Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When little girls grow up to become objects

Well, my first week at attempting to stick to a rhythm of regular weekly blogging didn't exactly happen the way I had intended it to. Imagine that. Kierkegaard's quote, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," haunts me most days of my life. But here I am, a few days late, with something to sort out.

Last Friday (the day I was supposed to be blogging in this space) I took the girls to go watch their favorite uncle jump out of an airplane at about 12,500 feet in the sky. They had the day off of school and my dad happened to be in town so we decided to finally take the plunge and watch my brother (the other sibling who seems to suffer from middle-child syndrome) get his adrenaline-fix for the day. After a lengthy drive and enduring the hour or so it took for him to prepare his gear and board the plane, we witnessed the five minute descent to earth and vicariously experienced our own adrenaline rush. Here are a few pictures from that day.

The girls were mesmerized by the number of fellas all suited up and ready to take the leap of faith.

Faith was taken by the entire experience.  She was waving frantically to Brandon at this point when she could still only spot him through the binoculars.

Bailey and Faith have both now declared that as soon as they're 18 they'd like to jump with their uncle. By that point, he might just be an instructor. But beyond just updating the blogosphere on the recent happenings in my life, I've actually been pondering a few things related to gender (surprise, surprise) since this experience. When we loaded up on the back of the trailer that transported the jumpers to their plane and proceeded to drop us off near the landing zone, I couldn't help but notice that there was not a single female jumper. In fact, during the entire duration of time that we spend at this facility, I only saw a single female jumper. And there had to have been upwards of 75-100 males geared up and ready to prove that they were men (I'm joking about that last comment...sort of).

So I was wrestling all day with the question, "Why?" Why is it that men are more drawn to these types of death-defying adventures? I began to remember what it was like when I was a little girl unbound by gender stereotypes (to a certain extent). I was considered to be a tomboy from about the age of 6-10. And I hate that term actually...because it seems to suggest that I behaved in ways that were culturally deemed more appropriate for boys. I played soccer at recess. I even liked to spit on the soccer field while I was playing. I spit so much that I acquired the nickname "Shauna Llama," given proudly by my childhood best friend, Colin (yes, my best friend was a boy). I rarely did anything with my long wispy hair, other than pull it back in a half-brushed ponytail. I couldn't wait to get home from school so I could ride my bike on the dirt mounds we had constructed in an open field behind our neighborhood. When I was 9, I helped construct a bike jump utilizing a wagon, a few rocks and a long piece of plywood. Colin dared me to jump first. The scars on my knee still remind me of this once fearless and tough young girl.

I often wonder about this young girl still today. Where did she go? What happened to her? Is she still in there underneath all the junk our culture piles atop women (and men for that matter)? And what was it that prompted such a significant shift at the age of 10? In Mary Pipher's book, Reviving Ophelia, she explores this very shift:

"Simone de Beauvoir believed adolescence is when girls realize that men have the power and that their only power comes from consenting to become submissive adored objects. They do not suffer from the penis envy Freud postulated, but from power envy."

I always knew I was an early bloomer...I guess I hit adolescence at the age of 10. My heart aches to know that little girl who had not yet consented or surrendered to being a submissive adored object because she didn't know of any other way. It's not that I long to regain that sense of adventure, or to somehow recover the strength to passionately pursue my own desires so that I can simply jump out of an airplane. No...it's so much more than that. I want that little girl to shed everything that keeps her from running toward her dreams or hinders her from being the first to test the bike jump.

1 comment:

laurie said...

I'm totally with you in the ongoing contemplation of gender. :) I just read your post on your counseling blog & want to share that quote on my doula blog... if you don't mind. It's the perfect follow-up to entry I just posted yesterday about the importance of finding our voices. Also, that sounds like a book I need to read soon.