Just A Girl

‘…Cause I’m just a girl, oh, little old me
Don’t let me out of your sight
Oh, I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights
Oh, I’ve had it up to here

The moment that I step outside
So many reasons for me to run and hide
I can’t do the little things I love so dear
‘Cause it’s all those little things that I fear

‘Cause I’m just a girl, I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive late at night
I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak
‘Cause they all sit and stare with their eyes
Oh, I’m just a girl take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype, oh, I’ve had it up to here

Oh, am I making myself clear?

I’m just a girl, I’m just a girl in the world
That’s all that you’ll let me be
Oh, I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb make me worry so
Oh, I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb…

…Oh, I’ve had it up to
Oh, I’ve had it up to
Oh, I’ve had it up to here

~Just A Girl~ by No Doubt

If you’ve been following this blog since it’s inception, or at least as far back as last October, you might have gleaned that I have no tolerance for gender specification, and for a world that consistently sends out proverbial and subtle to downright rude, judgmental messages that we need to be put in our places regarding which gender we are. Specifically, I have no patience for the backwards thinking regarding females, as in “that is a boys’ thing — you can’t like it/do it/wear it/own it/think about it.”

A prime example of this occurs every year right around this time, which is how I remember writing about it before. Halloween costumes. Manufacturer’s of the fun disguises that our children choose to slip into and become for a short while are repeat offenders of this issue. A male character from an animated film will be labeled “boys size 5” versus “kids size 5,” as I strongly feel it should be classified.

But thank god that money reigns supreme, as nothing, not even the sexism disguised as dress up can stop my daughter and I from plunking our cash down at the counter and purchasing any item we want, boys-only be damned!

Our recent run-in with this pre-1950s, closed-minded, uneducated thought happened just this past Thursday at our local park while we were there with our two new friends, Andrea and her son, Sean. Odd though, for the pair of instances that materialized it took me until Saturday morning to truly process the bigger of the two moments, and see it for what it was. I regret this as there are reaffirming words I should have offered to my daughter, had I not been blinded by other factors.

My Batman sneaker-wearing, soccer ball-carrying daughter and I were enjoying the company of Andrea and Sean, whom we met a week previous at the same park, when on the swings another boy comes along and says to my kiddo, “I like your sneakers.” “Thanks!” (Always polite, my girl.) Then he speaks this sentence: “But those are boys shoes; why are you wearing them?” Before she could answer, both Andrea and myself replied in similar unhesitating terms that anyone can wear the sneaks my daughter had on, that they weren’t just for boys.

I suppose this boy suddenly didn’t even care as he tottered off. Good. Fair enough. On with you.

Simultaneously in my thoughts, I’m liking Andrea even more for obviously having a perspective on this “girls can’t” nonsense much like mine. I turn to her and say, “My husband and I don’t buy into the gender specific stuff. We teach her that she can do all the same thing as boys.” She shakes her head in agreement, her facial expression appearing to seriously match what my own felt like at that moment.

Not long after that, our children met and made the acquaintance of two boys, brothers, whom they got on well with. The four of them realized that a high school football team was in one of the fields practicing, and that all of the kicker’s balls kept ending well outside of the gate, right in the grass where they were playing. They made a game of it, running for the footballs, meeting the kicker at the gate — who was sweet and polite to them each and every time, renewing my positivity in teenagers for the day — handing the balls off to the young man, then running back into the grass to wait for more arrivals. (“I love it when an activity comes along organically,” I grinned to Andrea, who was enjoying just hanging out, as I was.)

When this fun faded off, the four decided to play soccer with my daughter’s soccer ball in the field designated for that activity. The mother of the two brothers came along, too, and though she seemed nice enough, she never actually attempted to be social with either myself or Andrea.

In any case, the children played in the bleachers for a stretch, but didn’t fully approach playing soccer, even after another boy — 6.5 years old, he told me and Andrea, on a soccer team, sweet kid — joined them.

When the mother and her two sons went to leave, my daughter and Andrea’s son were playing race together on the soccer field, and our little soccer ball was just at the gate where I could see it and retrieve it when we were ready to move on.

Barely a blink later, the soccer ball was no longer in the spot where we had left it. Andrea and I looked around for it. I searched my other belongings. I looked under the bleachers. In the bleachers. We scanned the field.

After our children saw us searching for something, we asked them if they put it farther up field. They hadn’t.

A few minutes of this caused my daughter to grow upset, and me to become upset along with her, for her. And a bit annoyed that I’d have to purchase another soccer ball, as it was clear someone had walked off with the perfectly fine one belonging to us.

The four of us walked back to the playground area, where my go-getter girl (a characteristic of hers that I did not see completely and clearly until this month, but am proud of her for being strong in this way) began approaching parents, asking if they saw a silver soccer ball. One mom piped up, saying she saw another mom and her boys — the trio we encountered — carrying a ball and indicated which direction they had gone in.

I thanked her for telling us that, as we had nothing to go on until then.

We turned around, headed back in the direction we had come from, and soon came upon the mom with her two boys. I don’t remember which words I used to ask her if she had it, but she seemed to realize quickly that the soccer ball was ours and that we were searching for it.

She told us, as she pointed to the next field over, that she thought it belonged to the 6.5 year-old boy that had hung out for a few minutes, and that she threw it in this other field, thinking that someone would find it there.

I thanked her for letting us know where it was, smiled, did the polite thing.

In my head, I’m annoyed that they picked it up at all. But relief over its return to us held over me more than anything else.

Which is why it took me 48 hours to see what really happened here: this soccer ball couldn’t possibly belong to that little girl…because she is a little girl. Little girls can’t play soccer.

Shame on you, fellow mom, woman, female, GIRL! It’s 2014, for crying out loud! Oh, and such things as girls’ soccer teams exist. Get your head out of the sand!

I’m a little angry with myself for not noticing this component. Sure, an old part of me would have loved to tell this other mom off for her passive sexist actions. But I know that wouldn’t have mattered too much to do. It would have only made me look bad. Rather, I wish I hadn’t missed that moment to point out to my daughter how some people are unfortunately stuck in an old way of thought. How sad. We should feel sorry for them. In the meantime, you keep doing what you love, and don’t let anyone ever tell you who to be.

I can still reaffirm this message to her, but a perfect moment to do so passed. I feel like I failed lifting her up, all because I was focused on what looked like loss and new expense.

I’ve had it up to here.

Am I making myself clear?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Just A Girl

  1. Kat

    Yes, you most definitely are making yourself clear. Like you, I never held my children to society defined gender roles. I’m hoping to continue that with my grandchildren.

    • As you know Kat, it’s a hard thing to do. Maybe it’s why some of the other parents end up succumbing to it, because it is easier. Of course, easier is not always best for my kid. I won’t be a sheep, following the herd because “this is what is done.”

      I want her to find herself. And I want her to do it on her terms. I want her to do it much easier than I did. And not within boundaries set by the Royal We.

      Surely, you will continue that with your grandchildren, and probably much more naturally then you think. Especially when it comes to things like what you buy them. Or rather which version — opting to skip pink for a granddaughter, and instead looking at what she is already inclined to.

      As always, I love hearing from you, and very much appreciate you reading and commenting.

  2. I just found your blog today Julia – because you retweeted a blog post of mine from #MondayBlogs which I also just found today. I spend a lot of time lost apparently.

    Your post reminded me of the Halloween on which I THOUGHT I had all the costuming concerns worked out. Two of my 6 children, both boys, decided to be Batman and Robin. Costumes were ordered, paid for and arrived. Life was good until Halloween afternoon when my youngest son decided he wanted to be a witch.

    No amount of talking would turn him back into “The Boy Wonder” and so…I grabbed some black material I had around the house, put together a makeshift black dress, found some green face paint and borrowed the traditional black hat. A witch he was. I did get more than a few looks from other mom’s walking my white haired, blue eyed 4 year old son around with a green face and a dress but I didn’t mind at all, because he looked hysterical!

    I understand perfectly your feelings about not pigeon holing your children into roles that others want to create for them. I would caution you however to take a deep breath and let other peoples less than passionate agreement with your stance roll off your back. Life is just too short for the angst. I, having the benefit of being old, have learned that most offenses are benign and come as a result of not having taken time to take a stand as opposed to actual disagreement.

    One of my kids posted a blurb on my refrigerator that read:
    “If you want peace in your life, resign as general manager of the universe.”
    I think they were trying to tell me something. 🙂 After turning in my notice, I did breathe a lot easier and found I liked people a lot more.

    Love your blog

    Anita

  3. When I was growing up, girls wore dresses and boys wore the trousers. Girls played with dolls and boys with guns. Expectations were determined by gender but the one thing in our favour was that it had little to do with capitalists trying to sell us stuff. Despite the greater gender freedom for adults nowadays, it seems even worse for young kids with gender-neutral clothes and toys packaged differently for boys and girls. I admire your efforts as a parent to resist this for your daughter, but must be such hard going.

  4. Ah! THERE she is! I have missed reading the mom/daughter/family exploits you share here. And this is so great! I wouldn’t worry much that you missed the one opportunity to reaffirm your daughter and to tell her that some people are stuck in an old way of thinking. You’ll have plenty more opportunities for that, and it seems you’re doing just fine anyway.

    And this was a nice piece from a craft standpoint as well. You are definitely making yourself clear. 🙂

    -Shane

    • Yes, I think that I had subconsciously went away from writing about the kiddo for awhile because I began to feel like that person at work who talks about their kid all of the time, pulls out the wallet full o’ photos.

      Unfortunately, you are correct, Shane — there will be loads of other opportunities to reaffirm all sorts of things.

      Wow, what a sweet compliment. Thank you. 😉

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