“I hated having a body at all. My body made it impossible for me to succeed at being a girl. The universe had presented me with some very obvious rules for femaleness: Be small and quiet and wispy and stoic and light and smooth and don’t fart or bleed or bloat or tire or hunger or yearn. But the universe had also already issued me this lumpy, loud, smelly, hungry, longing body to follow the rules. Being human in a world with no tolerance for humanity felt like a setup, a game I couldn’t win.” -Glennon Doyle Melton
Let me tell you a story.
I grew up with a younger brother, a generous, loving and wild human being who was one year younger than me. He was my first birthday present as he made his early appearance three days after I turned one year old. We were best friends. We shared everything; our parents, our pets, our toys, definitely any shenanigans that we got into. Sometimes we shared our dreams and heartaches. We played and wrestled and laughed and loved.
One day when we were teenagers, we were sitting around, talking with a couple of our friends. Someone made a reference to a woman pooping and my brother said in all seriousness, “Girls don’t poop.”
Unbelievable, right? If you knew my brother you’d probably understand, he could be a little absent minded at times. I think it was less of something he knew for sure and more of something that he just hadn’t given much thought to. As soon as we started to tease him, he realized how crazy it was and immediately tried to recant.
Here’s the deal. He didn’t really think that women don’t poop, he just thought of pooping as too “gross” of an act for us delicate females to partake in. He wasn’t a particularly sexist person (no more than any of us are), he had a mom and a sister and grandmother and tons of girl cousins that he adored, treasured and respected. But this is what society or the universe as GDM says (above) had told him was true about women. It was stronger than what he knew from living in the same house with my mom and I. (Every time I reread that line, I cringe. Mamas and Papas, we have our work cut out for us.)
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Being a woman and having a daughter has made this issue feel urgent. I know that my daughter is going to be faced with images of perfectly shaped, traditionally beautiful women in every grocery store checkout line, TV commercial, bill board, Instagram post and whatever other media of the future. These women will have just the right curves, flawless skin, silky hair and will be dressed in too little clothing. Our world loves these images.
It makes me want to scream and fight for the girl I was, the woman I am, and the little girl I am raising.
In Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, Love Warrior, she talks about being introduced to new people as a little girl. They would always comment on what a beauty she was. However, when she opened her mouth to portray how smart she was, people would recoil, in a slight, barely noticeable way. I read this and I thought, I know this. I know exactly what she is talking about. We are expected to be physically beautiful, internally beautiful, meek, humble, submissive but also strong, just not too strong and smart, but not in a way that interrupts or makes others uncomfortable. Oh, and sexy in an ultra skinny, scantily clad kind of way. The list goes on.
I wish I had some step by step tips to follow. I don’t know exactly how to help my daughter (and myself) find and embrace the woman we will be/are in this broken world. But I want to know and I am going to try to figure it out. Both she and I are worth it.
I want her to know that she is LOVED just as she is. All of her imperfections do not change the fact that she is divine and loved perfectly. I cannot love her this way and neither can this human world. But we can struggle and love in our own imperfect way. She is worthy of everything though this world will not let her in on that secret. She will be told by family, friends, colleagues and strangers that she needs to be skinnier, prettier, more educated, less confrontational, etc. She will be called a “crazy bitch” or a slut or a whore, just for being a woman. And none of these words will have anything to do with who she is. And that is not acceptable.
As much as I want to change the world, I’m not sure I have that kind of time. I can’t take away those images and I can’t keep her locked inside with no TV, magazines, internet or contact with other humans. And I don’t want to. I want to help her navigate this world. And I want to help my husband and my boys to be conscious of these subtle (and often not so subtle) stereotypes that we impose on women. I want to recognize them myself, no matter how small and use my words and my love to help my daughter see that she is STRONG AND COMPASSIONATE AND SMART AND BRAVE and so much more.
She will poop and fart and burp and smell and laugh too loud and know too much and stand up too tall and be too brave for some. She is a child of God, of the universe, of me and she was born with LOVE that this world cannot diminish, I hope that she will see that. She is worthy of shining bright and true in all of her human and divine glory without fear of ridicule. And SO ARE YOU FRIENDS!!!
They (Women) never stop singing songs of truth, love and redemption in the face of hopelessness. They are inexhaustible, ferocious, relentless cocreaters with God, and they make beautiful worlds out of nothing. -GDM
And for the record, I could write a similar article on boys and men. They have their own set of tragic and unrealistic expectations to battle.
I have a lot more to say on this issue so I think this will become a series – look out folks! I’d love to hear your stories and your thoughts. See below for some inspiring resources.