You Don’t Have To Be Just a Girl in The World
Remember Gwen Stefani ironically singing ‘I’m just a girl in the world’, back in 1995?
Here‘s a reminder. Yes, she was still with her No Doubt band mates at the time, and this is what she was rocking about:
Don’t you think I know
Exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me
To hold your hand
‘Cause I’m just a girl, little ‘ol me
Don’t let me out of your sight
So many reasons
For me to run and hide
I can’t do the little things I hold so dear
‘Cause it’s all those little things
That I fear
I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb
(Okay okay, we get it – I’m not going to quote the whole song!)
2014 HAS BEEN BIG IN GENDER DISCUSSIONS.
In the aftermath of the Elliott Rodger shootings, social media suddenly flooded with feminist, anti-feminist, and anti-anti feminist statuses, links, messages and debates, from Twitter’s #Yesallwomen to the Emma Watson-endorsed, weirdly-named HeForShe UN campaign for
ladyboys gender equality.
Now let’s get something out of the way: I’m a feminist. Or rather, I used to be. From all the ways it has been over-, mis-, and ab-used, I have become so sick of the word and the millions of stereotypes and latent anger attached to it that I’ve decided to rebrand myself as an ‘equalist’.
Because, really, that’s what I am. I believe in equality between women and men. I’m not trying to crush the latter under my non-existent heels or to eat them up after sex (mainly because, well, I’d rather have cheese and wine).
But this is not what this article is about.
As I watched the ‘feminist’ messages multiply in my news feed, I began to feel a little uncomfortable. Now, let me make another thing clear: I know rape, assault and harassment are horrendous realities, and I would never dream of dismissing the experience of anyone who has endured them.
What saddened me was the number of women recounting stories of the times they had felt scared, threatened, belittled, or limited. Some were genuinely frightening accounts of violence; others, were anecdotal.
* I can’t safely go for a ride on a bike trail, or a hike on a forest path, and feel safe.
* I can’t go for a swim in a river or lake by myself.
I saw some of my friends join in; and I couldn’t. Not only because I hate most forms of bandwagons; mainly, because I could not relate. Women were speaking for me – well, for womankind, I guess -, and I couldn’t identify. Because this is not who I am.
I’M A GIRL, AND I’M NOT SCARED.
(Yes, I felt like shouting that).
Now, I’m every inch the ‘petite’, average girl Gwen was singing about. To give you an idea, my ex used to call me a ‘shortass’ (!). I’m pretty athletic but not particularly strong. Basically, I’m not a giant or a bodybuilder. I don’t have superpowers. I’m a girl, and one who objects to the ‘just’.
I’m your average girl, and you know what? I don’t feel limited. I do what I want. I take risks. I ride scooters, smoke cigars, play poker – all while wearing earrings. I go for bike rides, I hike trails, I swim in waterfalls. In fact, I do these things all the time. Not only do I go out alone, but I backpacked around the world on my own for 9 months, and traveled solo for 2 years.
Am I crazy? Maybe. But hey, I’m still alive!
It’s not that I feel invincible, and I’m certainly not telling you to throw all caution to the wind and go for a run in the park at 2am in your favourite bikini (please don’t). Be careful; apply common sense; trust your instincts (as long as they don’t paralyse you completely).
Me? I get worried, too. Yes, I start walking faster and mentally planning escape routes when I feel like I’m being followed. Yes, I put on my bitch-mask when I’m not in the mood to be wolf-whistled at by the construction workers. I do all of those things. And I have my anecdotes, too.
But I choose to treat the random guy who catcalled me as just that: an anecdote. Just as I refuse to be defined by the gender norms telling me what is ‘manly’ or ‘womanly’, I refuse to be defined by fear. Beyond that, I don’t want to be portrayed as a victim, a vulnerable little ‘chose’. This is not who I am, and it’s not how I want to be seen.
The world is full of dangers for everyone (although it’s also – and mainly – full of wonder and excitement – never forget that!). When I was in South America, I met as many men with cautionary tales – having been robbed, mugged, scammed etc. – as women. Of course, women are exposed to extra risks. That’s a reality and it sucks, but you cannot succumb to paranoia. You cannot let the few creeps of this world stop you from doing those ‘little things you hold so dear’.
Yes, all women have stories of discrimination and street harassment. But I’m here to tell you that yes, all women can lead a full life of (solo) travel, adventure and fulfillment, as wondrous and meaningful as they want it to be. And fight sexism in the process.
The outside world may seem hostile, but it’s also full of benevolence. So take that bike out, put on your hiking boots, and just go and do what you enjoy!
And please, can you take this pink ribbon off my eyes already?
If you would like to follow the rest of my adventures and read more of my rants, consider subscribing to the blog to receive all updates by email, and connecting with Camille in Wonderlands on Facebook, where I regularly post snapshots and musings that haven’t made it onto the site.