This summer after traveling the world and attending three different conferences, I visited my motherland, my birthplace, Romania. I truly love being there, it is such a beautiful country, full of wonder, yet frayed, still in the making, still in the process of rebuilding after being destroyed by a crazy dictator merely decades ago. And perhaps what is always so evident and frustrating for me: still so hung up on traditions built upon religion and patriarchy. Every time I go there some new goddamn church is being constructed: bigger than the one before. And I just shake my head in disappointment. Think of all that money, all that effort, being put to orphanages, schools and hospitals instead. But alas, no, people apparently need more space where they can pray to an invisible man in the sky. Oh well.
While there, I visited an old friend who now has two children, a two year old boy and a four year old girl. I had brought with me two stuffed animals for them, which they seemed to love, and they were playing joyfully with them in the living room, running around, throwing themselves on the soft rug placed in the middle. They had a nanny, an older woman, must have been 65+ I assume, who kept a watchful eye on them. While their mother went upstairs to get something, the children kept playing and I just looked at them, smiling. Then the girl started saying “poop!” and I laughed with her, cause come on, poop is a funny word. But the nanny was not impressed, she told the girl to not say such things, which of course, only made her say it more, cause she is a kid, and kids, as I have noticed, seem to like pushing boundaries and say things they “should not say”. I did not mind it at all of course, but after a while the nanny got a bit angry and grabbed the girl towards her on the sofa, she told the girl: “Now you sit here and behave, sit pretty like a princess”. The nanny placed the girl beside her, making her sit down with her legs together, hands on her knees. The girl struggled to break free but the nanny just grabbed her again and put her back on the sofa: “No, sit here nicely like a princess, show our guest that you can behave like a princess.” I was already feeling uncomfortable after the nanny first grabbed the girl, but now I was getting pissed off. And even though it might not have been my place, I still felt the need to say something, so I did, I said: “Maybe she does not want to be a princess.” The nanny looked at me, a bit confused, she let go of the girl and replied: “No, maybe not…” She turned to the girl and told her, with a bit of spite, that she was not a princess. The girl went back to playing on the rug with her brother.
Now this incident might seem small and inconsequential, however, think of all the young girls in this country, in this world, who are STILL being told to sit nicely, quietly, like a fucking princess, instead of running around, playing, being kids, taking space, just the same way their brothers and male counterparts are allowed to. What breaks my heart is that this girl is part of a new generation, but she is being taught what to do and how in the ways of an older generation who does not seem to have spent one single thought on gender equality, who thinks that things are the way they are and have always been, and will always be and everything is just peachy. To me, that is just so very sad and depressing. Because if we do not do better with our kids than our parents did before us, and their parents before them, then what exactly are we doing? Isn’t the point of procreating also progressing? Why wouldn’t we want new generations growing up with more possibilities than us, more freedom to be themselves? Sure, some might think I should not stick my nose in how other people raise their children, however, I live in this world too, and if I ever have kids, then the way others raise theirs, will also affect my own kids. Because kids do not only learn about structures from their parents, they also learn from other kids. We are all in this together, basically. So what kind of world do we all want to live in? One where girls act like nice and quiet little princesses who do everything they are told, while boys do whatever the heck they want, or one where all kids are taught to be whatever they are comfortable with being?
I vote for the latter.