I am a 9-year-old living with my family in Argentina. The day is so hot that if it weren’t a Saturday and we were at school the teachers would have fed us popsicles at recess to keep our temperatures from rising.
We are swimming in the shallow end of a pool. There are five of us.
It’s my turn to use the scuba mask. The other girls are bobbing around in a row.
I take a deep breath before dropping underwater… as I float by, each girl pushes the bottom of her bathing suit to the side to show me what’s behind the nylon fabric… thin slits between flesh are all I see… and then I’m up and out of the water, greeted by giggles as I gasp for air.
I take my place in line and pass the mask down to the next curious girl.
“Honey, I’m not pregnant!” I told my boyfriend the other day.
“That’s good.” He replied.
But the news to both of us feels bittersweet.
Why is it that I feel squeamish about saying “vagina” in public? I didn’t realize how much of an issue this still was for me until about a month ago when on a crowded plane, my boyfriend cracked some joke with a punch line ending with the word “hoo-hoo.” Immediately turning into a word monitor, I looked at him and said “SHH!!”
As I turned to make sure that the little girl seated in the row behind me didn’t hear what he said—I caught myself. Why am I freaking out?
My first Barbie was a Growing Up Skipper doll. Skipper is Barbie’s younger sister.
A gift from one of my aunts during the 1970’s, my Skipper doll wasn’t an ordinary doll. Living up to her name, she could “grow” from girl to young woman in an instant. All you had to do was take her arms and wind them forward in a circular motion. Not only would she grow taller but her bust would get bigger. Wind her arms in the opposite direction and all of her would shrink back to original size.
At age 6, all I knew was that I had a “2-for-1” doll. Growing Up Skipper even came with an extra outfit for her older self to wear, and she had a tank top that doubled as a bathing suit. Now, when I look back I am able to see how this doll was sexualized—just like when people prematurely endow girls with certain attributes and qualities so that they seem sexier and more mature.
What do I want? What do I really? This hasn’t always been as easy a question to answer as you would think.
For many girls, there seems to come a point when we stop being in tune with our own desires and begin to worry more about being desirable. I know this happened for me sometime after age 11—when I started to like boys and wanted them to like me.
When I turned 16 and replaced my glasses for contacts and my braces came off, boys started to pay attention to me—and I remember for the first time since I was a young girl suddenly feeling like I mattered to someone other than my family. Boys were looking at me and wanting me instead of finding me wanting. I felt seen.
As someone who was born in the Philippines, I was thrilled to find out about the Pantene commercial airing there that has gone viral online. In it the contrasting ways that successful men and women are stereotyped are shown.
My first job out of college was as a video journalist for CNN. I worked so hard during the 4 ½ years I was there that every time I was eligible for promotion, I got the job. By my third year, I was writing and producing international news for the network’s CNN International channel.
I enjoyed what I was doing so much that working overnights, weekends, and coming in on my days off were not inconveniences but part of the job description as far as I was concerned. But what I hated about getting ahead—at the time, my movement in the company was considered rather rapid—was the whispering that went on behind my back.