Someone cut in front of me, so I honked at him. It wasn’t much of a honk, more like a honklette. So I said to myself, “You honk like a girl.” “Like a girl”! Where did that come from? I thought about the video I had seen, “Always #LikeAGirl” and was ashamed of how sexist I sounded.
I grew up in the 50s, when negative stereotypes about girls were rampant. Here are a few of the sayings I, and women of my generation, grew up with:
- Don’t be too smart, boys won’t like you.
- Be a teacher or a nurse, they are good jobs for a girl.
- Don’t go to law school; you’ll take the place of a man who needs to support his wife.
- Do they give mortgages to women?
- Girls aren’t good at math.
- Girls aren’t supposed to have muscles.
- Don’t sleep around. Why should they buy the cow when they can get the milk for free?
- You’re too pretty to be smart.
- You have expensive tastes — you better marry a rich man.
Although I grew up hearing these phrases, I came of age during a sexual revolution. Negative messages about women were being rejected. “Not us, not our future,” we said. We seized opportunities, defied stereotypes, broke glass ceilings and succeeded in not passing these negative stereotypes to our children. This was tremendous social change, and it happened in my lifetime.
This made me think about the other negative stereotypes I grew up with — ageism. As a young women, I refused to accept limiting visions of who I was and who I could become. Now I am once again coming of age during a revolution, except this time it is a revolution about aging. Perhaps we boomer men and women can reject negative stereotypes about aging, saying once again “Not us, not our future.” And perhaps this change too will happen during my lifetime. I am reminded of Victor Hugo’s prophetic quote, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Maybe it does start with me. This will not be me, this is not my future.
What about you?