Saturday, July 21, 2012


On Monday night, we played Capture the Flag at the upper ball field. Just getting to the field is a good 15 minute trod up a sufficiently quad-burning hill. As this was a smaller week of camp, there were about 20 campers and about 20 staff, but a good time was had by all. After the game is over, I usually run down the hill because: A. it's faster, and B. it's more fun.

As I ran past a group of kiddos and rounded the corner, I realized I might've been a bad example, because I heard the pitter-patter of little feet behind me. Fearing for their life, I was about to turn around and tell some reckless little boy to be careful and take it slow so he wouldn't get hurt. But to my pleasant surprise, a speedy seven year-old girl--pigtails and all--zoomed past me before I could utter a word. I struggled to catch up.

"Wanna race?" she squealed over her shoulder.


So we did. My twenty-four year-old legs struggled to keep up with her 7 year-old ones as we careened down the steep embankment of a hill, kicking up dust in our wake and popping up with a little hop on the rolling bumps and hills.

By the time we reached the bottom, my side was aching and I was thoroughly winded. We walked together for awhile. "What's your name?" I asked her.


"Well, it's nice to meet you Mikaela. I'm Heather."

She jumped up on the curb to practice her balancing skills and snapped a twig off a spindly tree as she strolled by. A few seconds later she bolted up the stairs to her cabin and she was gone.

At camp I encounter a wide variety of people, and I observe closely the dynamic between genders, with particular focus on the girls. I see little seven year-olds in dresses and ten year-olds starting to wear make up. I see a string of tweenagers sitting on the sidelines when we play sports. I see thirteen year-olds commenting on their "fat" this and that and how they "shouldn't" eat dessert. I see girls staff strutting their stuff in short shorts and low-cut tops. I see mothers and aunts and grandmothers acting out the same scenes they were witness to in their younger years: women trying to find their place in a world that often does not see or value women.

But not Mikaela. I like Mikaela. A lot. I like seeing young girls running with the best of 'em. Plundering fearlessly down steep mountainsides. Living free. She gives me hope that if we can teach girls when they are young that they really can do whatever they want, they'll believe it when they're eighteen, twenty-three, fifty-two, when they're raising and influencing those who will follow them.

Recently, Miss Representation sent me an e-mail about a new show by Amy Poehler (or Leslie from Parks and Recreation) called "Smart Girls at the Party," which celebrates "extraordinary individuals who are changing the world by being themselves." Check out this one with Ruby the feminist:
We just plain need more resources like this for young girls, because as I am watching my own young cousins grow up with eyes wide open, I'm anxious about what they're seeing:
-a world where they are only valued for their appearance
-a world that inflicts harsh standards of what is "beautiful"
-a world where musicians and artists and mathematicians are uncool, but sex objects are all the rage
-a world that continually tells them that being a woman means fitting into a box of "feminine" traits
-that being a woman is a handicap and a problem

But being a woman isn't limited to emotional PMS-driven rants, cooking, sensitivity, motherhood, being a size 6, and sitting quietly with your legs crossed. Being a woman is about being whatever you want to be. Whether that's loud or quiet, outgoing or introverted, athletic or artistic, funny or a good listener, bold or reserved.

I want to grant women the permission to be whatever they want to be.


Bryan said...

I like this mission...