Birth: “It’s a girl” the doctor said. I am privileged that my identity today matches with this proclamation, but who would I be without such confines? I will probably always wonder.
1: My well-meaning parents dress me exclusively in frills and bows, but soon we won’t have enough money for anything but hand-me-downs.
3: My older brother gets books about dinosaurs and superheroes, and I get books about baking cupcakes and playing dress-up. My brother secretly wants my toy tiara, and I want those damn dinosaurs.
4: At pre-school my best friend is a boy, until our classmates make fun of him for playing trucks with a girl. I wonder why this false dichotomy made him stop being my friend.
5: In my Catholic kindergarten we learn about Eve’s mistake. I’m sent to the timeout chair for wondering why Eve was blamed when Adam was just as guilty. All she wanted to do was learn, Hell, all I wanted to do was learn.
6: I start the first grade, and a boy five years older than me threatens either to kiss me or kill me on the playground. I tell no one, because they might think I provoked him.
7: A beautiful, kind boy cries alone behind the bleachers after his pet fish dies because his friends called him a pussy.
8: A boy shoves me off the snow hill, hard, for beating him in a race. This is the first of many times I’ll be called a bitch. I don’t know what stings more, the ice in my throat or the growing fire I feel in my heart.
9: I’m the only girl on my baseball team. I get a double hit and I swell with pride when I see my dad clapping from the stands, but the boy playing second base tells me that girls shouldn’t play baseball and I should just go back to ballet.
10: A bully who always pushes the girls around throws a rock at my head with no provocation, and I punch him in response, albeit with a sprained wrist. The principal tells me I should have let it go, boys will be boys after all.
11: I get my period for the first time, and I think I’m dying. I binarically learned to equate femininity with bloodshed before I was even cognisant of the violence conjured just by being a woman. I’m too scared of my own vagina to even try using a tampon; it’s like my own personal warzone.
12: I’m in junior high now, and I grow breasts, like perfect hills on the valley of my body. I hate them, I hate the way grown men stare at them, and I hate myself more than anything. I’m only twelve years old and I hate myself.
13: My parents decide the shorts I wear in the melting summer heat are too short, as if the sudden deposits of fat on my thighs brought on by puberty disqualify me from comfort.
14: There’s only one known transgender girl in my town, and everyone calls her a crossdresser and a tranny. They don’t just misgender her, but they call her an “it” as if she’s no longer deserving of human status, as if women of all intersections aren’t deserving of humanity.
15: We’ve finally reached high school, and an older boy asks me out. I don’t know him so I say no, and he calls me a slut, a dirty skank, and a whore, even though I haven’t even kissed anyone yet. My friends tell me that I should’ve said yes.
16: Some of girls in my biology class pretend to not understand how to dissect a frog so the boys will help them. These girls are smart and strong and generous, but why would that matter?
17: It’s my graduation year and I refuse to go to my prom party because it’s widely known that thirty year old men lurk in the woods outside, waiting for drunk girls to stumble out. I can’t wait to get out of this town, naively assuming that the world beyond my little island would be any safer for girls.
18: A boy forcefully grabs and gropes me during frosh week at a party. I told someone about it angrily and they wrote it off. When did my vagina stop being my own? Or was it ever really mine to begin with? Tampax owns it for 6 days a month, my doctor gets to decide whether I get birth control or not, and women in my province are still suing for the right to abortion. I want to reclaim my love for my vagina, but it’s hard to do when everyone seems to hate them so, so viciously.
19: Intersectionality underlines itself in my word processor, refusing to acknowledge the axes of oppression and privilege that I and every other woman face daily. A woman in a hijab is pushed into train tracks in Toronto, Sandra Bland, a black woman is murdered by the police, and we discuss the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women on unceded Mi’kmaq land without acknowledgement. And yet intersectionality, apparently, is not a valid word.
Now: After a three hour Vagina Monologues rehearsal, I learn that the school I chose, the school that chose me, has fundamentally betrayed my existence and the existence of every woman of every intersection who has ever fought to make her voice heard. Our school is now not only implicitly but explicitly contributing to the patriarchal culture that creates the need for WGST “It’s a girl”, the doctor said. “Congratulations.”
19: I watch Grease for the first time and am annoyed and frustrated by the consistent pop culture tendency to mould women into whatever their male counterparts would find sexually desirable. Damnit Sandy your poodle skirts were cute! I sarcastically tweet something about how men are not worth compromising ourselves, and a group of meninist-y men from my residence launch an online witch hunt to smear my name and get me fired from an on-campus position. Via an anonymous app, I am called the standard “dumb bitch” insult that gets tossed at any woman in any position of “power”, and they equate my feminism to ISIS. I am angry and now understand the phrase “seeing red” because I think I’m about to pop a fucking blood vessel, but I’m also incredibly sad. Sad that in 2016 men still think it’s okay to talk about women in a disparaging, deeply misogynistic manner, and know there will be next to no repercussion for it.
20: I have what begins as a light-hearted conversation about self-defence techniques with one of my best friends. She jokes about kicking someone in the balls if they try to attack her and I’m reminded of an article I read that describes a technique of predators to wear cups while looking for victims, and I tell her to gouge his eyes instead. What human being should know that information? Why should I have to know to gouge another human’s eyeballs because he would have accommodated for his most vulnerable area? Why should I have to tell my best friend through teary eyes that no matter what we do or how we dress we will never, never be safe in this world.
Illustration by Niti Mueth