There are so many things in my life that remind me of my childhood – which may be deliberate, since I am still a Big Kid™ in most aspects of my life (Thanks, Dad!) I was looking into buying some retro consoles, which got me thinking about my old NES and Sega Genesis. Then my mind started wandering to other memories and how I ended up the person I am right now. That’s a vague and vast topic for one blog post, but one portion stuck out to me.
My early childhood was predominately 90s. Which, I have to say, was an awesome time to be a kid. We had the Disney Renaissance, the best toys, and those video games I want to play again! My parents divorced when I was really young and I ended up living most of the time with my dad – he didn’t grow up with girls, so he couldn’t help but influence me to like the sort of “boy things” he had as a kid. I do still remember the bright blue and pink aisles at Toys R Us, as well as lots of toy commercials with only boys or only girls, but honestly? My interests were pretty balanced in “gendered” topics. I loved glittery pink pegasus toys and I also really loved Mortal Kombat. I really wanted to be a mermaid or a faerie, but I also wanted to swordfight. I have zero memory of being told what or what not to like as a kid.
It wasn’t until those weird, awkward teenage years did I feel like I have to pick a category of interests. I can’t remember what made me feel that sort of pressure, but I do remember feeling like I had to be a teenager and not a kid. It didn’t help that I started school early, so I was at least a year younger than my classmates.
I do remember around 8th grade, I felt like I needed to “act my age.” – and I really didn’t know what that meant. And I guess at the time, I just wasn’t interested in what the 13/14-year-olds in my grade were doing. I felt stupid trying to figure out makeup and I wasn’t even interested in being “attractive” yet. So in a sense, I think my form of rebellion in my teen years was by being as anti-girly as possible. I decided that I hated pink, my “natural beauty” was better than experimenting with makeup, and basically didn’t want to be around girls that were like that.
It got to a point where I thought every girl was either a tomboy or a girly girl, and that all girly girls were selfish, snobby, vain, boring! It wasn’t a conscious mindset but instead extremely subtle, and only something I was able to notice years and years later.
My teenage years was also when I became a sponge for media/pop culture. So. I
mostly definitely blame teen movies for this.
For the most part, movies and other similar forms of media use a checklist of traits (tropes) on their characters so the audience can quickly see what sort of person they are. Eventually, these traits get exaggerated into over the top stereotypes – stock characters, if you will. For example, you know who the “popular girl” in school is because she’s the most “girly” female displayed – perfect makeup, the trendiest fashions, and most of the time, she’s the villain. She’s the complete opposite to the “hero” female, who is maybe more modest and shy. (Although really, she is just in need of a makeover, which is a whole other problem in itself.)
This is a quick formula that works. These characters don’t need a backstory/introduction because we’ve already seen them in other movies before -with different names and different actors.
I’m not claiming to be the first person to notice a problem with these stereotypes – and over the years, it has gotten better. The problem for me was that the only interaction I got with other girls was through school. So when I assumed I, too, was to claim a “stock character persona” to emulate, I also assumed the rest for people who dressed differently or were interested in other things than me. I began to associate real girls with these caricature-ized girls I saw in movies based solely on what they wore and what hobbies they had.
In short, this “anti-girly” persona I adopted, without meaning to, made me put girls into categories. This made me feel like I had to “compete” with different social groups. It made me hate other girls
Once I got to college and felt comfortable with myself as a person, I stopped caring about categories I needed to fit myself – and other women – into. I had been introduced to Elle Woods and Cher Horowitz (a few years too late, but still). I began to embrace the classic “feminine” interests that I hadn’t explored since I was in elementary school. It’s as if I woke up in shock – I can like dresses, flowers, delicate things while still cursing like a sailor, lifting weights and laughing at immature internet memes. Pink looked good on me, I fell in love with glitter again, and I’m still waiting on the chance to become a badass magical girl. Gosh, it’s almost as if I’m…a person with multiple sides and interests??
My only regret is that I didn’t figure this out sooner, but I am glad that I was about to snap out of it when I did. I know for certain my story is similar to hundreds of others out there, and there are many women who still struggle with this. I know this isn’t an accident – it’s a common theme to have a “bitchy girl Vs nice girl” storyline, and it’s super toxic.
Over the years, I feel like such a cheerleader for other women – we go through so much shit! I try my best to support my female friends in their goals and dreams to make up for all the “girl-hate” I was secretly harboring. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to say that I can’t remember the last modern movie/show I watched that involved two girls fighting over a dude. Female friendships, both fictional and in real life, are so important to me. It’s an aspect I start to look for when I get into something new, and is almost a deal breaker for me at this point.
What about y’all? Did you ever notice yourself feeling the same way or have similar thoughts? Let me know!