The Girls We Want To Be
bebe is getting to that age I've never wanted her to reach. The age when girls start to hurt one another, just because they can. You know the age I'm talking about - the this girl isn't as smart/pretty/skinny/talented/rich/funny age. I kind of feel like it's too early for this age - I mean, she's 8, not 18. Also, I kind of hoped she'd get to skip it - I mean, isn't that what we were taught during all those After School Specials, half-hour family-based sit-coms, and teen movies? That if we just began treating one another with compassion and empathy, we could stop this ridiculous cycle of wearing Girl B down simply because we're Girl A or C or J or, heck, Z?
Wasn't that what we were taught during the hours we spent watching Blossom navigate high school? Isn't that the message Brenda gave us when she told off that girl at her Beverly Hills slumber party...and then still invited her to stay, when those diet pills fell out of her bag?
Apparently, the TV and movie writers lied to us about the empathy thing because girls are still beating each other up over their differences. Or, maybe, the message we got was wrong. Maybe it isn't only that we need to treat one another with compassion and empathy (although, believe me, I think we do)...I think the message we missed is that we need to embrace and accept the things about use that are different. The things that make girls...well, girls.
Like Margaret, who decided at the end of her book that it was okay not to be Christian (like her mom)
or Jewish (like her dad). That it was okay to be her and to have questions that she can't answer quite yet....and when she did find the answer, it was an answer that was personal and specific to her, not her mother or father...not either set of grandparents. She became comfortable with who she was, outside of the expectations of her family and friends.
Margaret, who I like to believe rose from the dust of Jo March, led to other strong teenage girls and young adults...like the girls from Charmed, who didn't choose to be different, but still embraced the differences in themselves. And, you know, blew up a few demons and warlocks in the process.
In my experience, there are two camps in strong/witchy/woman TV-dom: those who land on the side of Buffy and those who land on the side of Charmed. Me? I'm a Charmed girl all the way not because of the wizarding or campy flavor, or the Buffy-lite-ness of it, but because of the journey that said women can get along, no matter what differences arise. Sure, Phoebe was jealous of Pru's power, and yes, Piper was always playing mediator, and the steady string of men in their lives was dizzying (except for Leo...Oh, my heart, Leo)...but under all of that was the sisterly bond between them. A bond that was never broken, not even when Piper tried to kill them all as the Windigo or when Phoebe's demon-spawn possessed her...or when Pru decided she'd had enough of always holding things together and let her wild side out at a biker bar.
And while they were embracing one another, they embraced the things about themselves that were different. Phoebe never lost her heart, not even when she fell in love with a demon who tried to kill them all. Pru never gave up on the strengths of her sisters, to the point that she sacrificed herself for them. Piper grew from the mediator to the protector - of her sisters, of their various charges, of her children. And when Paige came on the scene, and Billie after her, the dynamics continued to change, the sisterly bonds continued to evolve...and the women continued to embrace one another, and to explore the possibilities of sisterhood, friendship, and love.
I think they were able to embrace not only one another but themselves, because under all the demon hunting and wizard killing was that their power came from women. Pru and Piper and Phobe embraced the fact that their power, their knowledge, and their wisdom came from other women. Their mother and grandmother, and their mothers, and grandmothers, and aunts...
I think I'll find Charmed and maybe Blossom online to binge with bebe this summer. And while I'm at it, I think I'll introduce her to the actresses who played these strong girls and women - Mayim Bialik, who has an amazing new book about being a girl out, Alyssa Milano, who has become a political activist, Shannen Doherty, who is battling cancer as only a kick-ass-girl can, and Holly Marie Combs, who calls herself a 'Rebel with many Causes' on Twitter.
Because being a girl isn't just about being nice.
It's about being whoever the hell we feel like being.