we were little girls with messy hair who wanted to shoot lasers at the people who hurt us. we made our barbies fly, made them spies, made them as strong as we wanted to be. they could stand up to the bullies. when we were older, we would ask, “where are the female superheroes?”
“it’s just a movie,” we were assured, “and what’s wrong with being the girl next door?”
we were angry adolescents with no safe direction to lash out in. we were not allowed to be violent. those of us who turned to our playstation were embarrassed for it. many of us were bullied. many of us turned to fantasy. when we were older, we would ask, “why is there only one playable girl character in this whole game?”
“video games are art,” we were sneered at, “i’m sick of these fake gamer girls ruining our media.”
we were high school girls who were worried we weren’t being kissed fast enough, even at 15. we felt shame boil up around our ears when men leaned out of cars to sling slurs at us. we wanted to feel good about ourselves but were sent home for showing our shoulders. what were we telling people by being so in love with our bodies that we showed them off in any small way. when we were older, we would ask, “why does this advertisement for socks have a barely-18-year-old girl lying mostly-naked on a bed?” we saw our own 18-year-old self, who could barely kiss right and still trembled about sex.
“relax,” we were told, “if you don’t like it, don’t look. if you’re mad they’re selling you your clothes like this, just don’t buy from them.”
we turned into tired adults. we have our fires burnt out. we have explained and explained until our tongues turned numb why we deserve to be able to live without fear. we got sick of being teachers. any dent we made was quickly refilled. we were sick of trying to talk to people who would never change their minds about us. we were sick of it. and we still asked: “where am i? where are the people who look like me?”
i once was in a coffee shop sighing to a friend, “why don’t people get that not every girl has the same body or same metabolic system” and i was interrupted by a large man who has no idea how i eat or how much i weigh or how healthy i might be, and he loudly and briskly informed me, “Victoria’s Secret models have a more common body type than you think. If you’re so pissed about not being like the girls on tv, how about you change what you look like?” i had gone 6 days without eating.
so we made it up. we gave barbie a cape and our spotted dog the ability to control the weather. we wrote barely-legible fanfiction about vampires who were also terribly in love with us - because we were perfect in this world, unlike the mess of what really was - we crafted entire sub-stories about how the main characters in our favorite universes were secretly girls in disguise. we made 17-year-old characters who would cut the throats of anyone who hurt them. we drew pictures of women in full, angry armor. we wrote bad poems about the girls we loved and the ones we were jealous of. we hurt ourselves often, were excellent at denying ourselves in the name of something. we only ate salad, we wouldn’t touch grease, we didn’t buy certain things, didn’t get dirty. we used things to fill the gaps. bath bombs. fussy boots. venti iced mocha half-caf.
we made it up. we flooded the market. we put up pictures of ourselves smiling, with messy hair and silly faces, with back fat, with smudged makeup. we made videos perfecting our lips. we made art of possible fashion - all with pockets.
a few girls take selfies at a sports event. they are slandered across the news for it.
can you imagine? can you imagine the selfishness? the audacity? the self-possession one must feel to take a picture of themselves where they control everything?
we don’t belong. images of us have to be photoshopped. made in buildings with perfect lighting. a young girl in underwear. we don’t belong. we don’t exist. keep quiet. if you don’t like it, don’t look at it.