November 14, 2007

One Size Does Not Fit All

by LynnS
Regular Contributor
Ireland, UK

I can vividly remember an older cousin giving me an annual one Christmas. The annual was called "Misty" and it was based on a horror comic (now sadly defunct) aimed at girls aged about 10 - 14. I was thrilled and being a bookworm even then, I immediately sat down to read it. My mother was dismayed and tried to take it off me, insisting it was too scary and it'd give me nightmares. I stubbornly refused to hand it over. (In fact, I think I sat on it). "I don't care if it gives me nightmares," I wailed. "I didn't get a Glow Worm last Christmas so I'm keeping this. I like spooky stories and I kinda like being scared, so there!" Did I mention I could be a brat?

Joking aside, it would be years before I understood the subtext and significance of the conversation. My mother wasn't attempting to spoil my fun; she was trying to protect me. There was an assumption back then that girls (of my age, anyway) just didn't like horror. In retrospect, I can see that the real danger and damage lay in the assumption that all girls are the same. In other words, that one size fits all.

Except it won't. How could it?

At school, it was drilled into us that we were all unique, that there is no one else on the planet quite like us. True. Yet society seems to say one thing and do another. As I entered my teens, I was bombarded by conflicting messages which ultimately seemed to say "yes, you're an individual and you can be yourself - so long as you still toe the line." Toeing the line, I would soon discover, meant having children.

One of the great victories of the feminist movement was the recognition that women are people in their own right and that women are entitled to the same choices and opportunities as men. Doesn't it stand to reason, then, that as unique individuals we won't want the same things in life? Is it so surprising, therefore, that some of us will make the choice not to have children?

Why is this so hard to accept in the 21st century?

It strikes me that, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a feminist (and I do) that choosing not to have children is a very feminist statement. Think about it.
Feminists fought tooth and nail so women would not be defined by their wombs. As a childfree woman, you're saying, “Okay, so I have a womb but that doesn't mean I have to use it. I won't allow myself to be defined by it either.”
You're rejecting the societal script and opting for a road less traveled, and that alone can make people nervous.

Some women have or will have children. Their business. Their decision.

Other women (we Purple WomenTM) will not have children. Our business. Our decision. One that's equally valid.

Let's embrace and revel in our differences. The fact that Purple WomenTM are childfree unites us, but we're also unique individuals. Think how unbelievably boring the world would be if we were all carbon copies of one another.

I'll finish by thanking my cousin, first of all, not just for giving me an annual I still love! Whether she realized it or not, she did so much more than giving me an annual. By doing so, she was really saying “I know you don't like or want the same things as most other girls but you know what? That's okay.” What matters is not what people may think. What matters is finding out who you are and being true to yourself.

Those nightmares my mother was worried I'd have? I had plenty. There was one story about a severed hand that scares me even today. But I was able to examine my fears and I survived and came out stronger as a result. There's a lesson to be learned there, maybe. . .

Last but not least, I'd like to thank Purple WomenTM everywhere. You know that Sesame Street song "It Ain't Easy Being Green"? Well, sometimes - let's be honest - it ain't easy being Purple either. But you make all the difference. Constant, inspiring reminders that one size does not fit all.

Flickr photo taken by Franz66's Dad, shared by franz66 (cc)
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Anonymous said...

The only time I've ever heard anyone use the word "annual" by itself was when it referred to a woman's annual gyno appointment. So that first sentence scared me!

- Anna

Teri said...

LynnS - Great post. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

To All - An annual is a book (usually hardcover) which is published once a year. On the other side of the pond, annuals are usually published around the beginning of November - just in time for the Christmas market. Annuals are generally aimed at children or teenagers and they're usually based on comics, TV shows, pop groups, or toys.

Sara said...

A very inspiring article!f

LauraS said...

LynnS--Thanks for a wonderful post. I am reminded of all the wonderful people in my life who encouraged and inspired me to challenge gender stereotypes. I feel so grateful to have been born in a time when so many were rewriting the scripts for women.