Yesterday morning, as I was walking to Gan Sacher with the little bag of potatoes I’m currently babysitting, I passed by a couple of girls who were probably no older than 13 or 14.
I quickly found myself with a flood of not so fond comments going through my mind about the girls’ appearance. My inner child’s retaliation was so immediate it was virtually simultaneous. This is a rough reenactment of how the inner-dialogue played out:
Mind: “Back in the day, we used to have 15 year old girls looking like they’re 20. Now we have 13 year olds looking like they’re 50.”
Inner Child: “You wished you would look that good at 50. Don’t forget, you’re only 20 years away.”
Mind: “Seriously, what’s with the high-rise pants? And what’s with that bun protruding literally from her forehead? And what’s with the fishtank glasses? And all that makeup? And–”
Inner Child: “They could say the same thing about your hair and your clothes. Don’t forget that either.”
Mind: “Yeah but I mean–”
Inner Child: “What you mean is irrelevant. What I mean is what’s important. You need to focus on girl-love, embrace it, adopt it until it comes naturally.”
And that was my problem. Automatic girl-love and appreciation may not come to me as naturally as I would like it to. As naturally as it should, as it was meant to be since my conception. I tried to come up with a few things to keep in mind while walking on the street and coming face-to-face with girls and women of any kind.
1) Identification: Regardless of appearance, race, culture, color, religion, sexuality or nationality, acknowledge that you can identify with any girl on several levels. Rape, abuse, disdain, ridicule, humiliation or psychological trauma of any kind come with the territory of being a girl. Therefore, they may have had the same experiences as you did with family, peers, elders, authority figures, random acquaintances or strangers. Identification breeds sympathy, empathy and understanding.
2) Put yourself in their shoes: Don’t become like the other adults you’ve come across who seemed to have completely forgotten that they, too, were once teenagers. Teens experience more pressure in a highly segregated school system. The schools in Israel separate native Israelis from new immigrants, religious from secular, girls from boys, sometimes even Ashkenazi Jews from Sephardi Jews. This is besides the fact that many schools, if not all, have their own inner segregation, created and perpetrated by the students themselves – popular kids, Arsim, freaks, geeks, cling-ons, loners, etc. Girls, in such an environment experience even more peer pressure and a higher need to fit in. The adolescent girls you see on the street are still in the process of developing a sense of self and a stable identity that will shape who they become as adults, which is an extremely stressful and confusing stage, just as it was for you and for any other girl.
3) Look at yourself first: Acknowledge that what is good or nice for you may not be for them. Just like you still love your friends even though they don’t think the way you do, and they still love you despite your (many) shortcomings, these girls are worthy of it, too.
4) Social ramifications: Examine the adverse effects that girl-hate or jealousy has on the society at large. The key to breaking the internalized image of the perfect woman forced on us by a patriarchal society is to replace it with girl-love. Accept that every woman is different, and every woman is beautiful, and girl-love will eventually be internalized.
On the other hand, despite all these tips, I can’t just deny my feelings that automatically surface when other girls are around me. But just like anything else, acknowledging these feelings and recognizing them for what they are – a ploy by my patriarchically-socialized mind to turn me against my fellow sisters – is the first step towards fixing it.
I know that when I see a girl who looks more like me – full of piercings, tattoos, rebel written all over her – I have no problem smiling at her or saying hi. And I can’t help being in absolute awe when I see Israeli army girls.
So maybe next time I see a girl that my mind feels like bashing, I should listen to “Rebel Girl” on my iPod, or picture her in a uniform that she will eventually wear when she will serve her mandatory service, and see that she, too, has the rebel spark within. And maybe I’ll even manage to smile at her.
Peace, love and girl-love.