Backwards and in High Heels

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I've been wanting to write this post for awhile...ever since I passed a road crew on my way to the market. It was the usual assortment of big guys and one woman. Who was wearing a pink hard hat. I thought about that pink hard hat for a long time, and wondered about the woman wearing it. About how she probably started working construction wearing the standard-issue yellow hard hat. She seemed to be a strong woman, she'd probably never really thought about being female. She worked hard, probably harder than the guys, just to be accepted. Construction was just a job. So when did she think to herself "I need a pink hard hat"?

You don't have to signal a social conscience by looking like a frump. Lace knickers won't hasten the holocaust, you can ban the bomb in a feather boa just as well as without, and a mild interest in the length of hemlines doesn't necessarily disqualify you from reading Das Kapital and agreeing with every word. ~Elizabeth Bibesco

I've always been the girl who hung with the guys. I wasn't a jock, necessarily, I just felt more comfortable in the company of men. Even as an adult, I tended toward activities where I was often the only woman. Boxing, flying...these are all still firmly in the man's world. I had never thought about being female. I had to work harder, hit harder, push myself farther, just to be accepted. But
boxing and flying were just things to do. I was never particularly feminine until I was surrounded by men. It wasn't until I started flying that I started wearing pink. Something about all that masculine energy seemed to bring out the latent girlyness in me. And it's not just me. Did you know they make pink boxing gloves? They do, and I never saw a pair until I left the relatively gender-balanced world of Tae Kwon Do for the rough and ready Mixed Martial Arts arena. I've been lucky to meet a group of strong, independent women and I'm proud and thrilled to be their friend. While I'm still more likely to be watching the game with the guys then scrapbooking with the girls, I've managed to find a balance. Whereas when I was younger, I tried to be just like the guys, now I realize that I can enjoy those masculine things while still embracing what makes me uniquely feminine.

The little rift between the sexes is astonishingly widened by simply teaching one set of catchwords to the girls and another to the boys. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

And so I look at my daughter, who loves all things pink and sparkly, and hope that she doesn't lose what makes her sweet and feminine. I hope that she doesn't feel that she must make a tradeoff between feminity and respect. But I also watch her play with toy trucks and building blocks, and hope that she can feel comfortable and welcome playing with the boys. Because while little girls have spent too many years trapped in the pretend kitchen with the dolls, its just as limiting to feel that you must hide your feminine side to be accepted by the boys. Feminism isn't just about the freedom to box or fly or work construction. Its about being able to wear the pink boxing gloves and the pink hard hat if that's what you want.

Posted by oballard at 11:16 AM  

Great post. I have two boys, so I think I'll miss out on the opportunity to see how a daughter will grow and forge her way, but I hope I'm raising my sons to be respectful of the girls who are growing up out there with them.

Also, I've always naturally gravitated toward men. I feel more comfortable talking with them, etc. I don't know if that stems from the sense that sometimes women seem very competitive toward one another and guys simply don't care, or what. I have female friends I enjoy spending time with, but sometimes that can be more stressful than what I experience when I just hang out with my male friends.

August 11, 2008 at 1:48 PM  
Loree said...

Interesting post. I think I'm one of those women who naturally stays away from anything "pink" or traditionally "girly," without even really meaning to do so, probably because I'm concerned about how it might alter someone's perception about me...

Definite food for thought.

August 11, 2008 at 2:26 PM  

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