Stories from Girlhood
I was not allowed to skateboard
or rollerblade or to do anything my mother considered dangerous to my
fragile female body. I did however own a bicycle. I played mostly with
my younger brother and his friends and we would race throughout the
neighborhood. My younger brother was allowed to leave the
neighborhood and bike along the creek trail, and I was not.
At twelve, my younger brother was given his own chainsaw. There is a video of him doing a kickflip on his skateboard on the roof of our 2 story home. There were no rules or boundaries for him, and he could accomplish anything he wanted. he was always taught to believe in himself. He was taught he could do the impossible.
At 16 my mother took a soda can away from me when I was kicking it in the street. She scolded me because the can had sharp edges from being kicked around, and I could injure myself from it.
are lower middle class and never had money for me to pursue any interests (though I was taught that I should never tell people what my interests are–my mother would often tell me that wishes came true for you if you kept them a secret, and being annoying would just hinder you from getting what you want out of life). I
was told karate would be too rough for me and too expensive. Both of my
younger brothers were enrolled. Both of them played sports.
The only contest my mother ever entered me in was a beauty pageant.
I was 5 and that was the day that I learned I was ugly. At this beauty
pageant I learned that my gender was judged on how good we look and that
was all that is important. And I learned that I was not valuable.
I was enrolled in piano lessons along with the older of my 2 younger brothers. It was hard for me to practice at home because we had one keyboard and my brother was given preferential treatment, which is standard for male children. They bought him other instruments, an accordian and a violin. He wasn’t interested in the violin. I was. My brother smashed the violin so I wouldn’t be able to learn it, and my parents said that was OK because it was his violin, after all.
When I was 8 and he was six, we were swimming at the community pool when he cannonballed right on top of my spine. I still have lower back problems. I know he did it on purpose but he was never punished because my parents always took his word over mine, because “girls over react.” My brother was taught his word is objective fact, that is how he was raised because he is male.
Whenever my parents talked about my future, it was about what kind of man I would marry and when I would get married and how I should get married and how to be a good wife (serve the man I married) and how many children did I want and when my parents talked to my brothers about their futures it was about what did they want to achieve?
On my fourteenth birthday
my dad asked me why I couldn’t be more feminine? Why did I hate make up
and the color pink? And I told him it was because I didn’t want to be
weak. Because my parents taught me that these things mean you are weak.
That to be feminine means to be weak. And I read Sojourner Truth’s poem,
“Ain’t I a Woman?” to him to show him that womanhood is not about weakness.
And my father told me that I am weak and that’s just how it is, because I was born a woman, and I should accept that and learn to enjoy being placed on a pedestal.
I have suffered from an anxiety disorder since a young age. I have gotten panic attacks from a young age. My father would always tell me that I am just exaggerating things, that I am being overly emotional. My brother picked up on this and still does it to me. My brother tells me I am weak, I am overly emotional, I am illogical, when I have a panic attack.
My brother has bullied me throughout my whole life, but my parents never did anything about it because “boys will be boys” and his maleness is a free pass for him to treat me however he wants.
He was socialized without any rules and allowed to do anything he wanted. He was told he could be anything he wanted, do anything he wanted.
As a teenager he stole my friend’s cell phone and smashed it in the creek bed. My parents did not punish him because they thought having to talk to the cops was enough punishment for him. The cop told him, “boys will be boys” and he got off Scott free.
Right now, he sleeps in my bedroom with my furniture on my mattress that I paid my money for. Because while I went away to Finland, he decided to take my bedroom. I have been living out of my suitcases for a year because my younger brother said “finders keepers” to my furniture and my mother doesn’t give a shit.
He broke my laptop, he lost both of my GPS’s. And when I ask him to be quiet at 3 am, he turns up the volume on Mario Kart so I can’t sleep, and tells me that it is my problem and I should just “get used to it” because I am the one who is entitled if I think he will change his habits to accommodate me.
As a teenager I hated being a woman so much. It felt like a cage, because being a woman meant all of these things I was NOT allowed to do. Being a woman meant I was barred from all of my areas of interest. Being a woman meant I was punished for not being meek. I would be the one to be punished if I defended myself against my brother because I was older so therefore I should know better and nobody ever let me get away with something and said “boys will be boys.” When I would come to my father with a problem he was always too busy or I was bothering him. he did not have time for me.
When my grandfather died he left the most to my younger brother. none of us were close with him.
I used to want to cut off my breasts because being a woman made me so angry. Being a woman closed in all around me, it defines my life by telling me what I am NOT allowed to be or do or say.
But I never identified as a man or wanted to be a man. What I wanted was to be a woman without the barriers. What I wanted was for the cage of gender to be lifted away from me.