Playing Like A Girl
I’ve always been glad I was born a girl.
Being a boy sounded so boring. It included all the things I was already doing – getting dirty, climbing trees, playing sports – except without wearing my mom’s old prom dress while doing them. Which frankly, seemed like a lot less fun.
In retrospect, I was a little five-year-old feminist.
I once pasted an ad from a clothing magazine into my scrapbook that said “When I Grow Up, I’m Going To Be President And My Husband’s Going To Be First Man.”
In sixth grade, I almost exclusively wore shirts that said things like, “When Someone Says You Play Like A Girl, Take It As A Compliment.”
I was my own little advocate and I didn’t even know it.
Lately, that little girl in me (and the adult woman she’s grown into) has been disheartened by some of the language used to talk about women in this exhausting political campaign.
I was raised Republican. My grandfather had a framed photo of George H. W. Bush in his office and I thought Ronald Reagan was a king until I was about ten. My family is full of smart, conservative, kind people who worked hard and loved each other as much as a good, Norwegian family is allowed to express.
These days, even though the “liberals have brainwashed me” as my grandmother says, I’ve continued to respect the ideals with which I was raised. Some of the best, most loving men and women I know are proud conservatives.
Which may explain why last week, when I watched Michelle Obama give her speech calling women everywhere to stand up against the negative rhetoric thrown around about women, I saw it as a bipartisan message.
“We’re trying to keep our heads above water. Just trying to get through it…. Maybe because we think that admitting how much it hurts makes us as women look weak. Maybe we’re afraid to be that vulnerable… Or maybe we don’t want to believe that there are still people out there that think so little of us as women.”
I was so moved and connected so deeply with what she said, I actually started to cry into my kale salad at work.
Emotions?! Kale?! I’m officially a Californian. Somebody please stage an intervention.
I decided to post the video on Facebook, which is something I rarely do. I’m more of an “avoid-all-conflict-by-only-posting-fun-photos-of-high-points-in-my-life” kind of gal than I am a political one but this speech – oh, this speech! It hit me right where I live and I may have slow clapped before I emphatically hit “post.”
That night, I logged back in to my account and read through comments from friends showing support for the video’s message. And then suddenly, something changed.
I began to read comments from people I didn’t know. Strangers.
Very angry strangers.
How were they posting on my wall? I glanced at my settings and realized I’d accidentally posted it public. Uh oh.
A man commented, “We wouldn’t be talking about all this if the Democrats didn’t bring it up all the time.”
What a bizarre thing to say. That’s like a doctor telling a patient to ignore that pesky brain tumor and it will just go away.
“She makes me sick” one woman said.
The more I scrolled, the more there were – mostly from women.
Wait, what? Aren’t we all supposed to be on the same team about this?
I felt angry and confused and a little concerned that some of these people might actually know where I live. But mostly, I just felt sad. This campaign seems to have split our country so deeply that we can’t even agree that women deserve to be treated with respect – as equals, in fact.
Regardless of political preferences, don’t we need to splash a little cold water on our face and say, “Hey, wait a second, I actually don’t agree with that language and I don’t have to defend it.”
Instead, I have watched a presidential nominee stand on a podium and say scary things about my husband (a Mexican) and me (a woman) to cheering crowds.
How have we come this far down the road? How are we living in a world so advanced we could send an instant message to somebody in Siberia but are also reading tweets about appealing women’s right to vote?
We’re better than this.
No matter your views, can’t we all agree on that?
One of the best parts about being raised in a conservative family was that I was taught to be fiercely proud of our country. And I am. I am so proud to be an American citizen.
I can’t make it through a national anthem without getting shivers and I cry every time soldiers walk out in formation with a flag – throw in a bugle and I’ll be a puddle on the floor.
We need leaders – male and female, Republican and Democrat – who are just as proud of their citizens as we are of our country.
Leaders who value little girls wearing their mom’s old prom dresses while shooting hoops in the front yard just as much as they value the boy next door.
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.