I grew up in a male-dominant household.
I have eight male cousins, an older brother, and a father that insist I tag along when they’re all together. They laid the foundation for most of my hobbies as a child, from playing with building blocks to first-person shooter-genre video games. I became a frequenter in basketball shooting machines at the arcades, even trying to act tough and challenge the arcade punch machines.
My father wanted a second son, though he didn’t get one. But in some ways, I was a second son to him.
He didn’t restrict me to traditional feminine activities, but encouraged me to stand up for myself and try different activities to find my strengths. When I began demonstrating an interest in reading and writing, he took me to bookstores on a weekly basis, even introducing me to his favorite books and giving me recommendations based off of his internet research.
By no means did I lack male role models growing up. The abundance of men in my family showed me a wide range of characteristics I could have taken on. However, I was shown that “being a man” was the main characteristic that got them where they are.
I was told that being a man means being assertive, dominant, confident, and logical. Just because those were the characteristics my role models had.
But I lacked female role models.
Whenever there are other females my age, my parents recognized them as competition and urged me to be better than them.
I saw my sole female cousin as competition, and she viewed me the same way. When we were growing up, everything was a race: who was accepted to the better high school, who had better grades, who was in student government, and even who was taller or prettier. This drove us apart from each other, and we haven’t spoke since we were 16.
I saw my friends as competitions even when I didn't want to. Whenever I brought up my friends’ successes, especially during the college acceptance season, my mother would often respond with a sigh and ask me, “Why can’t you be more like her?” I wanted to be like my friends—they have poise, intelligence, humor, and are incredibly kind—but whenever I heard that, it felt implied that I did not have any of those characteristics.
Sooner or later, I had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be like the other girls—I just didn’t want to devalue my own accomplishments in the process of comparison.
I wanted to be like other girls, but I wasn't like other girls—I was worse.
I desperately wanted to stand out and be different than the norm. I figured that if I strayed from the norm, there would be no way to devalidate my success as there would be no one to compare myself to. At some point, I realized I’d ultimately become a villain in my own game, seeing other women as competition and sometimes even invalidating others in my mind because of our differences. I was so wrapped up in the possibility of coming off as incompetent that I wasn’t seeing reality. Others’ successes often became a mental burden for me, causing me to be overstressed and focusing on being different more than my own triumphs.
If my thoughts were considered butter and my actions a knife, I was spreading myself thin on the bread of life. I was paying more attention to what others thought than my own reality.
I’d bought into society’s formulated response—when they see two successful women, they pit them against each other, forcing them to compete. It’s a behavior my own culture was responsible for as well. We were raised to be friends with each other, yet we all saw each other as competition, and we could only move up when one of us failed. The same idea applied to the sexist reality in which I’d grown up.
To all the girls before me, and to all the girls after me, your own success is reliant on yourself; other people’s actions shouldn’t impact how you feel. It took me the majority of my youth to understand that, but now, at age 19, I understand. We as a society must recognize the successes accomplished by females, and the overall community must become more supportive of young females who are shaping their minds.