“The world is a dangerous place for little girls. Besides, girls are more fragile, more delicate, more brittle than boys. ‘Watch out, be careful, watch.’ ‘Don’t climb trees, don’t dirty your dress, don’t accept lifts from strange men. Listen but don’t learn, you won’t need it.’ And so the snail’s antennae grow, watching for this, looking for that, the underneath of things. The threat. And so she wastes so much of her energy, seeking to break those circuits, to push up the millions of tiny thumbs that have tried to squelch energy and creativity and strength and self-confidence; that have so effectively caused her to build fences against possibility, daring; that have so effectively kept her imprisoned inside her notions of self-worthlessness.” – Robyn Davidson, Tracks
Just yesterday I came across this quote, which I had taken the time to write out free-hand, in a bent up notebook stuffed down in the bottom of one of my backpacks. I remember reading and re-reading this section in Robyn Davidson’s book. And I remember feeling angry for the women in my life, especially my wife and daughter. And I remember growing in my understanding of the frustrations girls and women encounter which they should never have to encounter, yet they encounter them every day. Every damn day.
As a man, I would strongly recommend to other men that they read books like Tracks. It is the true story of Davidson’s incredible odyssey, her trek in the late 1970’s across 1,700 miles of the Western Desert of Australia, accompanied by her camels. It was made into a movie a couple of years ago staring the incomparable Mia Wasikowska; that, too, I highly recommend. Why do I target men? Because, for the most part, we don’t have a clue what it means to have pressure to NOT be daring, NOT be fearless, NOT be fully ourselves. Little girls know this reality far better than most grown men. It is time we learn more about this reality so that we can help to change that reality. It starts by hearing the stories, by putting ourselves in their shoes, by putting in the work to really understand.
Robyn Davidson faced the sexism, the belittling, the objectification, the ridicule, the harsh conditions, the pain, the very real threat of physical danger, and the oppression of mental anguish and self-doubt step after step across the outback. She knows what she’s talking about and she deserves to be heard. This is kick-ass stuff and it is a woman’s story.
I want the women in my life to be daring, to take risks, to be fully themselves in whatever form this is meant to be. I want them to be free and creative and real so that the world can experience what wonderful people they are. Their’s is a kick-ass story, too, and it deserves to be heard but, more so, it deserves to be lived, completely and without restraints. Lived.