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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Scraped Knees and Princess Dresses

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When I was little I climbed trees, had tea parties, scraped my knees, and wore princess dresses. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how open my childhood was. My parents encouraged me to explore my interests, whether they were “girly” or not. I could be a girl with grubby fingernails from digging a hole in the backyard while pretending to be an archeologist with my twin brother. I could splash around in puddles and look for worms while wearing my Bella princess costume. I could define for myself what it means to be “girly,” and I’ve only just begun to realize what a profound influence that had on me.

While my parents didn’t discuss gender roles with my brother and I, they never pushed us to be more stereotypically “masculine” or “feminine.” I think that their relaxed attitude toward the topic allowed me to view my definition of “girly” as the norm. Discussing the topic would have made me more aware that there are definitions surrounding what it means to be “masculine” and “feminine.” Although I was aware of those definitions from the media, I never felt that they applied to me.

It wasn’t until high school that I started to realize that many people, both boys and girls, are put in boxes. Girls are supposed to be breakable little porcelain dolls, and boys are supposed to only be seen with their tough, masculine masks on. The thing is, most people don’t fit into these molds. However, society tells girls and boys to behave in certain ways, and since parents were girls and boys once, many pass on these messages to their children. I’m not here to blame anyone…I think even those who uphold this system of orderly boxes are also victims of the system. No one wants to be stuffed inside a box that only part of them fits into.

I am a feminist because I hate boxes. It makes me sad when I see young women restraining their opinions because they don’t want to seem bossy. I hate seeing young men scared of crying because they are afraid of seeming weak. For me, being a feminist is about being an activist for gender equality, not about hating a particular gender. Although the patriarchy does exist, I also believe that our system of gender roles has hurt men as well. When I look at the most important men in my life, my dad and my brother, I see people who encourage me in everything I do. I see a father who wants his daughter to get a college degree and a job where she is the boss, and brother who sees nothing wrong with intelligently bickering with his sister. I don’t see people who represent the patriarchy, but rather men who are just as uncomfortable with the idea of boxes as I am. Although I realize that many men are not as open as my dad and brother are, it is still important to include men in the discussion. If not, I am afraid that my childhood, where I ran around in tea and dirt stained princess dresses, will continue to be the exception.

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