Man’s Coming-of-Age, For Girls

Essay written by Claudia Fernandez 

An essay on assumed universality and a brief review of Greta Gerwig’s Ladybird

We are told, as women, that Men means All people. For example when “God created Man in His image” we are supposed to pretend that Man, means Me, and I’m supposed to understand that God is sexless, that He is both She and He, that they mean the same, but they don’t. Womanhood is an afterthought. There are associations with “Woman” and “Her” that don’t FEEL or TRANSLATE in the brain the same as “Man” and “He”.

The problem: literary canon is mostly male: male authors writing about their experiences, their childhoods, their ideologies, their version of truth and value. They create characters from their understanding and write in a way that is sensible and clear, that is, sensible and clear as men define those terms. To be clear is to be “straight to the point”. This isn’t necessary for women; it isn’t necessary to be clear, coherent, rational, and emotionless. It is equally valid to be emotional and cognizant, bright-eyed and optimistic without being ignorant or naive.

The consequence: As a woman, I have to pretend and connect to the little boys and grown men that often play the protagonist in most major novels. We all pretend to be the hero, place ourselves in their shoes and live their story, but does that make me more man? Does not society punish me for behaving like a man? If we follow the virtues and values of the male protagonist, then we simulate male qualities and in turn, become “manly”, which society does not appreciate.

We know the common complaints: a direct woman is a bitch, a sexy woman is a slut, a decisive woman is bossy, a concerned woman is a nag. But a man is just direct, sexy, decisive, and a boss without any of the rest, if he didn’t want to be. There are male allies, and female trans allies, who refuse to accept masculine descriptors as the right to be. .

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