I remember what a taunt it used to be to be told that you throw like a girl. A girl obviously can’t throw very well. Of course we all now realize that, as a girl, it should be a compliment to be told that you throw like a girl. How terribly anti-feminist to think otherwise, right?
Along with this reasoning came a wave of other reclamations-a process of recoding all that is deemed “women’s’ work” as nothing less than superb.
And so a murmur of clicking started to spread across the country, as knitting needles frenzied at Stitch ‘n’ Bitch parties. Women took up knitting as a return to their roots and enjoyed the attendant fuzzy feeling they got from knowing that, woven into their woolies, was their own personal form of feminism. While I hope never to knit a line in my life, I understand the feminist agenda.
Yet a recent altercation made me realize how deeply embedded our male-female relations become during the time of jungle gyms and fruit roll-ups-long before complex feminist questions arise amidst socks and scarves.
Out at Lounge, a friend and I were in the washroom; banging on the door in a most rude and continuous fashion was some guy outside. I opened it, told him we’d be about 30 more seconds, asked him to calm himself and shut it again. He continued, and upon exiting, I relayed my disdain for the whole situation.
And then he pushed me; literally shoved me.
I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Here I was, a girl, in heels and a dress, at a lounge, and I’d just been pushed?! By a guy?!
It wasn’t merely the fact that I had been physically accosted by someone that bothered me; it was my status as a girl that had been pushed by a guy. I use the term “girl” because the only thought in my mind at the time was the all-too-familiar line, “Boys can’t hit girls.” It’s probably as ingrained in my collective childhood memory bank as “That’s my shovel!” and, “It’s my turn!” So what was so vexing about it now?
It is such an empty expression. Why can’t boys hit girls? Why is it okay for boys to hit boys, but not okay for boys to hit girls? In a perfect world, no one would hit anyone. But in a perfect world, religious groups wouldn’t need pamphlets portraying the perfect world as made up of rainbows and sunny picnics; they also wouldn’t ring my doorbell at dinnertime.
The expression “Boys can’t hit girls” seems to engender a view that females are, on an absolute level, completely inferior and incapable of defending themselves. Of course I realize domestic violence and rape abound, and they’re nothing short of revolting. But why is it so much less revolting when boys or men hurt each other? The expression “Boys can’t hit girls” connotes, in an automatic way, that there is something more okay about boys hitting each other than there is about boys hitting girls.
I can’t accept it being even the slightest bit of “okay,” because some boys are clearly still defying the popular playground rules and hitting girls in the grown-ups’ sandbox.
Perhaps it was an act of enlightened, feminist aggression, and he figured, “If I can hit a boy, why not a girl?”
Had he said that, I think I might have told him he had a valid point. Because, if you’re of the mindset to enter the ring in the first place, you’re going to step up and dance; a vagina’s not going to stop you.