6 days after I returned from NYC I boarded a plane to Buenos Aires, Argentina, hardly pausing to register the fact that I was going to embark on a new adventure and immerse myself in a new culture. I had hardly gotten used to the fast-pace of New York before I had to leave, so I was a bit nervous about adjusting to a city in which I didn´t know the language or the customs.

I have to admit, since arriving in Buenos Aires I have been more focused on learning the language than worrying about systemic oppression. Although I´m still getting to know my host family, I have made it clear that I did NOT vote for Trump, which was a priority for sure. They seemed relieved.

As I continue to take my classes, meet local students, and learn about the culture and Buenos Aires, I will be curious to see how social and economic relations work within this huge city.

The Myth of the “girly-girl”

Less than a week after leaving my city life in the concrete jungle, I find myself in the piney woods of east Texas — no cell service or wifi, 100 degree Texas heat, and the sweet soundtrack of nature. Within hours or arriving, I’ve already removed 1 scorpion and 3 spiders from the midst of high pitches screams in a cramped cabin, courtesy of my 11 preteen campers. They applaud my bravery in handling the bugs, something that they say they themselves could have “never” done. I tell them that this is not true. They could have done the same thing.

During introductions the first night, I have 3 girls specify that they are “girly-girls” — meaning their favorite color is pink, they like to do hair and make up, make bracelets, and they don’t touch bugs. I cringe a little.

I had never thought about this during my time in Moxie, but I really hate that the idea of a girly-girl and a tomboy even exist. The traits for a girly-girl represent everything that patriarchy wishes to enforce and police in women, focusing on appearance and perception and trapping women into a position of submission to the man. Girly-girls grow up to be damsels in distress, reliant on men for their survival. Girly-girls are told to value how they look and how other people perceive them rather than self-love and acceptance and rather than considering any other life-skills. And girls are either forced into joining the ranks of girly-girls or told to renouncing their womanhood all together, as they deviate to the label “tomboy”. Because, of course, a girl could never be good at sports, or choose to wear basketball shorts because they are comfortable, or like science because it is cool, or wear her hair in a ponytail because it just makes sense. No no, those types of girls are not girls at all. Because boy is good and girl is less, boy is power and girl is pretty, boy can be president and girl can be president’s wife.

We are teaching our girls exactly how they are valued in society. Limiting their potential by allowing their predestination as secondary. Letting them know early on which skill they should work on perfecting to reach success. Even to just survive.

I reject this. I reject the myth of the girly-girl and refuse to let patriarchy continue oppressing our girls.

I told my girls that they are not girly-girls, they’re just girls. Because girl is great. Girl is strong and passionate and driven. Because anything boys can do, girls can do better.

Stop Judging Women’s Bodies

After 36 hours of traveling, I finally made it back to Beijing. Although I am on a different continent, I never escaped the patriarchy and all the sexist remarks women face on a daily basis, even from my own family.

Don’t get my wrong. I am so excited to reunite with my family and friends after two months. However, I am bothered by how I am constantly greeted with comments of my body. All the deprecatory comments about my weight and the way my body looks reaffirmed how “socially acceptable” it has become for others, especially men, to make these comments with impunity.

Yesterday on my cab ride home, the taxi driver pointed at this woman crossing the street and said to me, “Her thighs are literally the same size as my waist!” and looked at me seeking approval. The whole situation made me extremely uncomfortable but I didn’t say anything or call him out.

There is an unreasonable and unattainable standard for beauty created by our patriarchal society that women are subjected to from the cradle onward. As a society, we promote the idea that women’s bodies are works of art and can be commented on by any spectator who happens to like or dislike what they see, men and women alike. Every time we comment on a woman’s “belly fat,” “flat chest,” “thigh gap,” we are contributing to a vicious culture that values women for the size of their jeans instead of their content. One might say, we also comment on men’s appearances, which is true. Nevertheless, women’s bodies are way more scrutinized than men’s. For example, our society is so caught up with this unrealistic beauty standard that tabloids obsess over female celebrities’ perceived weight gain, cellulite, and stretch marks. The media focuses on female politician’s clothing choices and appearance almost as often as their actual politics, which is very evident in our last presidential election.

As a society, we need to stop body shaming. We all need to make it socially unacceptable to comment on women’s bodies. Resist the urge to scrutinize women’s bodies in the way we’ve been taught by the patriarchal system. Remember that a person is so much more than a body. A person is human and lives with all sorts of troubles and pain and beauty that you can’t even begin to imagine. Last but not least, remind yourself that you are so much more than a body, and that judging yourself or others only fosters more fear, hatred and insecurity.