable hour of 2:00 in the afternoon.
We can feel good now. Regardless of anything in the world, we can feel good now.
That’s going to be the new subliminal slang I’m throwing into our cultural lexicon.
Watch out for good feelings: improving the quality of drivers everywhere.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: elephant archive