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Let’s Talk About Girls

July 8, 2011

I confess:

As a teenager, I resented being part of an all-female family.

That resentment dissipated, thankfully. But before I get to that good part, I confess more: Throughout my twenties an emptiness remained in its place, leaving me always a bit distant from my family. (My sisters will undoubtedly remember, not so fondly, this.)

My twenty-ninth year was spent teaching at a school for boys. Clearly, distance lingered. Luckily, I entered graduate school two months before I turned thirty, a move that would prove momentous, with far-reaching consequences for me professionally and personally.

When tasked with explaining my old resentment in a grad school class on “otherness” I wrote: “We sisters, dancing in our own circle, darting through shadows of our Estrogen House with the paintings and talismans and pieces of our father, emitted something of what Audre Lorde calls the ‘erotic’s electrical charge.’ It held us together, but repelled others. When two sisters met in the hall, sparks flew. When all four sisters met on the playground, a self-sufficient game of four square, we were witchlike and erotic, and therefore frightening. … Whenever we disagreed with each other, my mother required that we sit in on the porch until we could hold hands. It didn’t matter so much that we talked it out, resolved the issue. ‘Just hold hands,’ she would say. Never break the circle. And so we danced, ring around the rosy, until it all fell down. Standing in a circle meant our backs were turned outward, but our faces, even when uglied with the shadows of a bad day, faced each other. Who else against whom to direct our hostilities than our own sisters?”

Ouch.

Writing about it illuminated—for me alone—the land between my all-female family and me. What once seemed “frightening” and “hostile” was revealed as complicated and rocky, but not at all untraversable. Within a very short time, I’d run swiftly back to my sisters and mother and begged (metaphorically) them to forgive me and to accept me. I’d proudly donned all the girlhood flare I could find room for on my uniform. I’d filled the former space with adoration and love and loyalty and protection. And I’d become a Champion of Girls. I’m a Champion of Kids-in-General, sure. My life’s mission remains to contribute to The Universal Happy Childhood. But when you can’t remember being a young girl but the pictures show a serious sourness, and you can remember being a teenaged girl who hates girls (including herself), you tend to want to make sure other young and teenaged girls don’t feel the same crummy way. So yes, I’m definitely a Champion of Girls.

Why am I writing all this? Oh yeah, what I really wanted to talk about is the final issue of Hawaii Women’s Journal, and how the journal lives on as a Champion of Girls. I love HWJ so much I’m going to give it its own post. Consider this the preamble!

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One Comment
  1. SO. INTERESTING. Female-heavy households are truly worth years and volumes of sociological research for the bizarre psychologies that grow and thrive therein! Your paragraph of circlehood and witch-women–you could be describing my own childhood. (Wait? What? Another bizarre parallel? Shocking, I know.) I embraced the Girlpowered Circle Of Bitchery more closely to my chest with every sister that was born. Then I hit my teens and my form of rebellion was treehugging and political liberalism. I never went down a path of “girls suck and boys rock,” (even now, I still probably favor girls more than I should) but there’s still a very clear break in which I suddenly had nothing in common with my unbreakable circle.

    You’re so smart. Smart AND a girl? I think you might be one of my favorite people. Ever.

    Like

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