Yesterday, I was in a big meeting of Episcopal and Anglican women planning for the March '07 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women gathering that focuses on girl-child issues. The problems and crises are enormous for girls throughout the world, so trying to get the UN to address them is absolutely essential.
The thing that threw me off was when the speaker asked us to discuss two questions with the person sitting next to us: 1) Can you recall a time when you were a girl when you weren't allowed to do something you really wanted to do simply because of your gender? 2) Can you recall a time when you were a girl when you were showed favoritism simply because of your gender?
Oh, dear, though I. Here we go. If I tell the truth, it will sound smug, and if I make up something it will be, well, a lie. Trouble is, you see, I was a pretty kick-ass kid. (Back me up on this, Bro and Sis.) All of us were. I really can't think of a time when my parents or a teacher or whoever didn't let me do something I wanted to do just because of my gender.
I was repeatedly warned about acts of physical double-dog-dare-ya', like jumping off the monkey bars or climbing to the top of a tree, but I reckon that had more to do with saving me from a broken neck.
There was never any understanding in the family that only my brothers would go to college. Neither of my brothers played Little League; I never wanted to be in Little League; so no problem there. Mother and Daddy seemed to have the same expectations for all four of us as far as chores and behavior was concerned. And I was never told to be stupid just to get some guy's attention. My friends were the same way - we all competed fiercely with one another academically throughout elementary school, junior high, and high school.
As far as the second question is concerned, well, yes, of course I've been shown favoritism because I was a girl. Mainly from my daddy. But Mother always bent over backwards for the boys, so it all evened out.
I know so many people - women and men - who have terrible childhood issues. I'm so mindful of those problems, in fact, that whenever such things come up in conversations or at conferences, I usually just keep quiet about my own experience. What's the use? The more I say I had a charmed childhood, the more folks think I'm sublimating something.
But I'm not. I was just really, really lucky. Lucky that it never entered my mind I couldn't do something because I was a girl. Lucky because Mother and Daddy loved each other and loved us. Lucky there was no substance abuse (unless you consider Bro Dave's fondness for fried baloney sandwiches).
All was not perfect, of course - lots of normal fussing and fighting among siblings, mainly over who got the good TV chair, but we all gave as good as we got. Tears and rages over one thing or another, but nothing that lasted more than a few minutes, and certainly not a lifetime. We still speak to one another, plan family gatherings together, enjoy one another's company.
Yes, I'm guilty of having a good family, which doesn't give me much to talk about at meetings or in therapy. But I'm a good listener for others who weren't so lucky.