Culture

Nice Prizes for Good Little Girls!

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I’m sick and tired of Women’s Day, and of all the well-intentioned, nice people who wish me a happy one, or tell me that I’m awesome and one of those women that Women’s Day celebrates.

But, Sarah, you’ll say, what can you have against a day to recognize awesome women?  It’s a nice idea, showing people that women are an important part of society.

Oh yeah?  Why is it nice to single people out on a merely biological characteristic and make a big deal out of the fact that some people with that one biological characteristic are great?

In other words, why should people who happen to be women be celebrated for achieving anything?

What is so special about being a woman physicist, a woman chemist, a woman doctor, or for that matter a woman writer, unless it’s assumed that women have less capacity than men, and that, therefore, our achieving anything is a near-miracle?

Even though I only once got a rejection for a novel because – I was told – I didn’t write from my womanhood, I want to assure you I never write from my womanhood.  There are parts of the body that aren’t meant to type with, and besides, it would probably short the keyboard.

I write from my humanity, from being the person I am.  Sure, that includes an awful lot of living life as a woman – I had some reader praise me the other day for being aware that a woman, going into a fight with a man, was at a disadvantage and my reaction was “yeah because I’ve done it” – but mostly it includes an awful lot of being human, both whom I’ve been and whom I’ve observed.  I mean, if you could only write yourself, it would be a very sad world in which we were all isolated within our own heads.  I write from being a woman, sure, but also from having raised young men, and from having lived for over thirty years with a man whose thoughts and feelings are as close to me, and as relevant to me, as my own.

But fine, let’s say I wrote strictly as a woman.  Still, unless my achievements as a female writer were somehow inferior to those of male writers, why would I need a special day to celebrate my achievements as a female writer?  Why not just celebrate great writers?  (And before someone jumps in, I know I’m not there yet.  When I grow up.)

Isn’t it an insult to be celebrated within a group, celebrated, as it were, in the group with training wheels?  Isn’t it an admission that we can’t compete in the big race, so look at those pretty girls, there, and how good they’re being?

I want no part of this.  I grew up in a genuinely sexist society, and I have yet to meet a male I can’t outcompete if I put my shoulder into it.  Anyone patting me on the head for being a good little girl is likely to withdraw a bloody stump.

But, Sarah, you’ll say, you say you grew up in a genuinely sexist society.  So shouldn’t your achievements be celebrated more than those of males who had it easier?

Meh.  No. First of all, human societies are complex.  No one competes on a level playing field.  Take my younger son, the genius.  Sure, he can outthink me and most people.  But it comes with a tendency to get caught in eddies of thought and also, not unusually for people in his IQ range, with sensory processing disorder, aka an invisible disability.  The school kept telling me he didn’t need any special help because smart kids will always get ahead.  Which just meant none of them had been smart kids.  Intelligence is one of those things where a little above average is good; a lot, on the other hand, is a handicap.

And you can’t tell.  You can’t tell how smart a lot of dumb people are.  You can’t tell what they’re fighting against.

What you can tell, at least in the U.S., if you’re younger than fifty years old, is that you did not grow up in a society that discriminated against women.  Heck, even if you’re older, it depends where you grew up.

Sure, some people that are immigrants from Latin countries (hi, guys), and those who came from Middle Eastern countries even more so, did battle pervasive sexism and presumption of inferiority to get where they are.  But hey, we’re also the first to tell you EVERYONE battles something.  Unless you’re going to have “overlooked genius day”  “incapable moron day” and “people with ADHD day” —  and all of those being admissions that your achievements come with training wheels and are big fish in a tiny pond — then you should stop celebrating women as some kind of special creatures whose every little achievement is so cute and important.

Our stereotypes are at least a hundred years out of date.  Most teachers are not sexist… against women.  In fact, they’re terrified of making things as hard for women as they make them for men, for fear that someone, somewhere, will call them sexist.  This continues all the way through HR in most large companies.

Women’s Day?  If it were about celebrating people who faced unusual hardship, we should be celebrating “teacher overlooked me, because I was born with a penis” day.

All this day is doing is convincing people who frankly have nothing else to be proud of that the most special part of them is their vagina.  Do we really need more of them holding up placards in public about how their vaginas are special, as though they had achieved some kind of attainment for being born with one?  Do we need more people telling us that awards for literature, film, or anything else should “celebrate women” again, as though being born with a set of sex organs, by itself, made you special?

Women are special enough.  Ours is the ability to give birth to and nurture life and future generations.  In addition to that, many of us can compete in sciences and arts and professions, at least as well as men.  Recognize us for those achievements, not because “hey, she’s a woman and she did something.”

I can’t control other women, but I can define the choice we all face: You can be celebrated for being at least as good as men, i.e. for achieving prominence in your field of endeavor; you can be celebrated for being a great mother, i.e. doing something men can’t do; or you can be celebrated for being a woman and actually doing something (but not as well as men.)

And you should pick, very carefully, what you want to be celebrated for.  The first two attainments can coexist, though trust me, from someone who’s “had it all” you’re going to impair both a little in order to do both.  But the last one?  The last one is an admission that you just want to be celebrated for “attempting something while in possession of a vagina.”

It’s time to choose.  You can choose to be celebrated for being “just as good as men” in your special field of endeavor.  You can choose to be celebrated for “those things that men can’t do and we can” (though most feminists are reluctant to do them).  Or you can go around proclaiming you deserve recognition just for being a woman.  Which, if you maintain you’re just as good as men, is a philosophical incongruity.

I never had much use for good little girls, when the model I grew up with was being subservient and pretending to be angels of kindness at all times.

I find I have even less patience for good little girls now that the model is continuous shrieks about grrrrl power while demanding special treatment because vagina and blaming all your failures on a non-existent patriarchy.

You’re “good little girls” falling in with a narrative you neither created nor understand the consequences of.

And I want no part of you.