One day a few weeks back, after Ella had woken up from a nap she said, “I’m a bit grumpy, Mummy. Not too bad, but a bit.”
I held back a laugh because hearing children say grown up things is very funny.
I said, “Oh sweetie, you’re feeling grumpy?” Yes mummy, she replied. “Hmmm, well, that’s okay. Shall we sit in the sunshine and read some books?” I asked.
On equal par with the times my kids kiss or hug me of their own accord, like, without me hijacking their current activity and forcing them to, these kinds of moments are a drop-to-my-knees-and-kiss-the-earth kind of moment. Because if there is one thing I want my child to learn it is herself. And if there is another thing I want her to learn and remember and remember and remember, it’s that we CAN and SHOULD BE just how we are even if it’s not pleasant. You’re grumpy? Thanks for telling me, sister. Own that honey, and don’t pretend to be otherwise.
Because the problem is not that we feel how we feel — the problem is that we hide our feelings in order to be accepted.
I think, actually, we are all as truthful and unfearing as my daughter in the beginning, but we UNLEARN that we CAN and SHOULD BE just how we are when we meet a world which tells us otherwise. It’s a gender-based world, actually, defining us long before we even know what’s going on.
I don’t know about you, but I learned at a young age to hold myself together neatly. Most girls learn that, actually. Don’t pick your nose Lucy, that’s not very ladylike! Don’t be so bossy, Sarah. Look at your hair, Georgia, it’s a mess! You overhear any conversation in a playgroup or at the park and there will be a little girl being told that something about her is not right, or proper, or ladylike enough. Girls don’t scoff their food. Girls don’t get angry. Girls don’t fart, or burp, or sweat, and if they do they should do so in private. Taking ourselves away in order to perform basic human functions suggests that we should feel shame about them. Having our behaviour modified to suit our gender suggests that it’s not safe to reveal our whole selves. And just like that, a war begins. A war where we shoot at ourselves instead of the creators of this ridiculous construct.
Because all Georgia knows is that her hair is a mess and that messy hair is a problem. All Lucy knows is that she must be a lady at all costs. And all Sarah knows is that bossiness is not behaviour of value.
Emma Watson said it beautifully in her recent UN speech,
“I started questioning gender-based assumptions when at eight I was confused at being called “bossy,” because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents—but the boys were not. When at 14 I started being sexualised by certain elements of the press. When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear ‘muscly’.”
It starts so young. Girls are to have neat little lives, confident but not too confident, strong but not too strong, not too much of anything, actually, and if in doubt, more on the submissive side than anything else. Above all, mostly, what we need to be is contained.
As soon as anything starts spilling out — anger, farts, opinions — we no longer fit the ‘ideal woman’ mould, and so we question whether these things are attractive for men to see and whether the world accepts us as much. And then if we’re REALLY angry and REALLY opinionated, we get chucked in the corner with the rest of those ‘feminists’ as though it’s a dirty word.
By lady-fying our girls we are only raising another generation of shamed, confused women. Which is precisely the opposite of what the world needs, in actual fact.
Study after study shows that around the world and here at home, the surest way to lift a family or community is to lift a woman. When a woman rises, she brings her family and her community up with her. This is true both in granting her basic human rights, like education and freedom, but also in empowering her to embody other human rights like shamelessness, acceptance and diversity.
I saw this image on my IG feed the other day, and I was confronted by it.
This image represents the concept of a ‘wild woman’ — so aware of her power, so unapologetically herself, so unashamed, so trusting, so freed. In addition, there is a huge aspect of unbridled sensuality in this picture and, sadly, I’m not familiar with one woman who feels like that in their bedrooms, least of all myself. Sex tends to be a breeding ground for compliance and anger and resentment and feeling used and disconnection and vulnerability and the struggle between power and submission and who and how and what the hell we’re meant to be. Sex is too real, or not real enough, I’m not sure which.
Still, I think it’s an image worth keeping in my mind because the older I get, the more I believe we must be less ladies and more women, and wild women at that.
There is a beautiful song I heard the other day, found on my friend’s Facebook feed, based on the old folktale of a green dragon whose job it was to take young maidens into her cave to initiate them into women. The women who graduated from this cave were terrifying, to those who did not also know their own power.
I thought it a beautiful sentiment, and it made me think of what purpose the red tent served historically. It’s so important to be guided into womanhood, to make sense of what being a woman entails, to embrace our bodies and minds as powerful, shameless parts of ourselves. And it made me hope and wish with all my might that all women, young and old, begin the long journey back to their wild selves.
Because the world does not need ladies.
Hell, no, sisters.
What the world needs is for you to be wild.
Because wild women are free women, and free women are mighty powerful. They are world-changers. Because if she rises, we all rise.
Friday’s Photo Dump (theredtent if you want to follow the Instagram feed).
Happy Friday, you wild woman, you.