"It's All About Eyes" by S. McKiernan - Campaign Contest Nonfiction Winner
The question “What is it like to be a girl?” falls in the same category of questions like: what does sweet and sour sauce taste like? What does a label maker do? What kind of music does a rock band play? The answer is in the question. Being a girl is having a voice you never asked to have on issues you really wish didn’t happen to you. Do you want to know the only thing that truly distincts men and women? It’s not body hair, genitals, or height, all those things can vary. It’s not how quickly you can get ready in the morning or who finishes faster in bed however many times. It’s gender roles. It’s the eyes of “the man” or the patriarchy or whatever that are always on us. What is it like to be a girl? Ever been discriminated against based on your gender then expected to be proud of it? That’s what it’s like. Ever been asked to speak on behalf of millions of people with completely different experiences and identities because of a shared struggle? That’s what it’s like. It’s not trying to find the perfect shade of foundation, it’s not trying to find your cup size despite always being too big or too small, it’s all about eyes. Eyes on me and on every other girl to do something, anything, with their gender. If you’re not a flaming feminist you’re complacent, if you’re not in the streets protesting you must be stuck in the kitchen. Being a girl means you will never be good enough for the male gaze and you will never struggle enough for the real experience of womanhood. I’m too angry for history class or too flowery for art. My dress is too long or too short, too much cleavage or too little. My writing is never real enough and neither are my experiences.
And the writing I consume? The pinterest posts of the power held within my vagina or the feminist writings from 1910 I could not even begin to understand. Top 10 tips and tricks to avoid getting assaulted: keys between your knuckles, don’t walk up the stairs, always make sure there’s no one in the backseat… or horrifying news articles relatives send along about a girl my age and something God awful that happened to her. And the inbetween? Ah the inbetween, you mean the insufferable guilt of not doing enough for your sex? Feeling the weight of decades of history on your shoulders as you stay home and play Mario Kart. At least Princess Daisy doesn’t have a boyfriend to rescue her right?
It’s the eyes, its all about the fucking eyes man. The Bluest Eye, Their Eyes Were Watching God, eyes on the prize, better than a poke in the eye with a stick right? Every woman, every person knows what it’s like to do things for the sake of other people's approval, your friends, your ancestors, your boss, your creepy neighbor who you see from his window and always yells at his wife. It sounds violent sometimes but what are you supposed to do? Call the cops for them to abuse her instead? And then for him to maybe kill her once they leave?
And even if no one cares, even if no one gives a single shit about anything I could ever possibly do with my life my eyes are the ones truly on me, constantly. I’ve been trained since birth to watch myself for any sort of slip up, whether that be being too radical or not radical enough. Start a revolution! But what's a revolution even? How do I object to the idea of femininity when it’s not even something I believe in. I’m a girl because somebody told me so once and I was fine with that, and everyone else? I guess there are different ways to get here. But I know one thing for sure, those metaphorical but very literal eyes are always on all of us, and sometimes women get together and talk about those eyes, and sometimes people ask us about them. What color are they, what shape, for how long do they look, how long can you stand it? So the question shouldn’t be what is it like to be a girl, it should be what does the world expect of you and what do you do?
S. McKiernan is an 18 year old college student, writer and poet. Their work has been published Feed Us With Words, Analogies and Allegories Literary Magazine, Sad Girl Review, and Square Wheel Press. S. is currently working on getting her chapbook of compiled poems published and transferring from community college to a four year school to get a Creative Writing or English degree.