From the moment we are born, girls are taught to identify themselves through boys. Disney movies indoctrinate us with the idea that all of life’s problems will be solved by simply finding a prince. A prince will make the wicked witch disappear forever and save you from a life of toil and misery. A prince will give you purpose. No princess can stay alone. Disney movies always end with a wedding, Cinderella riding off in a carriage. When I was four, all I wanted was to be taken away in a carriage, driven by a prince who thought that I was the most beautiful girl in the world. After that, my life goal would be complete. After all, your life isn’t truly successful until you get married.
In sixth grade, my teacher announced to the class that the girls at my school looked like streetwalkers for walking around in tank tops. A twelve-year-old’s shoulder was dangerous. What would boys do if they saw your shoulder or thigh? It wasn’t appropriate. In the springtime, we all had a constant fear of being “shorted.” If a teacher deemed that your thirteen-year-old legs were too sexy, you would be forced to change into your ugly, red gym shorts for the rest of the day. Girls who hadn’t even started menstruating were already being told their legs weren’t really for walking, and their arms weren’t really for reaching. A female body has one job: to attract boys.
In high school, every girl becomes a sl*t. My friends told me I was a sl*t because I dressed like one and danced liked one. A boy who hadn’t had a conversation with me before was surprised that I hadn’t hooked up with a lot of guys because he thought I “looked like someone who had.” Other girls were sl*ts because they had boyfriends, but if you had never had a boyfriend, that was almost worse. How could you love yourself if a boy didn’t love you? Are you really pretty if you don’t have a guy to tell you that you are?
In college, people are alarmed to find out that I’ve never kissed anyone. Lack of experience with guys is something to worry about. My mom tells me that I should at least try to earn a guy’s approval. “You don’t want to end up alone.” I’m not alone. I have friends who care about me and a family who loves me. I’m in school to learn and grow as a person. I’m alive to try to make the world I die in a better place than the one I was born into. If I get a husband along the way, that’s fine. If I don’t, I’ll still be happy. Society is set up on the assumption that women are not autonomous human beings. We need men to create laws to govern our bodies and behavior. We should be punished, wear a scarlet A if we ignore antiquated social standards. If we want to change society, we have to change ourselves as well. The patriarchy cannot be ended until we stop defining ourselves and other women by how many boys we’ve been with or haven’t been with. Men don’t define your life. You do.