Last night, I went to see Julius Caesar at the Globe Theatre in London. Actually it was at the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and it was absolutely amazing. A medieval quartet played as we entered, and the theatre itself was small and intimate, with real candles and no artificial lighting or microphones. We had standing seats right at the top for the princely sum of £10, which only made it feel all the more authentic. Unfortunately, it also made me collapse in a heap.
Apparently this happens a lot, and the staff were prepared for it. A first aid team rushed to my side, lifting up my legs and mopping my brow with a wet towel. It seems the confined space – the doorways were covered with curtains to set the scene for the night-time conspiracy – combined with heat from the candles rising to the ceiling means that fainting is a common occurrence. A slight flaw in the design of the theatre, don’t you think?
The first thing I felt, once the blood had returned to my head and I was no longer thinking of throwing up, was…. not pride exactly but at least a degree of satisfaction. Excitement at the heightened drama (#dramaqueen) and gratification that I had exhibited such characteristics of a dainty and delicate lady.
I’ve never felt dainty and delicate in my life. At school, I towered over my whole class, even though I was a year younger than everyone else. At university, the guys loved the tiny girls that they could lift up and throw about. And during the past ten years that I spent in Geneva, four of my best friends were (beautiful) midgets with teeny Cinderella feet. My mum always said it was because women in Sweden are taller and bigger boned – although according to Wikipedia, the difference is only 1cm…
Being dainty and delicate, soft and ladylike, feminine and submissive – these are all attributes that are still very much valued. At a recent Sunday dinner at a friend’s flat, there was a heated debate when two of the girls told horror stories of the men they had dated and their unsuccessful relationships, whose failure, they said, showed how they needed to learn to be less demanding, less outspoken, less… themselves. Men are intimidated by independent women, you need to show that you need them so that they feel valued, so that they are the strong one in the relationship… My friend, having stayed quiet for some time, erupted in an outburst: Who are these men?! What are you talking about?! It’s completely your own fault for choosing to be with men who don’t respect and value you for who you are!
Personally, I’d like to think that a relationship can handle two strong people, that you can each recognise that there are things that you are good at and things that you are bad at, that you can each help the other person and accept help when you need it, that you can both grow stronger from being together. But that’s just me.
If you’re in marketing, you will have seen Always’ latest #LikeAGirl campaign. You may even have seen it outside of the world of marketing, as it’s a message that has resonated broadly, even in the face of cynicism at the fact that it’s coming from a company trying to sell consumer products for profit. Here, doing something “like a girl” is not even about being delicate and feminine but goes further to represent being weak, silly, pathetic. The sad thing is that this is the image that comes to my mind when I hear the phrase “like a girl”. That’s how rooted this image, this frame of reference, is in our culture.
Girls, and women, are more sensitive, more emotional. We cry more and we gossip more. We’re bitchy and judgemental. We drive badly and don’t understand how the engine works. We can’t change a tyre or a light bulb.
Of course there are differences between men and women. There are also differences between any two women and any two men. You say tomato, I say tomato (okay that doesn’t work when it’s written down…).
I think we need both feminine and masculine energy. Yin and yang, left brain right brain, light and dark, dominant and submissive. So we can be strong and we can be weak; we can be confident and we can be shy; we can be intelligent and we can be silly; we can be impressive and we can be impressed; we can run half-marathons and still faint from standing still.
Now bring me my smelling salts.