Friday, October 20, 2006

Gender everyday: yesterday

Gender Everyday: Yesterday

In elementary school there was a ritual. It happened every day at lunch recess. The popular boys would chase the most popular girls. The object was to catch the most popular girl so that the most popular boy could kiss her. The job lesser of the popular girls was to protect popular girl number one. The job of the lesser of the popular boys was to fend off the girls. It was kind of like full contact bridesmaids and groomsmen. The most popular girl was Billie Rockwell. I wish I could say I remembered the name of the popular alpha male. I was one of Billie’s defenders. I knew I was lower on the totem pole, but I never knew exactly where I fell in the pecking order. Then the day came that I would find out. Billie Rockwell was absent. Dear God! Whom would be chased? Whom would we protect? It was as much to deal with as a youngster should ever have to. Then at lunch, as I was bouncing my hotdog off my orange lunch tray, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I was one of the cronies of the elementary alpha male. They said: “Get ready to run, because we’re chasing you today.” That made me the second most popular girl in my grade. I was ecstatic. All the other girls surrounded me and spoke of the tactics of keeping me safe from the lips of Mr. Handsome, the littlest alpha male. That was the pivotal day in the journey of gender and me, though it took years to be cognizant of this understanding.
Being chosen as second in the pecking order may not be obvious in regard to gender and its effects on me. However, I remember coming home and really analyzing the way I had been ranked. In my mind it meant that I was more worthy than most and not as worthy as one. I thought about what set me apart from those other girls and what kept me from being number one. I thought about Billie Rockwell. She was tiny. In fact she was always in the front row, sitting, in our class photos. She was cute as sin. She had cute little clothes, cute hair, and a smile that went from one end of the room to the other. She was also a damsel. Whenever she could not do something, she always asked a boy for help--and she was ALWAYS asking boys for help. She was the epitome of “girly.” I was close, but no cigar. While I did not understand the repercussions of this realization, I understood that my worth was based one how “girly” I was perceived. That night I called Billie and told her about the excitement. We talked on the phone every night from then on and after studying my subjects I studied the girl whose power I would overthrow in dominating the pink sphere of “girlyhood.” Victory WOULD be mine.