The Indespensable Value of "Girly"Misha D. Fisher

The most horrifying part of riding the Greyhound bus alone is the anticipation of who will be sitting next to you for six hours. So I was relieved when a dude around my age filled the empty seat next to me. And I should emphasize “dude”: cap, hoodie and jersey, ALL of the same sports team, with a bro-stache that curled just right when he ended every sentence with “man”. Or brah. Or dude.

We made small talk as the bus got rolling and joked about the dread of Alvin and the Chipmunks potentially being our in-flight movie. Then a bunch of Cobra Commandos appeared on the small television, causing both “Dude” and I to roll our eyes and simultaneously mutter, “Oh, perfect!”

It was kind of a magical moment in my mind, the bridging of two worlds through the hatred of inhumane cinema, until I realized that our inflections were completely different. Mine was a sarcastic “I was wondering when God would punish me for forgetting Nana’s birthday” eye roll, while Dude’s was a genuine “the bliss I feel is so unparalleled that I might be experiencing a seizure” eye roll. We looked at one another, feeling the abyss that had suddenly opened up between us, and did not speak again for the remaining six hours. Or rather, three G.I. JOE screenings.

Even when I can manage conversation with a Dude, a Broski, a Broseph Stalen, there is always a point when it becomes obvious that we did not play in the same sandbox growing up. He had Hulk Hogan action figures, I had my Sailor Moon figurines. His toys bashed skulls in, mine dealt with complicated romantic triangles in which no one could come out the winner.

I wouldn’t say I was some sissy Nancy-boy pansy, but I would politely state that I was a very emotional child. I was always more interested in what my toys were feeling rather than what they were doing and that led to my inclination towards girls’ entertainment. Let’s put it this way: while other boys were getting in trouble for lighting firecrackers in the house, I was getting in trouble for watching Ally McBeal in middle school. And when that all becomes evident in the company of a Dude, when a buried yet raw feeling of shame STILL takes over.

For some reason, I always grew up with a deep-set internalized shame for enjoying these things – my deep dark secret the kids at school couldn’t find out about. But why? This shame was so innate, one wonders where it came from in the first place and what validity it holds. After all, shouldn’t I be glad for the things that helped mold my young self into the terribly awesome person I am today? The problem is that breaking out of your gender role isn’t “cool” if you wanna be a Dude.

My love of My Little Ponies and Rainbow Bright as a kid wouldn’t have exactly been a popularity catalyst. When Dawson’s Creek ended, I had no one to tell how excited I was that Joey chose Pacey over Dawson. Seriously, MUCH better choice, Holmes. When I was forced to watch G.I. JOE as a kid, I didn’t dare admit that I was only interested in when team leader Duke was finally going to address the sexual tension building between him and Scarlette. (There was totally something going on there, right?) Society puts that there: this dividing line of what a boy should like and what a girl should like. If a girl crosses over, she’s well rounded. Vice versa and “something just ain’t right with the poor boy”.

I know young girls feel it, too. Only their pressure is to go above and beyond their girly expectations, to be “one of the guys”, as if that were some prized status. If a girl likes G.I. Joe, she’s suddenly a cool chick for enjoying blood, explosions and commando squads that for some reason have a ninja on the team. And who doesn’t want to be a cool chick?

Not to say that there’s anything wrong with liking the rough and tumble side of things. Those kids grow up win Super Bowls or work on Transformers 2. My point is to say that society tends to ignore the benefits of the soft and lacey. I personally think my love of “girly” things growing up helped me develop my skills as a writer AND as an all-around swell guy. Romance stories are supposed to be for the ladies, but they taught me how to write conflict and character development. Buffy’s loves and friendships showed me how to care for people, taught me about loyalty and personal sacrifice and how easy it is to make a wooden stake from a chair leg. ANY ’80s movie starring Wynona Rider makes for great rainy day catharsis on how hard being a teenager can be. Heck, playing with My Little Ponies taught me the importance of brushing my hair so it doesn’t get tangled and also how stupid heart tattoos on one’s thigh look. All these “girly” things I loved growing up could be a direct cite for why I make a great friend and even better boyfriend (so great. Kinda needy, but totally great).

That’s because nothing in life is without emotion and for whatever reason, that’s what girls are supposed to be into: feelings. So I say, great! I bettered myself by liking girly things, shouldn’t I be proud? Shouldn’t we all be proud, girly girls and emotional boys everywhere? If little league and race cars teach kids to be wee little titans, tea parties and dress-up teach them to be eloquent and artistic. It’s part of the great yin-yang of life, outside of gender, and one should never be treated as superior to the other. We should all feel free to learn from both sides of the spectrum, devoid of shame or glorification.

So, girl or boy, don’t ever think you need to lie about waking up at 6:30am every Saturday to watch Rainbow Bright, because it’s no better or worse than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and neither were as good as Animaniacs, anyway. And next time I’m sitting in silence with a Dude and G.I. JOE: The Movie, I’ll quit clamming up to tell him why he needs to watch Factory Girl if he wants to see Sienna Miller at her best.

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  1. Such a great point. It really opened my eyes & got me thinking about how there’s this huge double standard, where girls can be “tomboys” and play sports or with trucks (like my sister did), but boys are told they can’t play with Barbie dolls or Sailor Moon because their parents are afraid of them becoming “too feminine”. Thank you for sharing your experience! :)

  2. Totally great points! I think you’d really like this book, The Achilles Effect: What Pop Culture is Teaching Young Boys About Masculinity
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Achilles-Effect/140114462677958?ref=ts&sk=wall

  3. Misha,
    I hope you remember me from your voyage across the Pond?
    I loved the article, and enjoyed every single animated reference, although I must confess to never having watched a moment of Sailor Moon before!
    (and Ally McBeal was a VERY enjoyable series, if not a bit disturbing when Calista Flockhart reached her science-class-biology-skeleton weight).
    I read the piece aloud to my girlfriend (she’s carrying a little holiday weight at the moment, and could do with the entertainment to keep her spirits high – ‘Mexico Fat’, apparently?) and she very much enjoyed it. Though that could have been your American words siphoned through my English accent.

    Keep up the good work, Misha – I’m sure your Christmas will give you plenty to write about!

  4. who doesnt like cute stuff. girly stuff is complicated and cute. pretty much the opposite of real life, which is simple and bald.

  5. I didn’t watch Sailor Moon specifically, but I did grow up watching Annie and other things my two sisters liked to watch. Nowadays, I watch Desperate Housewives. If more guys could bridge the gender-role gap, they would be much better at relationships, especially romantic relationships. Much of the problem is just how long new social-conceptualizations (diminishing gender-roles) take to grab hold of the public. I think children being raised now are more likely to have experiences like Mr. Fisher’s than children raised 10 years ago, and 10 years in the future will be even better.

  6. I totallu agree with you I have always hated the distinction of girls and boys, and growing up with a family tht was adamant those.lines not be crossed in some ways has always upset me. As far as tv n choice in games it was open mindedness so im thankful for that I grew up being the girl that lobed n begged for toy cars, and bloody movies while watching sailormoon with my brother and reading the babysitters club. But then the distinction grew more like not being able to hang alone with the guys id grown up with my whole life, or how my brother was able to go out whenever and till whatever time he pleased while I was to stay home and do house work deemed impotant for girls to know. It was a drag. But now that I have a child (boy) I tell my.bf hell be taught different I dont want him to differentiate on what girls and boys do as long as hes happy responsible and repesctful he can watch do ,say as he pleases. For now hes 3 loves to read, watch sailormoon with me, play dinosaurs.and let me.paint.his nails when I do mine, dance to my.girly musoc and head bang to some rock music…i know the way I was raised was an ok way im well rounded but.im hoping to be a lil better for my child

    • At “watch sailormoon with me”, you officially won “Mom of the Year”. Possibly a Nobel Peace Prize in addition; I’ll look into it.
      But seriously, Bravo to you for breaking the cycle. He’ll thank you one day!

  7. Obviously I identify with many of your experiences as a woman, but I find it refreshing that you are willing to admit these things as a man. I have the most difficult times identifying with “bros” and as a result have attracted many, many homosexual friends, not that I mind. The thing I sometimes worry about is whether or not I will actually be able to find someone who understands me! And for the record, I feel the same way about my dating approach. I can come off a little needy and I’ve been told that I’m a bit of a hurricane of love, but I am a GREAT girlfriend. Pass that on, will you? Good luck to you!

  8. I officially adore you. My little brother is a boys boy. He has a full arsenal of nerf guns and various other plastic/foam weapons, he plays baseball, he thinks it’s physically impossible to chew with his mouth closed. His favorite books are “Walter the Farting Dog”, Marvels fully illustrated guide to super heroes…and Disneys storybook adaption of “Tangled”. He’s a Justin Bieber fan, he likes dancing more than football, he enjoys writing poetry. He’s a rough and tumble little ladies man, and he often sacrifices doig the things he enjoys to maintain that image and make his fathers traditional Greek family proud. It saddens me that he’s compromising like this at 6 years old. I’m glad there are guys like you out there to show boys like him that it’s okay to not be a Typical Dude.

  9. Interesting article! I used to think there was something wrong with me when I was growing up because I would cry so easily. (Boys don’t do that!) I figured out as I got older that I was probably more normal than I thought. Boys do cry. They just don’t want other boys seeing it. I enjoy a good action film. And by good I mean it has a believable plot and interesting characters. Not just guns, explosions, car crashes, naked or nearly-so women strictly for decoration, and men on testosterone overload. I also enjoy a good rom-com. And by good I mean it has a believable plot and interesting characters. And if it is good, by the end of the film… you guessed it… I’m usually crying!

    • I cried SO MUCH as a child/teen/young adult/I could be crying right now who knows. It’s practically a party trick at this point. So I feel ya, and high five for owning it!

  10. The reason it feels weird for a guy to do guy things but ok that a girl does guy things is because we don’t think feminine things are worth as much as masculine things. It’s a little sexist thing we all unwittingly perpetuate.

  11. What a fabulous article! Give me a well-rounded “emotional boy” over a “Brah” any day! I generally can’t make conversation with those kind of guys either. I have to say that my favourite part of this article was finding out that there are those out there that are just as saddened/horrified by the G.I. Joe movie as I was. LOL!

    • Oh don’t worry. Millions, upon millions, were damaged by the G.I. Joe movie in ways that they may never recover. I’m thinking about starting a charity benefit now to help survivals of the sequel.

  12. I’m a girl, but my two best buds as a little girl, were boys. We played Ninja Turtles, and at home my imaginary friend was Raphael and he was my boy friend. HAHA! I played dinosaurs and GI Joe and dug out tunnels for them to make a fort with my best bud. We played with his toy racing set or rode bikes or “hiked” through the neighboring “forest” which was really a small copse of trees. I loved all that stuff, but I still wore pink, played with dolls at home and has such a thing for horses I collected any kind of toy horse I got my hands on. My little pony, to Fantasy Philies, to stuffed animal horses.

  13. I love sailor moon! I also thoroughly enjoy that a special someone in my life grew up loving beauty and the beast as much as I did. I think it helped mold my belief in you can find romance and love in the most unexpected places. I don’t understand how we can pretty much force feed our female children into seeing/believing romance is all around us when we don’t teach our boys it. So they have to stumble round trying to live up to some unknown expectation of what romance is.

    • My favorite effect of social gendering is this Get Out of Jail Free Card boys get when it comes to emotional confrontation. This whole idea of “All women wanna do is yak yak yak, am I right fellas?!?” you still see on bad CBS sitcoms creates an Us Vs. Them mentality that society makes ok. “Us” being people who feel and “Them” being robots men are suppose to be because feelings are for babies.

  14. This is awesome. Im a girl but i found that as a child even little girls werent as interested in feelings and emotions (of barbies, dolls, role play situations) as i was. Even now, i cant get into movies or books that are fantasy because the characters arent as emotionally complex. Anyway…this article made my inner child not feel so alone and kinda wish there were more boys like you, hahaha.

    • I wish there were more girls like you! I agree that there’s something lacking from fantasy these days. The whole “forbidden romance” thing has been so capitalized upon with with Mormon vampire stories that writers are sprinkling it on as an insta-plot, while the actual characters in the stories have no real depth to them. I think you should start writing some of your own, Marcela! Give us some fantasy we can actually relate to!

  15. I agree %100. I can be as manly as they come, but having to take care of 2 younger sisters changes your perspective on things. I am also a Sailor Moon fan, watch chick flicks and have all of Taylor Swift’s albums. Yet I also love a good kung-fu film, owning noobs in video games and watching football with the fellas. It all just depends on how you were brought up and what you were influenced by. I’m blessed to have never grown up single-minded.

  16. My barbie and Action Man had the wedding I’m still dreaming about.

    • My Invisible Woman action figure didn’t know if her marriage to Mr. Fantastic could survive her attraction to Goliath from Gargoyles. This was probably a red flag now that I look back on it.

  17. OMG…this is an AMAZING article! Thanks so much!

  18. Sailor Moon!! I am obsessed. I wish I could say was, but it is still a love of mine. I consider myself to be pretty “girly” (I’m definitely not a tomboy), but I also love action movies, superheros, comics, and other traditionally boy things.

  19. I agree that it seems much more acceptable for girls to play with stereotypical “boys” things than boys to do the same and that makes me sad. But I see progress! I have a number of friends with little boys who let them express themselves fully through dress up, nurturing dolls and enjoying “girl” toys.

  20. I’m all for upsetting gender codes. Kids develop them to understand their place in the world, but if their likes and dislikes go against society’s expectations, these codes are somewhat harmful.