I can see the teeter-totter on the playground at St. Francis Desales Grade School, but I feel it more. Remember in the 1950’s, little girls wore dresses to school. My thighs and butt were in direct contact with the sun-warmed, weathered, and gray wood. I carefully fanned out the skirt of my dress to cover my upper thighs and panties. Boys could jump on quickly and not spend time adjusting clothing. Splinters were a hazard, so sliding forward or backward to get in position was ill advised, especially for girls. I remember that being stuck in the air was not the favored position, because it meant you were outweighed and powerless. Up or down, down or up. I didn’t tell anybody, but I actually liked to be up in outer space, the view was better.
The playground hierarchy was simple, number one was God, two was whichever nun was playground supervisor, number three was boys and last were girls dressed in pretty dresses. We were told to be careful not to show too much of ourselves. Every now and then a brave girl would hang by her knees and let it all hang out! ” I see London, I see France , I see ______
underpants.” Then sister would scold the culprit on Gods’ behalf, the boys would smirk and the other girls would cheer silently.
As we grew into young women, we left the playground but took the playground rules with us. Don’t,don’t and don’t. We were guardians of the dark secrets under our skirts, clamping our knees together to stop invaders. The game was “Name that Slut”, and now God was involved, and the faces of the nuns looked like the dried apples we used to make old ladies’ faces in art class.The boys were gamers having a good time, wracking up high scores and leaving “damaged goods” behind them. The girls turned on each other, pointed their fingers and labeled their sisters a slut. Some of us were raped, and felt guilty because our knees were pried apart and we couldn’t stop the invader. The pretty dresses we wore meant we were asking for it….
If we had children, special allowances were made. We lifted up our skirts and exposed ourselves to give birth. Babies entered the world through our vaginas, and lots of people watched. We were asked to spread our legs and push our babies out; totally exposed, we worked the hardest we ever worked. The miracle of birth was celebrated, but we quickly covered ourselves again. The “Birds and the Bees” returned.
We never get to brag about our magnificent vaginas and how well everything works “down there”. At 63, I still have a hard time using the word vagina. The Donald has no hesitation discussing how large his penis is. He used the word “pussy” to denigrate an opponent and all women. Imagine watching children play on a playground, and then picture a little girl in a pretty dress , wearing patent leather shoes and a bow in her hair. She is standing off by herself but suddenly she shrugs her shoulders and runs to climb on the jungle gym, and soon she is hanging by her knees, with a big smile on her face….
2 thoughts on “Tipping Point”
Well said Danita. As your “baby” sister, I wasn’t made to wear dresses and patent leather shoes as much as you were, but many of the other constraints remained. I would like to think we’ve made progress in the last 40 years, but I feel like feminism lost ground when we started getting flooded with images of airbrushed perfection and things like a well-meaning breast cancer movement took a turn for the worse and started objectifying women and their body parts with phrases like “Save the ta-tas!” and “I heart boobies.” That little girl at the end of your post lives in each of us . . . let’s not forget her. Thanks!
Those breast cancer messages bugged me too, how about save a life? Trump concerns me a lot ! You mean there are people out there who think labeling women “dogs”‘ “disgusting” etc.is really not a problem?