Raised in a group of family friends, 6 boys and 1 girl, I learnt early on I was supposed to be different to them.
Not supposed to love guns, play Bond, race cars or play dirty. Not supposed to want to watch the same movies, play the same games. Determined to prove I was just as good as they were. Just as outrageous, just as interested, just as crass. I learnt about guns, loved horror movies, learnt to play computer games.
Uncomfortable to emphasise any difference between our gender, but always aware they were there. Reminded of my “girl” status constantly, from double standards to protective instincts. From put downs to special treatment.
Longed to be one of the boys. Longed not to be. Struggled to find my place in a man’s world.
A feminist mother, a quiet father. Two parents who protected me, their precious baby girl.
A mother who taught me about women’s rights. Who taught me a woman can be whatever she puts her mind to, can be just as successful as a man.
A father who taught me to change a tyre, put up shelves, install a ceiling light. Who taught me never to have to rely on a man – I can do it myself.
I grew up extroverted, opinionated, friendly. Told constantly by outsiders I should dull myself, be less than I was. Men don’t want a woman who will behave like an idiot, who will make an ass of herself, who will ask for what she wants.
Confident, outgoing, brave.
Bossy, intimidating, loud.
A contradiction in terms. A contradiction that wouldn’t have mattered if I were a boy.
The thing is – when we tell a woman that she cannot be outspoken if she wants to be attractive, we make her less than a man. When we tell a woman she cannot be assertive or she’s bossy, we make her less than a man. And when we tell a little girl that her genitals define who she is, we perpetuate the lie that gender matters.
Spoiler: It doesn’t.
The only thing that makes it matter is society’s expectations on what it means.
People still tell me I should have been a boy.