Not Just A Girl Thing

When I was little, I liked being a girl because I could be a pioneer. Both my school and my family! encouraged me in independent thinking and high self-esteem and I was confident I could achieve any goal. I modestly planned on being the first female Prime Ministeress. I wrote stories about girls who went on spy missions, orbited into space and participated in the Olympics - all before their twelfth birthday.

My friend Lela was my partner in crime. Together, we championed women's rights. Essentially, we had no clue what we were talking about, but in our naivete, we had the right idea. Despite some disadvantages, Ws great to be a girl. Because we were so young, people were mostly amused by our feminist ranting.

Years later, in my camp-dorm, my friends and I often discussed sexism at school in terms of sports, eating disorders, and verbal harassment and sexism in the rest of the world, including job discrimination and sexual violence. Despite our nighttime discussions, I never said a thing when I actually witnessed sexist behaviour in classes at school.

Eventually, though, I made a decision to start voicing my opinions. Until then, I'd never been very vocal about feminism in high school, and I hated people looking at or criticising me. However, I went to classes and we were encouraged to speak out, and I ended up prompting feminism around the school.

Most of the girls at my school were supportive, although, they seemed reluctant to call themselves feminists, probably because they thought of feminists as whiny, man-hating lesbians. Much to my surprise some of the boys supported us too, though I got into heated debates with boys in and out of classes In fact, at one point, I had no conversations with boys, only huge arguments.

I felt isolated and sorry that I'd told everyone my opinion. I now realise that my conflicting feeling about fouling feminism stemmed from my own self-doubt, rather than from other peoples' reactions.

I didn't want people to think that I was some sort of hairy-legged, hell-raising bra burner. As a rest of my class arguments, I found that it's definitely possible to be pro-female without being anti-mat Most boys seem willing to listen to ideas about feminism when they're presented in a non-hostile manner, (i.e. refrain from saying chauvinist 'pig' or saying 'men are scum').

For example, last year a guy in my class and I had a conversation about eating disorders. He said that girls who developed disorders were weak, and I disagreed, but I couldn't express myself nearly as well as Naomi Wolf in 'The Beauty Myth'. I told him to read the 'Hunger chapter and he took me up on it.

There are, of course, some people who will hate you for being a feminist, but they'd probably hate you anyway for just being a girl. The people that hassled my viewpoints at school were the guys who commented on girls' bodies when they did P.E, or who never used the word 'girl', opting instead I 'bitch' or 'whore'. I eventually learned that people like that - however abrasive, are the minority. The majority is usually indifferent or, best of all, curious and receptive.

The more I go out, the more I meet guys who not only consider themselves feminists, but are al active in supporting womens' rights.

Some women might think that male contributions to feminism are unnecessary or contradictory, but I think it's encouraging when guys express interest. In the 'Feminine Mystique' - a book that helped spawn the second wave of womens' movement in the 60's - Betty Friedan writes, "who knows what women can be when they are finally free to become themselves?" I figure, if the female half of the population begins to feel stronger, freer, and happier, it makes sense that the male half will benefit.

Rachel Town-Treweek 5RLA Avondale College, 1995


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