I’m just a girl?
I had an experience last summer that I have been pondering over for months trying to process my feelings around. My husband and I were invited to go to Las Vegas with a couple we’ve been friends with since college and one of the highlights of the trip was seeing Gwen Stefani’s residency show. If you’re not familiar with Gwen Stefani, she is the former lead singer of the ska band “No Doubt.” Their breakout hit — “I’m just a Girl” — put them on the popular music map back in the mid-90s. The song, co-written by Stefani, calls out the everyday sexism she’s sick and tired of – “I’ve had it up to here.”
When Stefani performed “I’m just a Girl” for her audience that night last summer I experienced something I have never experienced in my life. The audience was singing along with the song and Stefani stopped and had the audience repeat the chorus after her. When she sang, “I’m just a girl. I’m just a girl in the world,” we all followed. Then she asked for just the women in the audience to repeat the chorus after her and we gleefully obliged. Next she asked that just the men repeated after her singing, “I’m just a girl. I’m just a girl in the world.” During that moment I was, as my children say, shooketh.
This was the first time I had ever been in an audience anywhere where men were asked to identify as girls. Where men were able to call themselves girls without it demeaning their person or attacking their masculinity. It was only 10 seconds, but for me it was a powerful 10 seconds.
As women we are tasked on a daily basis to identify with the perspective of men. As women of the Church, all of our leaders with ecclesiastical authority are men. The scriptures we read were written by men about mostly men’s stories. Women’s roles in our scriptures are downplayed in their importance in our lesson manuals. Even on Easter the church put out a video about the experience of Christ’s resurrection from the perspective of Peter, even though it was a woman who was the first witness of the resurrected Christ. We were all told growing up that men means all people, that mankind means humankind, that brother means siblings, etc. “What I succumb to is making me numb.”
So I have to ask our male-identified readership if they have ever been asked to see themselves through the feminine lens. If they heard, “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Women,” would they think that included them because women means all people? And if not, why is mankind the default for all humans? If you only read scriptures about women or heard scriptures lessons taught about women, would you be able to apply those experiences to your life? Would you be able to stand in auditorium with thousands of others and sing that you were a girl and not be humiliated by it?