Saturday, 8 December 2012

Girl Girls

My right arm still really hurts, alas, so I will condense my "Pet" post into three sentence: I'm now officially not allowed to have a pet in the Historical House, so my baby substitute options are definitely limited. Does anyone know of a plant that is like a pet? Is there a plant that purrs, or is that only on Star Trek?

The post that I've wanted to write for days is about young men who will tell you that you are not a "real" woman for some reason, and how you should correct and ignore them.

First of all, although some young men may think they are being very objective when they formulate theories about women and femininity, they aren't. So if a man tells you you aren't very feminine, you can take this as saying more about his subjective impressions of reality than about you, even if you are a tanker trucker.

Boys' and men's irrational and subjective thoughts about women can be very damaging to the female psyche, as we naturally want to get along with men, and many of us are prone to self-doubt. The most terrible and extreme example I know of is a little girl whose inevitable but horrible elementary school nickname was, through no fault of her own, "Whore." This poor girl was one of the girls singled out for the elementary sexual experiences of the boys in my class, and was the most despised.

As I scroll through my memory for the usual reasons an innocent girl gets tarred with the "class slut" label--the first to get breasts, willingness to curse, the crime of listening to the wrong music or wearing the wrong clothes, the rumour of an older boyfriend--all I can see is the fact that this girl's nickname was "Whore." That's it. That is why, according to the spirit that ruled my classroom, she could be treated like crap.

And, incidentally, I was too wrapped up in my own problems to think very much about this girl at the time, and it was only after someone else in my class--a girl who had been treated with affection and respect by the boys--told me about seeing her years later, that it occurred to me how much she must have suffered. (In short, the first woman saw the second, turned white as a sheet, and crossed the road.)

My own painful brush with irrational male categories of femininity occurred when I was a teenager, the sort of Dumb Smart Girl who does boys' homework for them because they seem so desperate and only she can save them. I hung out with fellow baby neo-conservatives in a movement where the very word "feminist" was hated, and because I argued the feminist cause, I was considered perhaps a bit of a loose cannon. As luck would have it, my most vociferous critic was the boy I helped with his homework most. He wanted to be seen as an intellectual, and he certainly wasn't one, so I suppose it is no wonder that he hated my guts. Very irrationally, I was quite fond of him and wanted him to like me. (Sigh.)

He was the kind of boy who puts on chivalry like his older brother's jacket and one day bragged at a party that he always treated girls very well.

"But what about Seraphic?" demanded my friend. "You don't treat her very well."

"Oh," scoffed Mr Chivalry. "Seraphic's not a girl girl."

My therapist became very familiar with this story. Possibly my readers are already familiar with this story. Unfortunately, this is one of the defining stories of my life. And why, I ask, did I allow the stupid remark of a teenage dirtbag who begged and pleaded for me to fix his stupid essays to bother me quite that much?

And I suppose I must have thought boys were allowed to define who the "real" girls were, and as generations of women believed, that the greatest feminine accomplishment is to "make boys like you," and so, if you failed in this, you weren't that feminine.

How terrible. And how untrue. But that is enough for today because of my poor arm.


Katerina said...

Wonderful post.

I'm afraid I don't have many thoughts to add, but on plants that are vaguely like pets, you could get a sensitive mimosa- it does not purr, but it closes its leaves when you touch them :) My brother used to have one and it always fascinated me.

The Sojourner said...

I have a friend who is quite fond of Venus flytraps.

And now I will take a moment of silence to be rageful at people who attempt to distinguish between "real" women who are worthy of good treatment and others who aren't.

*silent rage*

I don't have any good examples myself.

Lauren said...

You could also get an amaryllis. They're not pet-like, but they are beautiful, with huge blossoms. And they bloom in winter, which is an added bonus.

Also, as someone who suffered from tendinitis in both hands, wrists, and elbows (and up into one shoulder) from overuse, here's the advice a very good doctor gave me: 1. be vigilant about ergonomics. type with your wrists straight, your elbows at 90 degrees, etc. 2. use the 2/3 rule to stop before you're in pain. So if you can type for 15 minutes, and then things hurt, next time type for 12 minutes. Do this for a while, then you can slowly build up, minute by minute. I played the piano quite a bit, and ended up having to practice in 2-minute increments... but it did ultimately work and get much better.

Finally, I'm glad you posted on this. This kind of thing makes me crazy. That's all. ;)

Athanasius lover said...

Thank you so much for posting this.

I was once mentioning to a male friend, whose opinion I greatly respect, that men just don't seem to be attracted to me. (Perhaps this topic of conversation was a mistake.) He told me that maybe that was because I was "too much of a friend and not enough of a woman." It took months for that to stop hurting. Granted, he wasn't calling me a whore or disparaging my character, but being told I wasn't enough of a woman was a very hurtful experience.

Seraphic said...

@Athanasius lover. Yeah, he sure worded that wrong. In general men are just not that great at picking the right words, and I don't think they realize how seriously we take their words to heart.

I was lucky that when I asked my little brother--who has always been popular with girls--how come I was single, he thought about it and said, "You're not fast food." That was BRILLIANT. I am so impressed at the intelligence of my little brother. For once a man actually answered the question in a brilliant and not-hurtful and actually really flattering way.

What your friend might have meant was that you do not highlight your differences as a woman as much as he thinks would be more effective in flagging your woman-ness to men.

On the other hand, he might have been thinking of his own response to you (and why wouldn't he, as he's the guy he knows best), so that was probably really subjective.

There is so much to write about this. The first thing I want to address is how on the one hand guys resent women for having sexual power over them, but how on the other they also seem to gauge a woman's femininity or status as a human being by how much that woman appeals to them personally.

It's extremely maddening for women, except for the few women who figure out how to use this for an unfair advantage. Of course there are women who figure out that they have serious emotional or sexual power over men and then use it for evil. And there are women who don't think men are really human unless they are in someway related to, or attractive to, them. However, it's very unfair when men think all women are like this.

Urszula said...

The example you quoted sounds traumatic, and I'm horrified to hear the other comments that have been made to girls.

On the other hand, I've been called 'one of the guys' at my former workplace and it didn't really bother me - they were all my pals/friends and since I didn't think of them romantically or want to (our worldviews weren't compatible), I actually felt good about being included in their group - essentially me being a 'guy' meant they thought I had a sense of humor and wasn't uber sensitive.

Seraphic said...

Well, yes. It's great to be "one of the guys" at WORK, especially when its a male-dominated workplace.

In general, my guess is that, "Such and such, you're definitely one of the guys!" is always a compliment (coming from the guys) although not if they stick the word "just" in there, i.e. "You're just one of the guys."

Sheila said...

Not a girl girl. Oh what an awful thing to say. No one ever said that to me, mainly because boys didn't really talk to me at all because I was too weird because I was homeschooled. And I must say I thank God often that I was homeschooled. I wouldn't have handled high school well.

In response to your comment above -- it maddens me when men to whom you are not at all attracted feel the need to tell you that they aren't attracted to you. As in, "It's really unattractive when you do X," or "I'm really turned off by your opinions/shrillness/etc." Um, we are having a rational conversation, aren't we? How does my *attractiveness* have anything to do with this conversation? Why, oh why, must women be judged at all times and places on our LOOKS?

End of rant. You know what I mean.

n.panchancha said...

Noooo rest your arm! How awful. And are you not allowed even a fish?? I know they're not cuddly but they're something to look after, and at least they get excited about food.

What a traumatic story, though. I'm going to assume that young man was reeeally insecure and hope that he got some help later and repents in his heart for all that nonsense. Don't you just want to go back and give your younger self a hug, maybe tell her that everything's going to work out in the end? Ugh.

amy said...

You may not have pets *in* the historical house- what about outside? I'm thinking doves, rabbits, chickens... or if this is not permitted what about a simple bird feeder to attract wildlife?