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This is my entry for this week of LJ Idol, Season 9. Please check out the entries of my fellow competitors and consider joining the therealljidol community. This week's topic was "If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time."

As I waited poolside for my son's swimming lesson to begin, a swimming princess arrived. She wore a bright pink bathing suit with a tutu skirt, along with a pink and orange flowered bathing cap. Her toenails had been painted a matching pink, and sparkly pink studs glittered in her ears. Guess what color her goggles were?

Later that week, I watched my son at his soccer class. The antsy preschoolers bounced and chirruped as they waited their time to dribble. A long-haired petite girl -- currently the only one in the class, although a tall blonde girl used to stand next to my boy, placing her hand on his heart to feel it beat -- announced to the boys, "I'm a dragon."

"You're not a dragon; you're a princess," the boy with the buzz cut said. He had spent most of the practice kicking the marker cone, the wall -- more or less anything except the ball.

In a voice both tiny and confident, she responded, "No, I'm a dragon."

The swimming princess didn't need to be coddled, fearlessly swimming without a belt and jumping off a diving block on demand. The dragon girl, though pretending to be fierce, hung back shyly when asked to kick a ball away from an opponent.

Decades after the first "Ms." magazine hit the stands, can anyone still be amazed that girls are as diverse, complicated and -- let's say it, human -- as boys? Let me reclaim the wool pantsuit of feminism long enough to reassert an important truth: being equal means having the right to be any damn type of woman you want to be.

Pardon my language, but nothing gets me going quite like being reduced to my gender. When I say "reduced," I mean it exactly how it sounds, because nine times out of ten, bringing up a women's gender is an attempt to diminish her humanity, to define her in terms of what her gender supposedly "should" and "shouldn't" do.

Most men nowadays value their gonads enough not to engage in outright sexist behavior in mixed company, but that doesn't mean they won't tweak the women in their life with assumptions about feminine behavior: for example, uttering "Is it that time of the month?" when a woman shows a little human irritability. If, after all the time I've known you, you still find it necessary to remark on the fact that I'm female -- and oh, my god, I menstruate! -- you've never bothered to get to know me.

This is why I love geeks. Male or female, they tend to bond over common interests without regard to what naughty bits you possess. The guys tend to be fairly considerate about restraining themselves from ogling other women openly in front of female friends. This may not be the case if you're a female member of other male-dominated fandoms, like sports (but I'll defer to other woman who can speak more authoritatively about that). You can, however, easily find yourself relegated to "sister" status, so if you have your eyes on a male geek, my advice is to move early before it becomes too icky. Trust me: a male geek will almost never make the first move.

That's not to say there aren't gender issues within the geek community, as well. I've heard of female geeks being dismissed as "poseurs" simply because they like to wear lipstick and style their hair. After all, no self-respecting female geek gets so gussied up.

Hogwash. Or should I say "Hogworts"? We are talking about fandom, after all.

A female college friend and I used to joke that we were drag queens trapped in women's bodies. We liked guys, we agreed, but inside we felt more "male" than "female." Except that we did sometimes like to wear dresses.

Finally, I'd met someone who understood why, when I left the theater after seeing "Superman" as a young girl, I'd been so conflicted: part of me wanted to kiss Superman, while part of me wanted to BE him. I was so distracted I rode over a tree root on my bike and momentarily took flight. In my mind, I've never hit the ground.

Meeting up with another female college friend this past week, also a new mom in her 40s, I told her that '70s-era feminists got it wrong. They were so determined to reach workplace equality that they promoted the idea of the superwoman. Now, we're told that not only can we do anything, but we ought to try to do so. If you're a career woman in your '40s, you'd better either be a supermom or a jet-setting CEO (to make up for all the time you've saved from child rearing). If you're a stay-at-home mom, you should be eagerly making plans to return to a nine-to-five position as soon as the tykes are in school.

What about the fact that all of us are supposed to be able to do what we want to do? To be the women we were meant to be? Isn't that what the years of struggle were designed to achieve?

Honestly, if we really want to help today's swimming princesses and dragon girls, we should instill values of equality, empowerment and self-respect. But most of the time, I think we should just shut up and leave them alone.

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( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 30th, 2014 01:20 am (UTC)
Well said! I like the "wool pantsuit of feminism" line. :)
May. 30th, 2014 06:55 am (UTC)
Thank you! Every time I see a boxy women's suit, I think about reading my mom's "Ms." magazines when I was a teenager.

Nice icon!
May. 30th, 2014 02:02 pm (UTC)
*Hugs* for writing this..and writing is so casually like a conversation we'd have over a coffee...:)...Yes to most of what you say..and esp the superwoman Paragraph...Well written and Hats off!
May. 30th, 2014 11:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I just needed to get some stuff off my chest, I guess. :) And since Elizabeth Hawksworth suggested I tackle this topic, I let it all out.

(Sorry about all the editing!)

Edited at 2014-05-30 11:20 pm (UTC)
May. 31st, 2014 12:46 pm (UTC)
This is a very good post. Many of the things you have written, are things I've thought often. This post brings to mind the Harry Chapin song, "Little Girls". If you've not heard it you should do so. If you have, you will understand.
Dec. 9th, 2014 09:57 pm (UTC)
I did listen to it after you suggested it, and I can very much see how it relates.
May. 31st, 2014 05:20 pm (UTC)
Yes! Don't reduce us to our gender, respect us as people.

My experience with male geeks has been different from yours, unfortunately. A lot of the ones I've met are either dismissive, don't know how to act around girls, or immediately see us as being objects of romance/sex. Not all of them! But it was pervasive in college. Everyone knew girls who had been stalked. And all the tales of issues at cons, of groping and pig behavior... It's all really soured me on male geeks. :(
Dec. 9th, 2014 10:00 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear about that! I'm sure there are some guys like that in every group, regardless of what they claim to believe and practice.
Jun. 1st, 2014 03:31 am (UTC)
My daughter often says she is a gay man trapped in a woman's body! LOL
Dec. 9th, 2014 10:10 pm (UTC)
One of my best friends in college used to say the same thing!
Jun. 1st, 2014 07:07 pm (UTC)
A well written essay. I especially liked your observation that "we're told that not only can we do anything, but we ought to try to do so."
Dec. 9th, 2014 10:11 pm (UTC)
That's the part that's hardest as a modern Western woman, I think. If you choose either a career or being a stay-at-home mom, you're often regarded as being only half a woman.
Jun. 2nd, 2014 05:16 am (UTC)
I think that, male or female, we would all be happier if people would see us as we want to be seen rather than making assumptions based on our gender/race/age/etc. But we're still fighting that battle, somehow, all these years later.

Dec. 9th, 2014 10:25 pm (UTC)
So very true. I didn't include it in this piece, but I've already begun to worry about how those stereotypes about boys and men will affect KFP.
Jun. 2nd, 2014 04:35 pm (UTC)
I love that last line. I enjoyed reading this so much.
Dec. 9th, 2014 10:33 pm (UTC)
Aww, that's good to hear! Sorry it took me so long to respond.
Jun. 2nd, 2014 06:27 pm (UTC)
I'm with you on the "shut up and leave them alone."
Dec. 9th, 2014 10:34 pm (UTC)
It's really the best policy, I think, if you want to avoid trying to force people into roles that may not suit them.
Jun. 2nd, 2014 07:31 pm (UTC)
This is such a lovely, honest piece. I'm always a fan of your personal essays, and this one feels particularly meaningful.
Dec. 9th, 2014 10:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I think it's one of my best of the season so far. Sorry I took so long to respond.
Jun. 2nd, 2014 09:20 pm (UTC)
On behalf of women, and geeks, especially female geeks, and intelligent people everywhere, thank you for this. 84 million thumbs up.
Dec. 9th, 2014 10:36 pm (UTC)
Wow, that's a lot of thumbs! Thank you so much.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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