#WARNING FEMINIST CONTENT (or at least what I deem to be feminist)
Ok, you may proceed
Auguri e figli maschi is a typical italian expression used to congratulate young (or less young) married couples the moment they step out of the church/city hall/wedding venue, and it literally translates to “congratulations and may you have sons”, but it also implies wishing the couple not to have many daughters. This is because in the past, just like for many other cultures, a son could become another breadwinner in the family along with the father, and when the father died he could carry on the family name and take care of the women “left behind”; while the most a daughter could do was to assist her mother until she was old enough to get married, and even giving her away was a bittersweet moment for her parents, because although they wouldn’t have to feed her anymore, they still had to give her a small dowry. These are no longer problems italian families face, the Country shifted from an agricultural one to an industrial one to what should be a Country that relies on tourism as its primary source of income (and yet Ercolano and Pompei keep being neglected), but auguri e figli maschi is still widely used.
When I was a child, I did not like that. Whenever I was invited to a wedding and would hear that sentence I would add “and daughters” under my breath, because daughters are just as awesome as sons, right? Can I get a hell yeah? Hell yeah. And I still think that, absolutely, but I have come to realize that maybe, maybe having a son could actually be better than having a daughter. I mean, raising a child seems like a terrifying amount of responsibilities and worries to me no matter if it’s a baby or a baby girl, but as a future woman (?) I can’t help but to think that there are some more problems girls in my Country usually face and boys usually don’t (and no, I am not talking about buying pads and tampons, although they can be very pricey)
reminder: I am talking about my experience in Italy, these are my thoughts, not the universal truth.
1) It is a man’s world, not a woman’s: It is, trust me. And by saying this I mean that the default human being is male. Draw a stick figure of a person and if you don’t add a skirt or a bow, it will be a male in your head. Most possibly, at least. Even the words we use to describe humanity as a whole are mankind or just man. Wouldn’t I know? In my mother tongue when you speak about a group of people of both sexes is not they, it is something like hims. Mind you, I am not saying that this should change, nor I care if it will ever change, I just want to point out that this is the reality of our minds, your mind, my mind, almost everyone’s mind. And I am not ashamed to say when I hear “doctor” I always think about a male doctor, I just want it to be acknowledged. Because only by admitting that most of the time we identify people with men can we go on to the next problem.
2) Representation: The reason why I usually think about a male doctor and not a female one is that because I probably saw more male doctors than female ones. Not in real life, in fact I know more female doctors than male, but in the media. When I first heard about the Bechdel test I was like, what is this? And then I started trying it an a whole new world opened up in front of me. This is a test you can apply to any movie or tv series episode, and to pass it there are only three requirements: 1) The movie must have more than one female character, better if named 2) Two of these female characters have to talk to each other at least once (some say for more than 15 seconds but I think at least once is enough) 3) They have to talk about something other than a man, but I would specify something other than a male love interest, because while we are at it we should remember men still exist (thank god!) so I think it’s better to be clear that the problem is not talking about a man per se but rather making being in love with a man the only matter discussed between women. Well, you will discover that many famous movies don’t pass the test, especially adventure movies and romantic comedies targeted to women. To be fair, some (fewer) movies don’t or barely pass a reverse Bechtel test: for example in Maleficient two male named characters refer to Maleficient in both their conversations while one of them is romantically (?) involved with her, although his being in love with her is debatable, and if you consider unnamed male characters too, the movie passes the test. But the point is, movies that don’t pass the test give a distorted image of the world, and this can be harmful especially to young people of both sexes: are men really always expected to be the heroes at the end? Can women ever rely on their female friends for something other than relationship advice? Yes they can, and we know they can because in the real world we experience it, yet it is undeniable that we all look for representation in the media, especially children (when I was little I hated my fringe and bob cut because no princess had that hairstyle) but really, anyone likes to see someone similar to them going through similar struggles and to be able to identify with them, but how can you portray a variety of situations if you only have a limited number of characters playing it out?
(P.S Movies that don’t pass the test are not necessarily bad or sexist, they just don’t show enough women/ they don’t show women according to reality)
3) Periods and not being taken seriously about things because of them
Yes, my friends, some women tend to get nervous and overly emotional before that time of the months (and even during), I know, I am one of them, BUT that doesn’t mean that when we get angry about something it’s just because of circulating hormones or that the reason why we got angry is less serious if it’s found that we have PMS. This “are you on your period?” trick is pulled both by men and women and I always find it equally annoying. Pretty feminist, uh?
4) The Nun-Slut problem
This really confuses me in real life and I don’t think I can explain it very clearly, but I wanted to put it out there anyway because it’s one of the things that bothered me the most in the past few years. The problem basically is that while it is generally thought that a boy is cool if he sleeps with many girls and uncool if he doesn’t (I sure don’t agree and in my opinion I think this puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on boys to lose their virginity), for a girl it’s a little bit more complicated, because if she doesn’t have sex she is either labeled as a prude nun or as the kind of girl whom in Italian we would call “una che se la tira”- which is to say an extremely stuck up girl- but if she does have sex, especially if she is known to have had more than one partner, she is a slut. The perfect balance would be reached when the girl finally loses her virginity to her boyfriend and simply stays with him for a good while, but in reality the only way to get out of it is to woman up [cit. GoGo Tomago] and understand that when it comes to your intimate life you should only do what makes you feel comfortable, which is why I believe most of girls who suffer from this are teenagers who still kind of have to find themselves. But hey, a little help from society would be appreciated. Also, sometimes having or not having sex is not even taken into consideration, it is enough for a girl to “friendzone” a guy (since when people are attracted to every single person whoo is nice towards them?) to be a nun or stuck up, and for a girl to wear revealing clothes to be labeled as a slut.
5) Being scared of getting raped
Men get raped too, and it should be right to warn your sons about rapists, consent etc. but please don’t do it as it has been done with girls so far. When you are a girl, you are taught that you are in danger around male strangers because they might take you somewhere dark and rape you, you are taught that the chances of it happening increase if you are wearing a skirt, shorts or anything that might be appealing, and that going out alone basically means you want to be sexually harassed. yes, maybe you will, but there are some problems in this method of teaching people about rape: first of all, rape can happen (and sadly does, a lot) at home, in a relationship and between friends; second, even old ladies get raped so I don’t really think the length of your skirt will make any difference; lastly, it is not safe for anyone to go out in “bad neighborhoods” at night, but it’s still not your responsibility if something happens. To teach kids about rape means to teach them about consent and respect before anything else, because we don’t need a world with more pepper spray and long trousers, but rather a world with less rapists.
This for sure does happen more often when wearing revealing clothes…or does it? because I still remember the first time I have ever been catcalled, I was eleven and I was taking out the trash wearing a t-shirt and baggy sweatpants when a bunch of twenty-something years old started calling me honey and asked me to stop and smile for them. Was that a compliment? Should I have stopped and smiled, maybe even thanked them? Anybody in the right mind would say no, because actually everyone knows the difference between complimenting and catcalling, even those who say “you should learn how to take a compliment” when you complain about not being able to walk down the street without being dragged from what is your daily routine to a sexual and potentially dangerous situation because who know what could happen if I smiled to them, would a smile mean I am available? And what’s next?
7) “Like a girl” means weak.
It would be enough for me to write Malala Yousafzai, -the girl who took a bullet to fight for her right to learn- to make my point, but I promised I would only talk about the situation in Italy so…have you ever thought about the fact that every time we use “girly” to describe something lame not only we are defining half of the human beings on this planet lame as well, but we are banishing the other half from doing anything typically considered feminine? Because if lame=girly then girly=lame, and this is limitating to say the least for everyone who lives in the kind of society that perpetrates this equation. Look at your mothers, sisters, daughters, look at yourself, are they weak? Are you easily scared? Would you say they are lesser human beings than your brothers and fathers? No. Then let’s eliminate once for all “like a girl” from our vocabulary. I propose we say “like a cracked boiled egg” instead. Or we could, like, not make fun of people for not being good at something. Hey, look at Alex trying his best to run the marathon even if he is sweaty as hell.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAH this post was a labour, I apologize for the bad grammar in advance, it took me hours to write and I was too tired to check it properly. But thanks for reading!