Reading My Reflections

Reading My Reflections
When I was in fourth grade, my music teacher asked for volunteers to help move folding tables. Of the eight people who raised their hands, I was the only girl. Of the seven people that she chose, I was not one. My nine-year-old world was flipped upside-down by this incident. I was absolutely irate. For the rest of the forty-five minute class, I sat in silence, fuming over the injustice of society. What automatically made a boy stronger than me?

In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft was irate at the notion that men were automatically considered intellectually superior to women. In truth, she was irate at the notion that women were incapable of being intellectual, period. In her essay, "A Vindication of the Rights of Women," she ran down the entire list of the injustices done to women during her time. The list was long and largely accredited to the uneducated lives women led. At a time when the question of whether or not to educate women was very controversial, Wollstonecraft asked,
"Consider…whether, when men contend for their freedom, and to be allowed to judge for themselves respecting their own happiness, it be not inconsistent and unjust to subjugate women, even though you firmly believe that you are acting in the manner best calculated to promote their happiness? Who made man the exclusive judge…?"(Primis, 10)
Women were not given the opportunity to decide for themselves, much less decide that they wanted to be educated. Women were expected to trust that the men were truly acting in the best interest of women when deciding upon their education. They were expected to trust men who did not know how it felt to be the lowest on the food chain. They were not autonomous human beings.

I know how Wollstonecraft felt. I knew how she felt when I was nine and discriminated against merely, and quite obviously, because I was a girl. I had to accept that someone- someone who did not know my capacities as a human being- was deciding what was "in my best interest." What made a man so much greater than a woman that he should carry all the heavy things and she all the light things? What made a man so much greater than a woman that he should be able to study the great philosophical theories and she study only the knitting and cooking? And what could possibly make society- men! - think that, in keeping women from being students and workers, they were doing us a service?

As I sat there in my little plastic chair, listening to my classmates complacently playing their recorders and tambourines, I would have liked to have been Sojourner Truth. I would have liked to have been a six-foot Amazon woman, standing up in front of my classmates and asking, "Aren\'t I a woman?" I would have liked to have lifted a folding table by myself and then turned around, shouting, "And aren\'t I a woman?!" I would have loved to have stood up as a leader for the other girls my age and shown them that they didn\'t have to take ballet lessons and braid their hair and stay out of the mud. I would have loved to have shown them that they could climb trees and run around and wear baseball caps and get dirty. I would have liked to have shown them that the boys didn\'t have to be the only ones moving tables and playing kickball and getting dirty. I wanted to stand up for the injuries done to my young female at the age of nine. I wanted to stand up against all the stereotypes that grown adults should have known better than to buy into. I would have looked at my music teacher and said, "You are a woman. You should know better than to believe this as true. You should know better than to participate in discriminating against women."

What made it so difficult for me to accept the "sheer cruelty" of my fourth-grade music teacher was that I had never before encountered gender discrimination. The values my parents taught me at a very young age were progressive and open. The combination of the lifestyles they led and the values I learned made it difficult