When I was five years old, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. Khaki-colored, whiny, Luke Skywalker, daddy issues and all. Princess Leia? No way. Sure, she has a couple good fight scenes, but she spent more of the trilogy than I had patience for either out-of-commission or captured by one group or the other. No hero of mine would become a prisoner to a giant, gambling slug.
Still blind to the beauty that was a young Harrison Ford, five-year-old me also had a crush on Mark Hamill the size of the Dune Sea. Perhaps in my own way, being like Luke Skywalker was my way of getting closer to Luke Skywalker, in the same way that I always wanted to be on the boy’s team in playground cootie-chasing games despite the fact that none of the girls would chase me. The other girls, I had decided, were going about it all wrong; if you didn’t want the boys to run from you, then you had to learn to somehow sneak into their world undetected. You had to become more male.
My self-imposed distance from other females lasted through my elementary and middle-school years, into the early years of high school. If other girls would wear makeup and dresses and listen to boy bands, then I would have nothing to do with these activities. I would be, for all intents and purposes, different. The label “girl” became a dirty one, fiercely denied whenever it was used as an excuse for exclusion.
It makes me sad now, that up until my sophomore year of high school, I was a self-proclaimed “misogynist.” “I’m not like other girls,” I would explain patiently. “I like video games. I think porn is hilarious. And I wouldn’t be caught dead in makeup. So don’t just write me off like all the others.”
I wasn’t the only woman I know who thought like that. We were a counter-culture of young women trying desperately to show our capability, assert our equality, but in the process, undermining everything that equality stood for. From our early childhoods, media had defined for us a “feminine” sensibility, teaching us that there were very few roles for a woman to play, if she wanted to be included at all.
- Damsel in distress
- Central love interest
But in our rejection of these constructs, our eagerness to create our own character rather than fill another archetype, we had shoved all other women into those boxes—the idea that femininity equates to weakness became our credo.
If being a woman meant playing the damsel in distress, I wanted no part of it, thank you very much.
I wanted to be an individual. I wanted to be taken seriously despite the overwhelming obstacle I saw in my gender. But by pushing all of womankind into those categories, I was doing exactly what I feared would be done to me. I had oversimplified every other woman in the world to fit the ease and convenience of my gendered worldview: boys were the instigators, girls were reactionary. If I made friends with another girl, she was an exception to the rule.
I was almost an adult when all of this became apparent to me, far too old for these ideas to be novel. The propensity for middle schoolers to be cruel is in their genetic makeup, but I get the feeling life would have been a lot easier if I hadn’t written off so many potential friends simply because I thought myself too good to associate with my own gender. I used to say I wouldn’t know what to do if I had daughters, because I just wouldn’t be able to stomach buying Barbies and driving to ballet.
I don’t know what I want changed by writing this. I don’t know if other people will relate to this kind of self-conditioned misogyny, or if I was some kind of teenage terrorist outlier. I don’t know if I would have learned to appreciate just how skewed our society still is if I hadn’t been so skewed myself.
All I know is that I don’t want my baby cousins to grow up thinking that your gender defines what you’re allowed to like. I don’t want any daughters I may have someday to think the best way to befriend boys is by tearing down other women, or that our gender is the defining factor of our personalities.
Because being a woman doesn’t mean that I can’t like Portal or Game of Thrones or pretending to be a Jedi and trying to move things with the Force when I’m bored in class. And liking all those things doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy cooking, or being the little spoon, or dressing up just because I feel like it. Feminine, masculine, all these things are just made up labels we use to categorize things we love, and those categories are all just constructs to begin with. By saying you’re “not like other women,” you’re just affirming those constructs.
That en masse amoeba of the “other women” you want to hate doesn’t exist.
It’s okay to want to be Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. It’s okay to like Doug Funnie and Eliza Thornberry and it’s definitely okay to like the Powerpuff Girls. And it’s okay to want to be Princess Leia, if you want to be. Or Han Solo. Or even Luke Skywalker. Even if he is a bit whiny.
Isabella Vergun is an aspiring writer and musician, and senior at St. Olaf College. She enjoys watching Wes Anderson films, retelling Shakespearean plots with enthusiastic hand gestures, and eating doughnuts whenever possible.