Complain. Do it Loud and Do it Often.

complaint box

complaint boxOne of the perks of the internet are the plethora of ideas – many of which are fascinating – so I wanted to share with you what really helped in shifting my perspective and sparked an internal dialogue:

1. i want you to complain more. here’s why by Kylie at Effervescence

“There’s a lot of complaining going on when people feel they shouldn’t be complaining. There’s a lot of complaining happening that goes unheard by its audience. There are a lot of stifled complaints, and halfhearted complaints to test what’s acceptable in a given venue.

There’s too much pushing away of the negativity. Not enough letting it be there, letting it breathe.”

When I started my 40 day ‘Get Back to Spirit’ project for Lent last month, I kept thinking of what I’d like to add to my self-made, and steadily growing project. On Twitter, one of my followers had announced that she would “not complain” for 40 days, choosing to focus only on the positive, and joyful side of things. Initially I hopped onto this bandwagon, thinking that this was a good spiritual move for me. But it didn’t resonate, and I rejected the notion completely after seeing another woman suggest that people not complain to avoid focusing on negativity.

I erupted on twitter, quickly jotting down my initial thoughts on why women in particular were so drawn to purposefully silencing themselves. To complain is to be heard, it’s about taking up space, being seen. When you complain, you’re letting people know how upset you are, and it’s about acting on those feelings because you know they’re legitimate.

I’m a fairly big complainer. Once me and a friend went to see the horrific Halloween remake by Rob Zombie. Not only was the movie a total waste of my existence, but a guy in front of me was on his cell for the entire film. Afterward, I went to customer service desk and complained about both the quality of the film, and the talkative patron. While my friend seemed sightly embarrassed, I got us free movie passes because of his disturbance.

While complaining can be healthy, you have to know when to do it and with whom. Many people are compulsive advice givers, so if you complain to one of these people, you’ll inevitably have someone offering you steps on what you should to do to correct your situation. Personally, I find this insufferable, and I’ve gotten to a place where I know exactly who I complain to (if I complain to anyone at all). Some compulsive advice givers are really vocal about this, telling people to stay away unless they want their two cents.

There are people, of course, who are addicted to complaining – the sympathetic ear, having people bounce back at you your own sense of righteousness (deserved or otherwise), feeling validated, understood and that your complaint is rational.  The type of people who, every time you talk to them, they’re complaining about something new, the same old or a combination of both. The types of people who get more fulfillment from complaining than actually doing anything about it.

So there’s a balance – you should definitely complain if you feel that your boundaries were crossed, if you felt as if you weren’t being respected, if you felt cheated in some way. Never, ever keep those sentiments to yourself because they’ll fester, and you’ll be pissed for not standing up to yourself. But you also need to know when your complaining is hypocritical (ie: fuming when your room mates don’t wash the dishes while you don’t wash yours) or when they infringe on someone else’s ability to live their life (ie: when your friends are always complaining about your clothes and expect you wear something they like).

Complaining is about acknowledging your own unhappiness or discomfort with an idea, a person or attitude. Never alone someone to silence you because they’re uncomfortable with our complaining. So complain. Do it loud and do it often. 

Being Ugly and the Power of Beauty

I’m an ugly girl. 

That’s right – I said it. The big “U” word. The word that people run away from, or try desperately to cover up with make-up, compliments and pseudo-self esteem. Call yourself ugly, and you’ll be under the barrage of:

1. Beauty is subjective! Isn’t it in the eye of the beholder anyway?!

2. Everyone’s beautiful! You’re beautiful!

3. *Lists a bunch of reasons why you can’t POSSIBLY be ugly*

4. Says you’re delusional/insane (re: being completely dismissive)

Part of this problem is that people tend to imagine in extremes. Ugliness is defined as horrific – like Hunchback of Notre-Dame type stuff – so if you don’t look like Quasimoto, then you can’t be ugly. This is irrational. NO ONE looks like Quasimoto, except for him, and few people would go around calling survivors of accidents with physical deformities as ugly. So basically, ugliness is reserved for fictional beings and monsters – which humans are not.

Granted – I understand it, really I do. With great beauty comes great power; to be called a model is probably one of the highest compliments a person can receive. Humans are so fixated on beauty that whole enterprises have been constructed in order to dismantle fabricated beauty (ie: Hollywood stars, magazine covers, etc) in exchange for “natural beauty” (ie: Lady Gaga’s Born This Way type stuff).

And I can understand the sentiment: everyone (well, most of you!) want power because power makes things easier. Money is power, but not everyone has money, but  nowadays anyone can be beautiful, right? I remember my friend, who is from Appalachian, telling me about how beauty pageants were one of the few ways to get out of their town.

So yes – I deeply understand the influence being beautiful has over people – even those who wish to bunk beauty standards. Not so that they can be ugly, but so that they can be beautiful in their own way.

This is all well and good but ignores the truth: not everyone is beautiful (and in some cases, don’t want to be!). I’m not a beautiful girl. Most people focus on my personality, and what’s going on in my mind, not so much my body.

Being ugly, and being willing to call myself that, is always tricky business. When you’re conditioned to believe that ugliness is bad and prettiness is good, well, most people will do anything to show you how “good” you really are. But here’s what I’m here to say: being ugly isn’t a death sentence, it doesn’t say anything about your character (any more than being pretty does) and it’s not mutually exclusive from being awesome. 

Yes – I am a ugly girl but so what? Why do I need to soothe myself with compliments in order to make myself feel better? Why is happiness so directly related to “feeling/being beautiful”? Why can’t I be ugly AND happy, successful, accomplished and unafraid? Why is ugly such a dirty, fucking word? 

Ugliness is a descriptor, like anything else. Being ugly doesn’t make me less than. It simply is. 

Even in the quest to “re-define beauty” why is beauty even a necessary part of the equation? Why force people into believing they’re beautiful? There is power in all things, including ugliness. Many people are terrified of being ugly, but if there’s power in exactly who you are, that includes being ugly too.

 

People are often quick to prove you’re beautiful, even if it’s just one feature.

Why do you think that is? Why can’t people be both ugly and happy?

This is definitely a discussion I want to have with as many people as possible. I really want to understand – why do you want to be pretty so bad? And why are you so quick to downplay people’s assertion of their own looks – which has NOTHING to do with you?

Preferences and Prejudice: Which Is It?

Is it classist to reject someone because they don’t have a job? 

Most of us know that it’s fairly racist to reject a potential partner based on race or on the color of their skin. Many self-identified feminists mourn the perceived standards being projected onto the female gender, and there is more than enough discussion about how people feel in regards to women having short hair or natural hair. (Unfortunately, I am not as well versed about the criterium projected onto same sex/alternative couples, so if you know any – feel free to list them in the comments for added discussion!).

A great deal of people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prove to others (and themselves) that we’re each unique individuals and aren’t required to abide by arbitrary beauty prerequisites.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the concept of beauty and whose opinion matters the most. When I was a Senior in high school, there was this guy, CJ, that I liked. He was a white boy; tall and rail-thin, and I remember chatting with him online. In my usual style, I told him I liked him and he responded with: I only date white girls.

Most people would respond with complete disgust over this – How dare he!? That’s so racist!  I lived in a racially diverse area where a myriad of people attended my high school, so you would think that most people would have a more “open” view of who they’d like to date. But -

My whole life, I’ve never really been attractive enough for anybody:

1. my skin wasn’t clear enough

2. my breasts were too small

3. I wasn’t perky enough, hood enough, outgoing enough… the list continues

Of course, our choices aren’t made in a vacuum. Do many white people reject black partners out of some racist agenda? If we had a more egalitarian media (since television and cinema influences many people’s understanding of relationships and who they’re attracted to) – would more people be interested in dating outside of their race, economic class, sex, (etc)?

Many women (and perhaps men too) spend a lot of time looking at how they’re not represented in the media, and how this somehow suggests they’re not attractive by conventional standards. I’m not exempt from this; I spent a few minutes on Twitter yesterday lamenting how small breasts are rarely touted as being signifiers of attractiveness. Essentially, large breasts are considered more “womanly” and “feminine” than having a “boyish figure”.

This is a complex problem: on one hand, the world is giant mirror, reflecting back to us what we believe about ourselves and the world at large. On the other hand, I see this as a type of Second-Hander rhetoric – where I long for other people to give me validation about myself in some capacity. It’s almost like I don’t exist until someone else decides I exist. All of this pertains to self-esteem, and the value being placed in one’s own ideas and opinions.

I don’t want to be a Second-Hander, and have other people’s prejudices and preferences dictate Who I Am.

 

What About You? What are some of your preferences or prejudcies? 

As anyone said you weren’t enough because of the way you look?

#YesGayYA – LGBT Novels

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loathed YA. At least since high school, which tends to be the demographic for Young Adult. I loathed the lack of black characters, and how all the characters seemed to be clones of each other in some way, shape or form. There just didn’t seem to be a lot of diversity – in any respect – and generally, YA had become the bane of my literary existence. With one exception (the Uglies trilogy) – I avoided YA with fervor.

In addition to my YA ban, I’d also renounced a lot of reading in general because of the lack of POC and LGBT characters specifically, since these are things I look for. So for several months, I read only non-fiction, but it’s not as satisfactory as a good science fiction or fantasy novel! While I go back and forth with my dislike for YA with the fact that in general, many mainstream novels lack any kind of decent representation.

Recently, someone linked me to Malinda Lo, a lesbian YA writer, who has two books out with lesbian lead characters. Ms. Lo wrote a post detailing the amount of LGBT books being published each year, and thanks to some links on twitter, I came across an extensive list of LGBT YA books available. Some of the books have LGBT leads, while others have LGBT supporting characters. Additionally, much like my previous post on POC authors, there’s a list of books with POC characters too.

Thanks to the wide world of blogging, there are sites dedicated to exploring diversity in books and being aware that we need to bring more attention to books written by POC.

There’s no telling how difficult or easy trying to get your book published might be. Often times, it seems, a book’s success demands on a mixture of marketing and pure luck. Who would’ve guessed that Harry Potter would’ve become as popular as it did – though it took awhile before it finally took off. I remember being in the minority when HP originally came out, and it wasn’t for several years until I met other HP fans. So I would hate for anyone who is interested in publishing a book with LGBT/POC characters to feel dissuaded.

Often times, representation is difficult to come by. Our experiences regarding our race, gender, sexuality, class (etc) colors our perceptions of the world, and often times in many niche environments (ie: blogging) certain types of people are going to be drawn to that place. It can be hard to create diversity when your experience is both knowingly and unknowingly excluding other types of people and their experiences. Books are definitely no exception to this – and more work definitely needs to be more inclusive.

What kind of representation would you like to see more of? Not just in books but in movies, comics – any kind of media you consume on a daily basis (including blogs!).

As a side note, I’ve entered into a giveaway with a chance to win an ipad 2! I’ll link to it here, in case you’re interested in winning one as well. The contest ends September 30th and by October 2nd, you’ll find out who won! LAMFinances – giveaway

Why I Don’t Support Polyamory

While watching The Office, I found myself disgusted by the overt displays of jealousy and insecurity between the Karen, Jim and Pam triangle. At times Karen was overtly rude and tried to police both Jim and Pam’s feelings in order to create her own comfort level. She tried (and failed) to control the situation. This also happened when Roy attempted to attack Jim (out of a sense of possession) and was often overtly aggressive toward Jim because of his attraction to Pam.

Some people might suggest that this is a pretty typical – albeit unhealthy – response to perceived infidelity. Neither

Flickr credit to: Igsinden

characters physically cheated on their partners and Pam insisted on staying with Roy despite their stark incompatibilities.

Granted, The Office is a fictitious example, but I would say that these relationships aren’t too far removed from the reality that they’re based on. According to this article published at Madame Noire, “Is Monogamy Really Possible?”, it suggests that because over 50% of both men and women admit to cheating; does that mean monogamy isn’t a viable option? Should more people begin to explore polyamory to curb cheating?

This implies that cheating is primarily sexual, not emotional or mental, which plays down the severity of a cheating spouse. For me, cheating is a sign of great personal weakness. It means you know so little about yourself that you are unable (or unwilling) to address issues of unhappiness. In Atlas Shrugged, Hank Rearden cheated on his wife for two years with Dagny for very similar reasons. He was attracted to Dagny, but he didn’t completely understand why. He was no longer attracted to his wife, but he didn’t completely understand why.

He divorced his wife when he realized what it was about their marriage (and her) that he had grown to dislike.

The very act of cheating (or wanting to cheat) is about escaping reality, not wanting to admit what’s wrong. I firmly believe that if more people had deeper self-introspective skills, cheating would be less of an occurrence. You would know immediately when and why a relationship ceased to be valuable to you, and you could come up with solutions. But by cheating, you’re admitting to yourself and the world that you’re too afraid of confronting any inner, personal truths.

Cheating is a personal choice, not en evolutionary one. 

Some might herald polyamory as preferable because the atmosphere creates one of open communication – which monogamous couples notoriously lack. But I sincerely believe that the perceived emotional perks of polyamory are achievable in monogamous relationships. Honesty, trust, communication – there is a reason why some people have been happily married for decades. 

So, what happens when you’re faced with a healthy, and fully functioning relationship? Do you pursue this with just one person or multiple people?

And there – we have the element of choice.

Here are some other blog posts that discuss this:

1. Eat the Damn Cake – “Fidelity – how big of a deal should it be?”

 

2. The Lion’s Historian – “a letter to the monogamous masses”

3. Arielle Loren – “Double gender standards: polyamory vs polygamy”

What about you? What you do believe in terms of polyamory, cheating, monogamy?

 

 

 

Stopping Street Harassment

I was probably 16, I remember because I was living in Long Island at the time.

Whenever I would go out, the Mexicans in their vans full of grass clippings would honk and holler at me. I remember not really understanding why. I told a friend about it – she said it happened to her too and I was shocked because she didn’t seem the type guys would cat-call over. Though, of course, neither was I.

For years, I ignored it because I had no idea what was going on or why. I assumed mindless things – like the fact that I’m black or walking down the street – induced the honking.

Flickr credit to: womenspeakproject

Though it continued to happen and perplex me, I had no words to really describe what I was experiencing. Until I was perusing on twitter and discovered it: street harassment. Where women are sexually harassed on a near daily basis but as I started hearing about other women’s stories, I realized that it was much worse than just honking.

Women on twitter talked endlessly about their dangerous situations. Many women commented on being followed by men, cornered (even in public spaces), or being touched. Some of these men – if not most of them – continued to make lewd comments at the women as they walked down the street. It’s difficult for me to really paint a picture of what these women experienced because I have never had those types of encounters. Perhaps it’s pure luck that no one ever threatened me with violence for rejecting them. Threatened to kill, rape or maim me because I said no.

There are some posts I have found through reading other’s blogs: “The Time I felt I couldn’t Hollaback” by Abigail Ekue at Random Musings and “Long Walk: Street Harassment” by The Feminist Griote.

Unfortunately, I can’t really expand much on the discussion – I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable about street harassment as other women, nor have I experienced it outside of leering and rude comments made to me as men walked by. It’s a product of patriarchy, where even in public spaces women have no rights. Where we’re objectified and told that we need to do specific things to curtail this behavior, that it’s our responsibility to control men. It’s part of sexism that says that men are wild beasts who lack impulse control, and it’s other women who reinforce this mentality.

But there’s a great blog managed by Holly Kearl. You can read even more stories from women, who experience this world wide phenomenon.

If you’re a woman, have you ever experienced street (sexual) harassment? If you’re a guy, have you ever told someone to leave that woman alone? Why or why not?

Stopping street harassment requires the participation of both men and women. Find out what you can do. 

Aunt Flow and Body Awareness

I’m hanging out in the main lobby. It’s loud because that’s where everyone gathers. I’m doubled over, trying to figure out what I want to do. Classes haven’t even begun and my body is already pissed at me. Should I brave through it? I’m reminded of the day I got all the way to 5th period before heading home. Fuck it! I’m going home.

Flickr credit to: urszulakk

There was this time when I had to take the bus back home since my mother was at work. I tried deep breathing exercises, anxiously waiting. Already I imagined myself lounging under a steady stream of boiling hot water. I couldn’t wait for the release that only a two hour shower could give.

It was just after my fifteenth birthday party. I’m wandering around the halls, bent over and knowing that I’ve already ruined my new suede birthday outfit. When my mother takes me back home, I spend what feels like an eternity with a pillow pressed against my stomach, rocking back and forth. Sleep seems to evade me as I struggle to force myself into a REM cycle. Sleep is my only other release.

When I was sixteen, we finally went to the gynecologist. He tells me that because I’m skinny, my hormones don’t stabilize, which is why the cramps are so bad. I want to punch him in the face as my mother begins to recite it like gospel. “Gain weight,” she tells me. “That’s what the doctor said.” Even though I’m tired of my weight being used against me, I do notice some minute changes as my weight increases. The cramps aren’t as debilitating. I can actually eat something, and not spend all day in bed. But it doesn’t last.

College is easier – with no one to monitor how much water I’m using, I gladly take several showers throughout the day, followed by long naps. The pain comes and goes. Sometimes I get lucky and don’t need to miss class. Other times, I try to convince myself that physical health is more important than a lecture. Fortunately, I didn’t have to make this decision too frequently. Life got even better when I had no room mate. I spent all day sleeping, or just sprawled out in my robe, anxiously awaiting another shower. Normally two showers did it, but sometimes I’d need the extra one.

I stiffen when a friend of mine complains about the pain, saying that women should just suck it up. She either has the tolerance of a Greek demi-god or doesn’t know what it’s like to be in pain. I keep quiet unsure of how to express the reality of how some periods can be. I regretted this.

During the fall of my 22nd year of life, I head to the doctor’s again. This time in an attempt to complete a medical form so that I may teach abroad. I explain to her about my periods; I want to know, is it really a weight thing? She tells me it might be endometriosis: an illness that afflicts 10-15% of women. YES FINALLY! She gives me Depo, an attempt to stop my periods. I’m excited. A life without chronic menstrual pain? Sign me up!

But many, many months have passed since then and I’m no longer period free. My periods are unpredictable, and I haven’t really made much of an effort to track them. I strive for more body awareness, yet don’t know how. And at times, not sure if I want to.

 

What about you? Is there anything in your life that brings you chronic pain and you haven’t found a way to get rid of it yet?

Ayn Rand and the Fight Against Beauty Ideals

Stop blaming society and the media for your low self-esteem dammit.

I love Ayn Rand because she speaks at length about self-esteem. The characters in her books are under constant assault; having their choices second guessed and being belittled because of their differences. Any other person may have crumbled under the scrutiny that Howard Roark and Dagny Taggart faced, but Rand’s characters have something that few people in real life do: a self sufficient ego.

Her characters are self-assuared in their decisions, and how they go through life. In The Fountainhead, many of the female characters didn’t find Howard attractive. Something about his overall demeanor repulsed women. Yet he doesn’t cry himself to sleep over it. In fact, he seems to pay very little attention to other’s opinions about him.

This is the approach I take in regards to women, media and self-esteem.

Who is to blame for your low self-esteem and self-hating beliefs?

You.

By resting all of the blame on an abstract entity like “society”, you become prey to the Victim archetype. It’s societiy’s fault that I am miserable and society will pay for this infraction! 

But -that’s a half truth. The full truth is that you allow these messages into your subconscious. You accept these illusions and fantasies as reality, instead of acknowledging them for what they are. Falsehoods.

But instead of re-directing the attention inward, and re-shifting the focus, the obsession is directed even more powerfully to destroying the illusion. The things we see daily are merely projections- our own thoughts, feelings and ideas for others to consume. The magazines and billboard ads are projections of the world their creators live in.

We live in a world where oppression, violence and privilege run rampant. Many of the individuals who enforce these illusions are products of this: white males who hold sexist ideas. Women who buy into patriarchy while becoming female chauvinist pigs.

Magazine covers, billboard ads, commercials – all of these are a reflection of deeply held beliefs in our culture. By attempting to destroy these images, you’re attempting to force these illusions to change their opinions about you instead of simply re-adjusting your opinion about the illusion.

For example: whenever I see a magazine cover I dislike, I simply ignore it. I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about it, or buy it to show to my friends so we can complain about it together. When conversations come up about body bashing, I don’t participate or give in to their self-destruction. I keep a reminder that the people in TV aren’t reflections of who I am or what I believe. And that I will only support media that aligns to my own personal belief system about myself and the world.

 

So instead of trying to fight an enemy that has no name, why not take it upon yourself to be more like Randian characters; self-sufficient ego bearers. Rejecting fantasies – not through dismantlement, but by shifting our own individual relationship to ourselves. For as long as women, men and children continue to have low self-esteem (an ideology that is passed down from generation to generation), nothing will abate the insatiable thirst for self-hatred.

You must take your battle within, first by looking in the mirror. And so the image in the mirror will change.

The battle for self-esteem can only be won within, not outside of ourselves.

It starts here – with you. 

 

What about you? What personal opinions and ideas would you need to change to make yourself less susceptible to external pressure to look a specific way?

Try to Learn – Despite Your Ignorance.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the discussion of privilege and social justice. How do we aim for more awareness

Flickr credit to: Anton Khoff

in a country that chooses not to be? Admittedly, it can be and is rather frustrating to meet people who don’t know that racism still exists or feel that women have earned sexual assault. When you turn on the news, or read a new headline online – all the oppression is maddening. So the people who had dedicated a great deal of time – if not their lives – to combatting ignorance are justifiably angry. Or just plain frustrated.

To a certain extent you would think more people would be on board, that more people would just know so that we can move forward.

But not everyone knows.

There’s a lot in life that many people – myself included – will never experience. For much of my existence, I didn’t know about child abuse or its survivors until I made a friend who helped enlighten me. I have learned that 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before she turns 18. How more than 60% of pregnant teens are sexually abused as children. That 90% of abuse toward children is committed by people the child knows (relatives, family friends, etc).

With over 39 millions survivors of sexual abuse living in America, this should be something that people should be enraged about, ready to fight against. And yet – nothing. I would say that victims and survivors of child abuse are one of the most silenced, and marginalized members of our society.

But I can’t forget that I became aware of child abuse through friends and memoirs I have read. I can’t forget that I became aware of how pervasive rape is by attending Take Back The Night at my all-women’s college. I realized how powerful fat shaming had become by reading stories of women who were severely neglected by hospital doctors.

We learn by asking questions, by trying to understand where each person comes from. 1 in 3 women in the United States is raped, but that number might not mean anything to you until you’ve met the survivors, until you realize the extent that women suffer at the hands of a callous judicial system –  15 of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail.

And while all the statistics I listed here are readily available to you on the web, how many people would go out of their way to research it? Many men and women dedicate their time and energy to education, fundraising and volunteering to help spread awareness and yet many people remain ignorant. Disinterested. Or worse – indifferent.

Ignorance is much like a sleeping virus – you don’t know you have it until something triggers it. Then, you are bombarded with all this new information and an eagerness to learn.

And at this juncture we have a problem. The crossroads of where knowledge and experience meet YOU. You don’t know that you don’t know, so you ask questions. Maybe you’ll face rejection or insult. People saying that privilege has made you ignorant, and that you need to educate yourself. And yet here you are – attempting to educate yourself.

In a world where people continue to suffer daily at the hands of oppression, disinterest and hate – lack of knowledge is unacceptable. And yet there is it. In a world where numbers mean nothing until it personally affects us, the urgency for compassion can’t be ignored.

The need for both compassion and patience for those who “know not what they do (or say)” is overwhelming. We literally can’t have discussions with just ourselves or the people who support us – that is not progress. Even though it can be (and at times is) painful to talk to people who have no idea the kind of suffering many endure, to completely shut down is detrimental.

Some people are angry and belligerent – putting their ignorance on full blast. Some people are unassuming and timid in their ignorance. But no matter what – we must come from a place of compassion. If not for them – then for ourselves. Anger will stall the debate, and impatience will turn away those honestly seeking to learn.

I think it’s time to stop holding people’s ignorance against them. 

 

“To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.”

Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881)

Maturity is a Cultural Mirage

Flickr credit to: Calvin Z.

Girls are not innately maturer than boys. In fact, maturity is a social construct based on the premises of sexism and gender expression.

Maturity is little more than gender expression. 

I have only met a small handful of people who don’t believe in the concept of maturity. Most people, especially women, live by the idea that boys simply don’t mature at the same rate that girls do. But, I’m here to tell you that that’s not the case. Girls are forced to mature faster than boys because of sexist behavioral expectations. Such as:

1. “Boys will be boys”

2. “[Boys] sowing their wild oats”

As children, boys are both expected and allowed to behave as children for longer periods of time. Boys aren’t necessarily encouraged to “grow up” as a monolith, and there isn’t much backlash over men who still act like boys. The mental picture of a boy is one that is free.

The mental picture of a girl is one that is responsible. Girls are granted sexual power at an early age, while being held responsible for the actions of others. The act of becoming a woman is fraught with confinement: women aren’t encouraged to go out at night (especially alone – and God forbid to a club), a woman who travels alone is seen as being in perpetual danger, a woman who chooses to be single is seen as incomplete, a woman who doesn’t want children is seen as selfish and in denial, a woman who drinks too much is “asking for it”. Women bear the burden of the world – and this problem is exacerbated when confronted with racial privileges as well.

Because of systemic oppression and sexism, girls are forced to deal with the reality of their femaleness at an earlier age, and have to learn to steel themselves against things like street harassment, work sexual harassment and the constant accusations that being girl should be punishable by law.

When I was younger, my mother told me that I’d have to work harder than others because of my being a girl and black. The internalized inferiority complex some women have compels them to mature faster, to make up what they’re told they are lacking.

Meanwhile, men don’t have the same incentive to mature. Sexism and gender expression has allowed boys the freedom to do what they want for a longer period of time (if not their whole lives). While girls experience a confinement that starts so early, it would appear that girls mature faster.

People often look to psychology and neuroscience to create and establish psychological differences between boys and girls. People are hungry for research that debunks cultural influence, and instead points out that maybe humans are born a certain way. That girls, as part of the human race, DO mature faster. But this is ignoring the cultural context in which this “maturity” is taking place. This research is ignoring in what ways boys are treated differently from girls, and how people have subliminal and overt expectations for girls.

There’s no such thing as maturity – it’s just an expression that has embraced sexist mentalities and biased gender expressions.