“You catch more flies with honey,” my mom constantly scolded during my teenage years. I tried so hard to disregard this advice, yet it is forever etched into my thoughts.
Life Of A Rebellious Daughter
As a teen, I was caught between the pressures of “good girl” syndrome—the expectation to be the ever-obedient, well-behaved, and well-mannered daughter—and my burgeoning sense of morality and feminism. “Good girls” don’t break rules. They aren’t boisterous and loud, they don’t take up too much space, and they certainly don’t deviate from community expectations. Defying gender norms as a teen plagued my parents, relatives, and teachers alike. But it permanently strengthened my character, conviction, and confidence.
During my childhood years, I climbed trees. I played in the mud, built snowmen (and snowwomen!), and engaged in fierce snowball fights. As a teenage girl, this type of behavior became socially unacceptable. I was meant to find my exercise in places that were bastions of sanctioned female physical activity such as yoga, the elliptical, or an organized team of some sort.
“The world is your playground” mantra I championed as a young girl no longer seemed to bode well for me as a teen. Suddenly I was receiving unsolicited negative feedback about the state of my appearance while being physically active.
When I played pickup basketball during school, one particularly nasty guy would publicly make fun of how red my face turned by calling me “tomato.” The mud and grass stains on my clothing—my badges of honor for sliding into home and winning the kickball game—were met with ridicule and scorn. My reddened face and dirtied clothing were labeled “unattractive,” a description that teenage girls are supposed to avoid at all costs.
This Feminist Teen Rebelled For Her Ideals
A “good girl” must also be beautiful in the way society predominantly defines it—thin and devoid of body hair. I am not lacking in the department of body hair. (Why is it taboo to “admit” this? Isn’t body hair part of the human experience?) Many of my relatives frequently commented on the amount of hair on my face, specifically on my cheeks. They would point to that area and say, “You have to take care of that.”
After a brief stint of waxing my eyebrows in middle school, I decided to abandon this practice; why would I pay someone to pour hot wax on my face and quickly rip it off, causing severe pain and sometimes even ripping off my own skin? These relatives expressed disappointment in the fact that I hadn’t heeded their advice. It was as if my facial hair personally offended them.
I also struggled with the immense pressure from my relatives (and other sources) to diet and attain the end all be all of being thin. I eventually saw this pressure as another facet of the “good girl” syndrome, imposed to control female bodies, self-esteem, and lives.
Looking back, rebellion worked for me. At a young age, I learned to question the status quo. By fighting against gender norms as a teen feminist, I learned to think for myself and discovered my deep passion for gender equality.
Returning to my mom’s catchphrase, perhaps I would have caught more flies if I had confined my physical activity to yoga, waxed my face, and consistently dieted. But why waste time catching flies when you can live your own truth and chase your own dreams?