“You’re A Girl”
February 11, 2014 § 2 Comments
A couple months ago I was riding the subway back home and was pretty exhausted. I had my purse on my arm with my arms folded against my chest so my purse was secured to my body. I leaned my head against the rail to rest my eyes for a bit when I was suddenly awakened by a man who was passing in between subway cars. He tapped me on my leg and shouted loudly,
“Hey wake up! You’re a girl! Someone could steal your purse”
Maybe I should have been grateful for the passerby stranger looking out for my well- being. Oh thank you kind sir for taking the time to yell at me while passing in between subway cars. If you can’t tell, annoyance was my choice of response. What I couldn’t get out of my head was the middle sentence.
You’re a girl.
As I thought about it, I became increasingly upset about the fact that no matter how strong or capable I am or become, being a girl puts me more at risk for someone to do harm to me. You could take this statement and insert it with so many other things “Hey wake up! You’re a girl! Someone could….”
Rape you? Take advantage of you? Make it nearly impossible to gain education or make a life for yourself? Snatch you up as their sex slave?
Because the reality is that being a girl may cost something whether we want it to or not.
I enjoy being independent, in an empowered, I know how to take care of myself and sometimes pay my bills kind of way. I live in a big city, I have a job, I live in an apartment with two other people, I have a college degree and hope to get further education, I feel many times I can hold my own with the “bigwigs”. I don’t really know what that means or if I’ve ever met one, but I’m sure if I ran into a “bigwig” we would become fast friends.
And yet, I have moments like I did on the subway that day, moments like I do when I am walking down the street and am unable to stop men from objectifying me no matter what I do or how many layers I wear. And it makes me feel powerless, as if I do not have control over my own life or destiny. That at any moment, someone could strip that away from me and I couldn’t do a thing about it. I know that what other people do or say does not have to affect me. But it does. Not because I choose for it to, but because that is the reality of the state of society almost everywhere you go. I hate that I cannot walk home without a pissed off look on my face because if I show a hint of kindness to most of the men on the side of the street that I pass, they will take that as freedom to harass me. Moreover, I hate that many girls are set up to fail and have to fight even harder for many of the luxuries I have. That the education rate for girls in many countries is so low but the sex industry is booming. I hate that a healthy, capable woman could in an instant be stripped of her sense of dignity and security because someone selfishly decided to rape her. On top of that, she is told to keep silent, that it was her fault, that she could have prevented it.
I am in no way saying that all men do this or that it doesn’t happen to men by women. But the select group of men who do respond this way, who make women feel powerless so easily and flippantly, have caused many of us to have our guards up. Because not only do we know what it is like to feel preyed on, many women have been taken advantage of or been suppressed by a broken system, not given equal opportunity, and feel powerless to control their own destiny no matter how hard they try. And any situation that feels similar causes us to flinch.
So our frustration and sense of powerlessness may sometimes come out in the form of anger. It may come out in the form of stereotyping. It may come out in the form of projection onto someone who is just trying to help. It may come out in a knee jerk reaction to try to balance the scales through dominance. We just feel sometimes that we have lost our sense of control and are trying to do anything to gain it back. We need grace. We need understanding. We need people to listen to how we feel rather than write us off as crazy and continue to make us feel the same way. We need to stop being told that how men respond to us is our fault. We need support from each other to start changing the way society puts women in a subordinate role. And we need men and women to speak up and be a voice for equality. Any time another human being uses their position to make someone else feel powerless, we need to step up and say something. In any country, in any situation, we need to spread the message of “Hey wake up! You’re a girl and you have so much to give.”
A man telling me someone could steal my purse because I am a girl is not oppression. But in his statement, whether he meant to or not, he pointed out a system that is oppressive. And a lie of silence and oppression is that if it is not happening to you at the extreme level, you have no right to say anything. Or that if you are not dealing with it at the extreme level, then you shouldn’t deal with it at all. It’s just another way to keep people silent and feel shame. So here I am, using one avenue, to share my voice of what I have seen and felt that will hopefully resonate with someone. If it inspires another person to do so as well, then I guess we are one person closer to building an army of believers who will fight for justice and peace in any way they can.