Have you ever been at the receiving end of infuriating comments like:
- Why don’t you learn how to cook? Every girl should know how to cook!
- Have you shaved yet?
- Isn’t that dress a bit revealing?
I know I have.
These are among the few admonishments that I have faced growing up. Over the years I’ve felt a plethora of emotions, ranging from frustrated, to angry and disempowered. Even moreso because these comments come from loved ones who mean well. These are people that I love more than anything, and so it hurts when they say things like this.
Sometimes I wonder, do they hear themselves? Do they understand what I’m going through and how what they are saying makes me feel? Do they hear the same things I do when they talk? Sure they say they love me, but how is all this negativity supposed to make me feel loved? I’m struggling to see the love beneath these comments. I wonder if I would still be bombarded by these comments if I was born a son rather than a daughter.
I have always known love to be something thing empowers and frees a person, but how is it that in this context, with the people that l love the most, it has the power to range from the highest highs and the lowest lows in my emotional range, one minute making me feel safe and secure and the next minute making me feel so disempowered?
The comment that hits home with me the most, is the one about cooking. It just doesn’t make any sense in my head - why should only girls be taught something so vital? Don’t boys eat too? Are they forever going to be dependent on other people for something so important as nutrition?
Many times, I’ve gone back and forth, thinking how I should respond to this.
Should I take it as a curse or a blessing? If I were to see it as a curse, I would end up resenting my loved ones whose mindsets are unlikely to ever change and thus, achieve nothing. On the other hand, I could see it as a blessing; so many people care so deeply about me and my wellbeing. Things could definitely be worse. I have felt any less loved because I was born a daughter instead of a son. In fact, If I look at the hundreds of good things that my family has done for me, I think it’s safe to say that it nullifies some hurtful comments here and there. Or maybe I could see it as a challenge. No matter how difficult it may seem, I could hang on to the hope that maybe, just maybe I could prove them wrong. Maybe I could prove myself to be more what they see me to be.
I know that trying to change the way we respond is much easier said than done, but if you are currently in the same situation, I urge you to try to see it this way. I know that whatever I do, there is no way that I will ever be able to change how my loved ones see girls. But, I do know that inevitably, in one form or another, I will hear a variation of at least one of those comments in the foreseeable future. So, I make pro/con lists in preparation. Some of the pros of these comments include:
My family cares deeply about me
My family has my best interests at heart
Nothing they say will change my potential
This is only a temporary feeling which will go away
While the cons include:
I always seem to have more pros than cons…
Adopting these small changes to the ways in which we respond to these comments are not much, but they’re a start. Stigmatism is a dull knife hacking away at the open wound of inequality and every time it occurs, we are breaking each other. Consciousness is the clotting. Learning is the scabbing. Applying is the healing. The scar is proof of the distance we’ve come. Although love in this context is hard to understand, it is what I’ve got. So I’m learning to love the love I’ve been fortunate to have. Maybe you could try to do the same?