I was at the ripe age of 14 when I remember expressing, for the first time, my opinion regarding my families views on a girl. It’s a vivid memory where all my cousins and I were squished into one room, some on the floor while others were on the couch laughing and talking. I remember being pulled to the side and lectured by my mom about how I was too close to my guy cousins, that I was laughing too hard which would give them the wrong impression. I remember looking at my mom and nodding but not quite understanding what I did wrong. In my thoughts, I walked away blaming myself for laughing and started tearing up because the seriousness in my moms voice drove me to think I was putting myself out there. However, this was not the first time I had blamed myself. It was not until the evening where I started to understand as my girl cousins and I had walked down into the living room. My mom expressed with her eyes looking me up and down as a hidden message to wear a scarf. Understand my frustration to this message as since I was young I was always taught to cover myself up or boys would get the wrong idea. Of course, at the time I ignored what my mom had asked me to do and continued to talk to my cousins as no one else was wearing a scarf. It was then my grandmother had said that I should go cover myself that I asked the question “why”? I stared at my mom, the stacked up blame in my head becoming too much, that I burst out with all the things I heard from the comments about wearing a scarf to having girls not leave the house alone. But all I got with tears dripping down my red face was “it’s different your a girl”.
Looking back now I don't think that was what had set me off, it was the pent up frustration of having these extra precautions for being a girl. I have always tried my best to follow all the guidelines set up by not only my family but family friends, cultural representatives, that all had the same idea. That a girl/women are responsible for taking precautions against a boy/man. It is the girl asking for it if she's not wearing a scarf, it is a girls fault for sitting next to a boy, it is the girl's fault if the boys talking to her more than once. My culture that was built up so many years ago has ceased to evolve to new times, it has and always will place responsibilities on girls. The funny part of it all is that regardless of the countless statements of mine defending that a girl is not always the one responsible the same vivid memory plays in my mind however now from 2019 where I am 15. Where I hear the same comments about how it makes me lose my respect if I do not wear a scarf. The same comments on how I am putting myself out there by laying my head on my cousin's shoulder. The same guilty feeling that I grew accustomed to continued to rise inside of me, where I once again blamed myself due to someone else complaints someone else's request.
Why is it that I must cover myself but a boy is not told to respect a girls body?
Why is that I have to take precautions around my blood cousin in fear of being insulted?
Sexism has become a norm in our community, and our everyday lives. Where we, girls, have accepted this added pressure in our lives where we allow ourselves to be placed as second best, to face this prejudice. These stereotypical sayings of how a girl should act and please others and disregard her own visions have impacted us all. I grew up with parents who their entire lives been subjected to this thinking and no matter how great they are, when we go back to the family the same thinking applies to me. Where I have now grown up with this constant guilt in my heart that I truly was at fault, that I was putting myself out there as someone not respectable. Just for not wearing a scarf? Just for laughing too hard at a joke? Just for asking to go out after dark? I grew up with this constant dread in my heart while hanging out with my cousins wondering what others might be thinking of me. I was never able to fully allow myself to be who I am around my extended family because all the adults had the same thinking. Of course, I would laugh, smile, but it was always the smallest comments when walking out of the house, the stares while walking, and the constant reminders that broke my spirit. I grew up being told to be confident to fight for what I believe in, but the minute I open this discussion I am put down with the single statement of, “your a kid, you don’t understand”.
What don’t I understand? What is so special about the thinking that you possess? Because all I know is that I have grown up blaming myself for others comments, I have grown up with feeling bad about myself because apparently I do not supply what others are looking for in a “respectable” girl. I realize that may have not been in the environment that you grew up in but I have been subjected to your environments cruel thinking. The same thinking that has made me question everything I do in my daily life. If this is just one person's story of how they are affected by this cultural thinking how many more are out there?
This question is what has driven me to become passionate about the topic of sexism. Usually, we focus on the basics of how a woman is paid less than a man but it is greater than that. Girls and women are discriminated against in their own homes everyday. In undeveloped nations, girls are taught that they are to be married off rather than educated while boys are taught that they are the breadwinners. Girls are told to not leave the house after dark while a boy returns at 2 in the morning. However, it is not only one gender that faces sexism girls are merely one aspect. We live in a generation where we want to change but one of the obstacles stopping us from fully evolving is the previous cultural thinking. We have made many advancements regarding sexism, but it isn’t enough as the previous thinking still lives in every girls home no matter how modern their household is. A girl should not have to grow up in an environment where she is living in a constant spiral of blame and frustration all due to the precautions set by previous generations. Now the answer is your choice, is this thinking truly ok?