I’m sitting at my favorite coffee shop near my school today “working.”
Before I left the house, I turned my room upside down looking for a pair of headphones to wear while I sit and work to no avail, even though I can’t focus all the way with noise in my ears.
I could hear their young voices when I walked in, loud above the Frank Sinatra playing in the shop. I could see their adolescent bodies packed into a corner, clutching their iPhones and iced coffees. At first, I was frustrated. The only available spot to sit was right next to them.
I didn’t mean to listen, but I couldn’t help myself.
I sat down today with one intention: to write a blog post. I wanted to write about being constantly busy or about body image as usual. I wanted to force myself to write about something that just wasn’t coming to the surface when what I need to write about was sitting right in front of me the whole time, taking selfies and gossiping.
And today I realized, for the love of all things holy, what in the F*@K are we doing to our girls?
I remember the age of these girls in front of me all too well. When I was a freshman in high school, and all that mattered to me was boys and sneaking booze to go party…so I could meet a boy. I didn’t care about myself, I barely cared about my friends and I was stuck in the revolving door of what I thought I should be doing. I believed my worth was based solely on overrated and overly glorified boyfriend experience.
I thought that with a more progressive generation of women raising the girls of today, we would encounter these issues less. That young girls would feel comfortable being their age instead of forcing themselves into a box revolving only around body image and boys. As I listened to these girls today, I realized we haven’t made strides. Their conversations didn’t focus on their classes or their accomplishments. Their dreams for the future or their fears. They tore apart their bodies, describing how they used to be “fat” which made them unlovable and how boys would/wouldn’t talk to them.
It’s easy to get by on the mentality that these conversations just reflect their age. When I was a teenager, I wasn’t talking about what scared me or what I wanted to be when I grew up. But that’s because we aren’t giving girls the room to talk about these things. The encouragement and the support.
We tell boys to “be boys” and be rambunctious and adventurous. We tell them to work hard and play sports and to “leave girls alone because girls are CRAZY.” We tell them to seize the world and make it theirs.
But we tell girls that in order to be “marriageable” they need to watch their cursing and act like the kind of girl a man would want to spend the rest of his life with. We teach them to watch their drinks and always walk with a friend.
So it’s no surprise that by the time they’re young women, discovering the world on their own, that it is a complete and utter reality shock that boys and men are not the center of the universe. It’s no surprise that we’re raising women to be scared and intimidated, unable to even ask for equal pay in the workforce because they don’t want to rock the boat and don’t believe they’re deserving.
It’s no surprise that women stay in emotionally and physically abusive relationships because “it’s their fault for being so emotional.” It’s no surprise that women have little to no autonomy when making decisions regarding THEIR lives and THEIR bodies. It’s no surprise that we still exist in a world that views women as commodities rather than people.
I am constantly conscious of the way I speak to young women and little girls. What’s your favorite subject? I ask. Do you play any sports?
I don’t ask them if they have a boyfriend or if they have any crushes, because girls are more than just a male in their life.
I don’t tell them they’re beautiful, not because they aren’t but because girls deserve more than just beauty.
I want girls to know that by just being a girl, you’re not a burden. You’re not just a boyfriend or a pretty face. You’re a complex body of flesh and blood, hopes and dreams fears. That you were born to do great things just like your male counterparts and that there is nothing more powerful than a girl, who blossoms into a woman and knows her absolute damn worth.