EDITORS COLUMN: Exactly like other girls

Womanhood is not embarassing

I was nearly a woman when I realized that there is nothing wrong with being a girl.

Most women my age and older remember a time when it was complimentary to be told that we were “not like other girls,” especially by men. Today, we reject the assumption that there is something inherently bad about other girls.

The coolest girl I could imagine growing up was someone like my older sister: athletic, casual, tom-boyish and characteristically not girly. It felt like femininity was a weakness. From crying to wearing pink, I was way too much of a girl.

For years, I insisted that I was something separate from the vain and superficial caricature of a woman that I was presented in media or projected onto real people around me. What we were really trying to say to the world was that we were full people. We never wanted to be summarized by the fragile and nagging straw-woman. So, we make ourselves an impossible mixture of strong, interesting and low maintenance.

A young girl in high school is told by her boyfriend that she’s not like other girls, revealing that his respect for female peers must be earned in a romantic setting. He assumes something negative from the presence of a woman and is pleasantly surprised when someone caters herself for him, as we all do to an extent at that age.

The world’s conversation around gender has shifted tremendously in the past few decades alone. We understand that almost nothing is as binary, as male-female, as we once believed. This is freeing in its own way. We can all be people when we need to instead of being strictly men and strictly women. For myself personally, I’ve also found liberation in the joy of womanhood itself.

While gender may not be as specific or important as I used to think, I know that I still enjoy it. I feel like a woman when I come home to my all-female four bedroom apartment and the air is full of perfume, lemon bars and laughter. I feel my femininity in my style and my emotional intelligence. When sensitivity used to be such a weakness, I now use it to understand the personhood of myself and others around me.

I am proud to be a woman because of my impressive peers. My world was built by great minds like my mother, Amy Winehouse, Hayley Williams, Suzanne Collins, Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem and so many more.

As a competitive gymnast on an all-girls team, I got to prove that physical strength can exist in a feminine environment. My first step was achieving strength despite my womanhood. Later, I’m able to find immeasurable strength within it.

Today, I am beyond happy to be a woman, and watch young girls, live in this world with someone like Olivia Rodrigo rising to new heights. I believe her career so narrowly missed the multi-generational need to be different than other girls. In her music, I feel the joy in being a woman for the fun of it. She never tears anyone else down. She never apologizes for acting like a girl.

Feminism is so often hard work. I am eternally grateful for the women before me who fought for what I have today. I aim to continue their work with my position in Ferris’ Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance. Because of centuries of history, I am now privileged enough to say that I am not smart for a girl, or strong for a girl. I do not have to denounce simple pleasures of girlhood to be a whole individual. I can live a full, fun and fulfilling life in the most feminine way possible.