Becoming a woman means giving things up

My internet connection will be fixed Monday (it’s an actual physical problem with the physical infrastructure, not my technical incompetence), so posting will probably still be light until then.

Meanwhile here’s something to read by the excellent Sarah Ditum.

Boys grow up by getting bigger, stronger, louder. The things that a male child is encouraged to be good at are, by and large, things esteemed in the male adolescent too. But for girls, adolescence is a time of loss. Becoming a woman means giving things up, explains Deborah Cameron in The Myth of Mars and Venus, and taking up new and feminine occupations: “In particular, [girls] abandon physical play: instead of using their bodies to do things, they start to focus on adorning them.” Somewhere in the passage between being a child and becoming a grown-up, girls learn that our bodies are not ourselves, but a portable property that we must cultivate, display, and trade for the best bargain we can make.

I stopped climbing trees. I learned to shave my legs. The grazes on my knees faded. The scabs on my shins bloomed where my clumsy razor peeled away ribbons of skin. I was embarrassed to sweat. There were no lunchtime games of netball for girls at my school – just the option to walk circuits of the field, talking, looking, always wary of a rogue shot from the boys’ football game. I decided I was not a physical person. It would be undignified to run – and so began a long career of dodging PE, which got even easier once I was at secondary school and could claim period pains. I was not a physical person, I was just rendered physically incapable of taking part by my female physiology.

I occasionally try to remember when I stopped climbing trees. I was stopped by age almost-fifteen because we moved back to town and the place we moved to had no big climbable trees. It’s possible that I was still climbing them until that move; I can’t remember. I hope so.

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