I wasn’t exactly a tomboy. It’s more that, as I am now, I was almost completely oblivious of gender, in pursuit of things that were “interesting.” (Not people who were interesting mind. There my preference was and is male, and right now is concentrated on one person. And he’s very interesting indeed! So interesting I married him.)
Not that I wasn’t aware of being a girl, or of what was expected of girls. Because I was born very small and very premature, my mom decided the normal clothing for girls in Portugal, which was skirts and skirts only (though this wasn’t a modesty thing. This being the early sixties, most of the skirts even for kids were above the knee) would get me sick more often than wearing my brother’s cut-down pants.
Was this true? Who the heck knows? Maybe my legs/feet would have been desensitized to cold. But it was easier for mom to cut down my brother’s worn-out pants and because she was an expert seamstress to make me pants from the same fabric, minus worn spots. She also sewed leather patches on the knees, because I was forever falling. That alone might have made me less sickly, because in that place, at that time, any scrape could turn into a serious infection, and I was always doing harebrained things like exploring nearby woods and balancing on top of my grandfather’s wood discards (he was a carpenter. Sometimes he recycled wood, like architraves from pulled down buildings. For some reason these in Portugal were often made of mahogany or Brazil wood or other woods it would be criminal to just throw away. They also made lovely rickety piles in the background for me to play acrobat on.)
Anyway, the fact I always wore pants and had an extreme allergy to metal and therefore couldn’t have my ears pierced (there might be other reasons. My dad has a horror of piercings, and the words “savage” and “mutilation” will drop from his lips when this is mentioned) made me in the local kids’ views “half boy.”
I didn’t like this, and – like the boy named Sue – I learned to fight before I could walk.
And I liked playing with dolls. Okay, most of the playing with dolls involved styling their hair. (People tend to think I’m nuts when I tell them hairstylist was a profession I actually considered/would have taken if I hadn’t qualified for college.) This meant after about two years my dolls were bald and had to be replaced. (Which explains the “good dolls” I was never allowed to play with.)
Weirdly, I never played dress up myself, except for, when mom was away, putting on her satin nightgown, her pearls and her high heels, and strutting about playing at being Empress of the known world. But since I mostly spent that time directing imaginary armies and having imaginary people put to death, I’m not sure it’s a girly thing as such.
I didn’t take much to needle work until I was out of the house. I think this is because my mom had a tendency to huff at how slow/clumsy I was, take the project out of my hands and finish it herself. I don’t know what she thought she was doing, but she MUST have done something – which involved my discovering a passion for cross stitch/sewing during my exchange student year. I still like it.
But I like making things – that’s something that remains – so I used to follow granddad around and learn to build stuff. He called me his “boy” which means “helper” and was highly amused because none of his sons or grandsons took an interest.
I also liked reading – but when I wasn’t sick (An intermittent thing) – I was a very active sort of kid, so I didn’t read all the time. I built cities out of legos; I built landscapes out of dirt; I spent my time exploring fascinating places. And I loved the equivalent of matchbox cars. Not ball games, because I was dreadfully uncoordinated, and therefore barred from most of what the boys in my generation and place played at – mostly soccer – as much as out of the girls elastic or rope jumping and various games of dexterity/balance.
But the other games girls played, which mostly involved insipid stuff like telephone and gossip, and sitting quietly around bragging to each other, or treating their dolls like real babies, were really uninteresting after a while.
In my mid-teens, I developed an interest in making paper dolls and their elaborate wardrobes, but again, I like making things: paper, cloth, wood, clay… I find making something out of nothing fascinating. (Which now I think of applies to writing as well, I suppose.)
But even then, most girls weren’t interested in MAKING their paper dolls. They were interested in collecting them and getting the real expensive ones. Making the dolls characters in stories, and playing your made up story on the kitchen table was either annoying or boring to them.
The boys on the other hand, were often doing interesting stuff. Okay, at my age when I was in elementary school, this involved (mostly) beating the snot out of each other, something that bored me as much as the girls’ mind games.
But my brother was ten years older, and his set, even in the village, did stuff like make little sail boats out of wood and sail them in the irrigation ditches. Or play cowboys and Indians with pop guns around the village. Or go watch the ox team draw up water for the irrigation ditch.
If I was well enough I was usually counted on to be trailing them, my hand in Alvarim’s (who it must be said had infinite patience for my following him around.)
And they collected comic books, and discussed them passionately. And they read westerns (so did my cousin Natalia, but though a little more girlie than I was – she read romances – she was more like me than the conventional girl.) They discussed that too.
I also hung out with my male cousins, on mom’s side, a year and two years younger than I. They were tamer (at least around me) than the boys my age who seemed to pound each other’s head into the ground every other minute, but they played my type of thing. Legos, and cars on pretend roads, and pop guns, and plastic swords… Fun stuff.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I spent a lot of time around boys and young men, and then men. I have the gift of “fading” which Wayne Blackburn claims to have too. (And I see no reason to doubt.)
Though at fourteen or so I decided I liked guys’ attention and know (or knew. Right now I want ONE man’s attention, and he’s all too easy to get it. I go up to him and kiss him. that’s it.) how to get it, and can dress to attract it when I so choose, most of the time, if I’m out with a group of men and we’re just buddies (I now have a relatively large group of female friends, which is odd for me – though they’re Odd too, to be honest – but over half of my friends and the people I relate to, are still male) I have the ability to “fade” as a woman, so that while they don’t think of me as a guy (if you asked them they’d go “Uh? No, Sarah is a chick.” Though they might say a lady if they thought I cared.) they also don’t think of me as a woman. This means I hear more things, and know more things about men – apparently – than the average woman.
When I read Self-Made Man where the author spent a year as a drag king passing as male, I spent two thirds of the book going “how come you didn’t know that before?” The differences were more in the milieu in which she passed, which was mostly working class.
Look, I have working class friends, like I have female friends. I don’t judge people by the level of education they have attained. But there is a sort of inverse-prejudice among normal manual laborers about “eggheads” particularly women eggheads. So, I retain very few working class friends who aren’t Odd and usually better read than I. She was submerged among NORMAL working class people. So there are cultural differences there.
But the rest – bah. I knew all that stuff.
I can well imagine why the modern feminists are the way they are. They started off by playing with all girls. (One of my earliest memories is of being dragged by the back collar away from a group of local (and very low class) boys with whom I’d been playing tiddly winks, while Grandma proclaimed “Boys play with boys and girls play with girls.” My reaction to this was a mental – I wasn’t stupid enough to say it – “Poo! I’d rather play by myself than with those ninnies.” But I think it took in most girls. Or perhaps they didn’t need the admonition.)
I suspect their first exposure to boys in a group was in some traumatic situation. There were plenty of those for me too. For instance, in elementary boys and girls attended separate school rooms, side by side. The boys used to boil out of their side, in a pack, and do the stupid carp boys do when they’re showing off for each other: pull our pigtails, steal our books, laugh like hyennas. There was also a group of multiple-year-repeats (meaning they were sometimes five years older than the rest of us) who were thorough bad lots, and who did worse, including feeling us up (which felt just wrong, and frankly was, since until fifth grade, when we went on to middle school) we were all basically boys except for one crucial difference. Flat as boards, and just as scruffy. It got so bad, our teacher was afraid of them, and sometimes wouldn’t let us out until a father showed up to drive them off. Most of these guys now have prison records, so this wasn’t just being fluffy. This is when I discovered the weapon-like capabilities of my book bag, and would often lead the way out swinging it left and right. (I was tall and big for a Portuguese girl of my generation.)
Anyway, those boys horrified me, though being me, it was less “Oh, ick, ruffians” and more “Oh, they make me sooooo mad.”
But I can see most normal women going “oh, ick, boys” and when the feminist establishment and for that matter the school itself preaches to them that men are a sort of untermench that have – inexplicably – oppressed women for centuries, they go a little crazy and start imagining things about men that even they would realize was insulting if someone said them about women.
Which brings us to this insanity.
They talk about boys being lazy and stupid, and they view this as perfectly logical. There is a sneering hint that men are defective women.
Perhaps it is because I read a lot of history, and have come across texts detailing how women are defective men, and how women couldn’t learn like men, and how—
If you told any feminist that in a school system most teachers were men, the learning style was competitive/non cooperative – designed for most boys over most girls – that it required them to do things – instead of just reciting things – that it was designed for male development milestones and that most male teachers had been taught girls were bad/lazy – and girls were failing in record numbers… They’d be up in arms.
But the same thing applies to boys, in our system right now, and the response is that boys are bad/defective. And when boys won’t read books with girl main characters, it’s the boys who are broken, but back in my day when girls didn’t like books with boy main characters, we needed more books with girls as heros.
I’m tired of this stupidity.
I went through a genuinely anti-girl system, particularly when it came to the sciences. It was assumed and not even questioned that I was stupider than all the boys, and it always shocked the teachers when I came up top of the class.
Well and good. That’s fine and dandy. I didn’t like it, and it should have been corrected. (Most of my teachers were female, btw, they just believed boys were superior.)
But correcting it with myths of boys as defective and broken girls serves no one.
For one boys treated that way get broken.
I’m not going to say girls aren’t suited for STEM degrees. If I hadn’t had digit dyslexia (not quite disnumeria. I could figure out numbers fine, I just switched the representations around without realizing) I’d have taken engineering. And my science grades were always great.
What I’m saying is that most girls, unless insanely pushed, have no interest in STEM degrees. Just like most girls had no interest in playing with pop guns and could discuss dresses and frills for hours. (Which bored me stiff.)
Men and women are different. Women are more social-group-integration directed, for instance. Also my teachers who believed “men are smarter” were not just victims of the patriarchy. Women IQs and general performance tend to cluster in the mid ranges. This makes most women smarter than about half the boys. But the other half of male IQs clusters more towards the exceptional end. (There’s still a contingent in the middle, which is why it’s called average. But boys throw out way more morons and geniuses than women do. Which of course, makes the life of female outliers h*ll on Earth, but never mind.) Because of the self-selected environment – to go on to fifth grace academic (as opposed to vocational) track you had to pass a comprehensive exam that only about 1/3 the kids passed (sometimes less) – there were more exceptionally smart males than exceptionally smart females in the sample. The morons of both kinds had been weeded out and there were more “normalish high” females. Also, females hated having better grades than their friends and adjusted (this seems to be evolutionarily driven) while males committed to an academic career excelled and competed.
To be fair, though, the system as was allowed to me excel even as a female, while until college it seemed like the boys were getting downchecks FOR being male, regardless of what they did. In college it’s somewhat more fair (and challenging.) Also, I don’t think the teachers were indoctrinated against females and into thinking women were evil. They thought us dumber, that was all. Also, not one of my teachers ever suggested I should be MADE to behave like a boy or that females were obsolete.
The hate that pours out of this stuff when I hear it, besides seeming the personal problem of a generation of feminists, makes me sad for the boys getting this in school. And girls too.
Look, boys might be “better” at science (grosso modo, on average, for certain sciences – I know extremely competent women in science.) And girls might be “better” at social things. But every lab needs someone who also understands how to coordinate a team of brilliant and not very social people. And every soft science should have someone who wants to measure and count and test against reality.
If we handicap and one gender, we handicap both and – eventually – civilization itself. And let’s face it, we modern women are creatures of civilization. Remove antibiotics and the pill, and life as a female becomes short, brutish and nasty.
That is one way to resolve the gender war. But not one I’d wish on my descendants.