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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Quit Acting Like Such a Girl!"

I have a couple unusual phobias and more unusual fears that are not quite phobic-status, but still rank right up there and the list of things that make me squirm.

I am completely phobic about crawl spaces, vast meadows surrounded by mountains (I cannot ever protect my back - old law enforcement-y phobia), and bugs, reptiles, or animals that move quickly and unpredictably (small lizards, moths, snakes, mice, etc.). They're irrational, I'm aware, which is what makes them phobias. My brain tells me one thing, but my instincts take over and cause intense reactions that I feel nearly powerless to control. These reactions, however, have NOTHING to do with the fact that I am a woman.

Of course, whenever I am in the midst of a phobic reaction, someone along the way tells me to "quit acting like such a girl!" You know, if you want to snap me out of said reaction, if only for a moment, that's the way. Not because it shakes me back to the reality that I'm acting ridiculous (which is what "acting like a girl" means, of course), but because my desire to smack you temporarily supersedes my intense fear.

First of all, way to dismiss my feelings and experience. Secondly, that's some really awesome dig you're taking at all women there. You're just rad all around.

How do girls act anyway? When one of my step-nieces was young, she walked around the corner of the house saying, "Ouch. Ouch. Ouch" over and over, very calmly and matter-of-factly. As she approached, we saw she had in her hand a little reptile that kept biting her finger. She loved it, so couldn't be stifled by the fact that it was hurting her. After she was finished with the lizard (or whatever it was, because you KNOW I wasn't getting close enough to check it out!), she traipsed off to play house with her dolls. That's how one girl acts.

One of my good friends grew up with livestock. She could help a cow give birth after she helped inseminate it, wipe her hands on her jeans, and then go in and bake brownies. That's how one girl acts.

My mom is one of the most athletic people I know. I'd pit her against anyone (male or female) on any field, court, or other athletic venue. She is regularly sought after by the top men in her sports to team up. This has been the case since she was a girl in school to now when she competes in the Senior Olympics. She also has a jewelry box almost as tall as I am chock-full of baubles that she wears all the time. That's how one girl acts.

I can fix or fashion most anything. Cars, home repair, refurbishing of all types, you name it, I can usually do it. And I love it! My garage walls are covered with pegboard full of tools - MY tools. Sometimes, I go out there just to gaze at them and imagine what I'll do with them next. I also scream and cry when I find a lizard in my home. That's how one girl acts.

How is any of this different from how any boy acts, pray tell? My husband has a debilitating fear of clowns. My brother used to have recurring nightmares about attack dogs and snakes. My step-dad would never sit with his back to the door of a restaurant. My son is afraid of the dark. They're men and boys. They're acting like men and boys, because they ARE men and boys. Just like no matter how I'm acting, I'm acting like a woman, because I AM a woman - not just any woman, though...I'm acting like ME.

I grew up with the understanding that "acting like a girl" was a negative. As such, it was a huge insult to me. I took great pride in being "a guy's girl" and unlike all the "other" girls. Why? Because society says girls and women are inferior. Patriarchy says men are superior, thus we should all strive to be as like them as possible. Men must be the manliest. Women must either know their place as demure, inferior dolls or ditch their femininity in order to be taken seriously by their male counterparts. And, of course, I was as entrenched as most in our patriarchal society, that I didn't even know what I was doing or why.

I know now. I have no shame in being a woman. I am proud of who I am. I am a teacher, mother, writer, wife, handy-person, woman, great driver, feminist-in-training, human rights advocate, and so much more. I also have phobias. It's just one part of who I am that has absolutely nothing to do with me being a woman.


  1. Here's to a society of interesting multidimensional individuals and let's not reduce everyone to boring female/male archetypes! Stereotypes are for people not bright enough to handle the complexity of real life, lol:)