On my many outdoor adventures I come across a variety of people and often hear snippets of conversations that I sometimes wish that I could ‘un-hear.’
At the weekend, I heard someone exclaim: “Oh for goodness sake! Stop being such a girl!” to a very young girl who was in tears. I had no idea what had happened or went on, but it’s something that has stayed in the back of my mind since.
Despite this phrase sounding rather outdated, it’s one that I hear being casually thrown around a lot more than I would like it to be. I have a massive problem with this phrase; it’s not just said to girls but to boys as well. This phrase basically tells us that the worst thing that anyone could be is a girl. With this in mind, is it any wonder that women and girls across the world are continually disrespected, abandoned and abused?
Upon hearing this, the little girl immediately made an attempt to silence her sobs, dry her tears and look extremely embarrassed as she walked out of the park with her mum and siblings. It made me feel really sad because I remember being told this when I was younger, especially if I became upset or angry at something. I was often met with the words of: “Ladies don’t behave like this!” “Ladies don’t get angry or shout, control yourself.”
It confused me and if I’m honest it still confuses me; especially if someone says it to my face today. If I get angry, does that mean I’m not a lady? If I feel like crying, does that mean I’m not a lady? If one of my cousins – girl or boy – is feeling emotional, I let them work through it before it becomes a scar which affects their self esteem and well being. Being emotional, or having emotions, doesn’t make you less of a man (whatever that means) or a girl. It makes you a human being.
What many seem to forget is this: we are products shaped by our environments. It should come as no surprise that these little girls grow up to become women who feel insecure, unhappy, helpless and lack confidence in ourselves. We all talk about wanting to create a change, but in all honesty, it starts with how we treat ourselves and those around us.
I love this painting by Sandro Botticelli; it’s called The Birth of Venus and depicts the Goddess of love emerging from the sea as a nude adult woman. Everything about this painting celebrates the connotations of female sexuality and identity despite it being painted in an era where nude women in art were hardly portrayed. Regardless of this, Botticelli still went ahead and created one of the world’s most famous paintings.
Fast forward to now and we can’t seem to get enough of nude women in advertising. Despite a large scale subconscious dislike of women, many of us look at Botticelli’s painting and admire his craft. In fact, I’m certain that many of us admire the way that women have been painted and documented throughout the ages. Although Venus is standing demurely and attempts to cover herself shyly with her hair and right hand, her head is held high and coquettishly tilted to one side. There is an outward sense of power and pride in herself as a woman.
Can you imagine someone telling Venus to ‘stop being such a girl’ the second she stepped off her shell? I for one can’t and this type of behaviour is something that needs to be called out more.
As I like to end on a happy note, the next day I was at home when a couple of cousins visited. One of them (she’s only four bless her) was having a moment where she was feeling overwhelmed and decided to openly express it. She was met with the rather cruel words of: “Stop being such a girl” by an older male member of my family. Before the words left my mouth, she had silenced him with the cry of: “But I AM a girl!”
When I saw and heard her say this, I couldn’t help but smile to myself and think: ‘There’s hope. Tons and tons of it.’