Column: I am still a girl

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Photo credit: Dainis Graveris from Unsplash, licensed for resuse

In our society, gender roles still largely have stereotypes attached to them. Some of these gender norms can have harmful effects on young children who do not “fit in” to society’s stereotypical categories.

By Marissa Gendy, Columnist

Ever since I was younger, I was called a “tomboy.” I was always told that I needed to dress and act more like a girl. I never thought much of this since I knew inside of myself that it didn’t make me any less of a girl because I wanted to fish instead of shopping for new clothes. I knew from a young age that because I identified as a girl, I was a girl. I didn’t need to wear a dress or a skirt to prove it, my saying so was enough of a reason. 

I grew up with a very stereotypically feminine younger sister and cousin who always played with dolls and got fancy manicures. My parents wondered why I was building a house out of sticks and mud in the backyard and not dressing up to wait around for a Prince Charming to come when I was seven. I mean don’t get me wrong, pretending to be someone you aren’t and waiting around for someone to save you does have its perks. But it wasn’t my first choice. 

I wanted to slay a dragon like Prince Phillip did in “Maleficent.” I wanted to climb a castle like Flynn Rider in “Tangled.” I wanted to fight with a sword like the Prince did in “Snow White.” I wanted to do all the things my family members, friends and teachers would consider things a boy would do. I wanted to learn how to skateboard. I wanted to play on a basketball team with the boys because I thought they knew how to play better than the girls (I was later proven wrong by the girl’s team when they beat us by 11 points). I would opt for large shorts and shirts because I looked for comfort rather than beauty in what I wore. I would buy “boy toys” because they were more fun for me to take apart. I basically lived in the men’s section in Target. All of these things made people around me wonder if I identified as a boy, but I didn’t, I was still a girl.

Growing up with people constantly questioning the way I dress and present myself made it really difficult to be myself. I questioned myself for years because I guess I wasn’t anyone’s definition of a “normal girl.” But what is a normal girl? Who even gets to decide what that means? Was it the Disney movies I watched that told me I wasn’t a normal girl? Or was it the people around me that made me realize that I didn’t desire to express myself through the clothes they preserved were feminine? 

Growing up, I lacked a “princess” to look up to. I lacked someone who saw femininity the way I did. That is, until I watched Disney’s “Mulan.” I watched this young girl, against all odds, save a nation with a horse, a mini dragon named Mushu, a lucky cricket and a sword. I watched Mulan go against every person in her life from her parents to the Emperor of China in order to do what she believed was right. Watching this movie had a monumental impact on me as a young girl. It reminded me that my gender identity belongs to me and that I had the power to dictate what that meant and looked like. I am different and that’s okay.   

Being a girl that dresses more masculine in a society that is so accustomed to females dressing in a feminine manner was and still is really challenging for me. I constantly have to remind myself that just because I don’t always see women like me in the media or because I don’t fit into the standard definition of how society preserves women, it’s okay to be the only one that understands me. I am who I am and the way I choose to express myself will never make me any less of a girl.