“Stop crying. Are you a girl?”
…was something I remember a teacher asking me many years ago. It’s something I repeated mechanically to friends while growing up. I should rephrase that last part to “as I turned older”. The reason being it’s only recently that I’ve grown up. My family’s a fairly reasonable bunch of blokes but as I think back to some of our gatherings, I cringe at the kind of ridiculous, ill-informed comments that pervaded our conversations. To be fair, it was mostly the geriatric members indulging in their finger-pointing pastime, and yet impressionable minds like ours meekly drank the Kool-Aid. I won’t get into details of what we can safely categorize today as rubbish but a significant part of their opinions were devoted to female roles. The women would subsequently get together to deride these archaic thoughts, while articulating their own theories of what defines an emancipated woman. Sadly, those were equally archaic.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to learn from excellent thinkers I’ve met on Twitter. They’ve shared perspectives and opinion, none prescriptive. Merely gentle nudges in the right direction. There are other things:
I observe the women around me and I’m astonished at what they manage.
I’m a father to a son. A gift from an amazingly talented and selfless woman I’ve had the privilege of building a life with. A woman who’s miles ahead of me in professional capability and even further ahead in her ability to make difficult choices. (Because equality is about the freedom to make choices, right? Thankfully men don’t have to make the tough ones!)
I read more news than I used to, and get pissed off.
Even so, every once in a while something yanks you out of your comfortable existence and compels you to reevaluate your paradigms. Malala Yousafzai‘s story is one such bit of news. Nothing screams “THREAT TO OUR EXISTENCE” like a fourteen year-old girl demanding education. So it’s perfectly logical that these castrated louts calling themselves the Taliban would send a gunman to shoot that fourteen year old. Shoot her they did – in the head. She survived and stood on her feet yesterday in a hospital in England. I’m not religious and this isn’t proof of god but it sure as hell is proof that my teacher from years ago was so pathetically wrong. In that one perverse question she carelessly encapsulated the lives of billions of women and shoved it down our throats like a sugary placebo. What’s worse is that she did it despite being a woman.
I’ll be damned if my son ever picks up a single sexist or misogynist thought from me. But he needn’t take me at face value. Let him craft his own opinions with his own research. I’m confident either way he’ll learn that some girls just don’t cry. They take a bullet to the head and stare back with bright, defiant eyes.