How I Learned Girls Weren't Equal: Sexism in my Youth

How I Learned Girls Weren't Equal: Sexism in my Youth

Yes, even children experience it.

I was raised by women. My father passed when I was only three years old, so I was essentially raised by my mother, my two older sisters, my aunt, and my grandmother. I had no male figure in my life; I was always surrounded by women. I went to school and my teachers were all girls. I truly had minimal exposure to males. My mother worked full time as a bank manager to make money to support my sisters and I. I had always viewed her as a hard working professional. For the first few years of my life, I thought women dominated the world. I thought women were the breadwinners. I didn't think that women were better than men, but I never would have thought that anyone could think of them as less.

Boy, was I wrong.

Reality hit me hard when I was five. I was five years old the first time I was told I couldn't do something because "I was a girl." I was at my sisters' softball game and a boy my age was there. He said "wow, its really hot out, I'm going to take off my shirt," and he took it off. He looked at me and said "too bad you can't do this too," and I was confused. "Why?" I asked. "Well, because you're a girl." When he said this I was honestly astonished. I had never, ever been told I couldn't do something because of my gender. Obviously, now that I'm older I understand why it is improper for women to take off their shirts in public (in case you didn't know, it is because women are hypersexualized). However, this was the first time that I was made aware of the fact that men could do things women couldn't. I sort of brushed it off and thought the boy was wrong. I went back to believing women could do anything they wanted.

And then it happened again.

I was in my first grade CCD class, which is essentially Sunday School, because I was born and raised Catholic. The teacher decided to go around the room and ask us all what we wanted to be when we grew up. When my turn came, I announced that I wanted to be a priest. My teacher responded by telling me I couldn't be a priest because girls can't be priests. I quickly retorted with "Well, my mom told me that I could be anything I want to be, so yeah. I can be a priest. My mom wouldn't lie to me." My teacher responded by saying "You could be anything you want to be... except a priest. Girls can't be priests." I was confused. I said back to my teacher "Well, if God created us all equal like the Bible says, why can't a girl be a priest?" and she truly didn't know what to say. I was told to "ask God, not her." That was when I lost my faith in the Catholic Church.

I could not believe this had happened again. Once again I was told that I couldn't do something "because I was a girl." Nothing was making sense to me. The religion I had followed so faithfully my whole life was restricting me from following my dreams. All I wanted to do was give back to the religion that I had dedicated so much of myself to by being a priest, and my gender prevented me from doing that. I truly could not even fathom it. The idea that girls couldn't do all things that boys could do seemed made up to me initially, and then I slowly started to see it was a reality.

As I grew older, the gender divide became more and more relevant. I was devastated when I was a child and learned that there had never been a female president. It seemed as if over 95% of the significant historical figures I learned about in school, from world explorers to founding fathers to famous scientists, were male. I learned that women couldn't even vote until the 1920s! That one blew my mind the most. Girls couldn't even vote? How is that a democracy? I just couldn't wrap my head around the "why." Why couldn't women vote until less than 100 years ago? Why were there no women founding fathers? Why are all these famous scientists male? None of it made any sense to me because I was raised surrounded by strong, independent, and powerful women, but I learned. And as of today, some of it still doesn't make sense to me.

I learned that females are not the same in society as males. I learned that in some cases, females get paid less than males for the same job. I learned that the rate of sexual assault of females is significantly higher than that of males. I learned how hyper sexualized girls are in comparison to boys. It took me a while, but I learned. Being college educated now and aware of the issue of gender discrimination in this world, I find myself yearning for my childhood ignorance and innocence back. I wish I felt it in my heart that women were the same as men in society like I used to, because that is how it should be. Unfortunately, reality is reality, and that is not how it is.

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