To understand more about how Girl World and Boy World evolve into their adult parallels, Mom World and Dad World, let's look at three definitions of the word femininity--the dictionary's, girls', and parents'.
Dictionary definition: The quality or nature of the female sex.
Girl World definition: You have a great body, guys like you, you're not a prude but you're not a slut, you're in control, and you're smart enough to get people to do what you want--preferably without them noticing.
Mom World definition: You have a relationship with a man, are thin, never had any doubts about having children, and are on top of all your thank-you notes.
Now let's look at how the same three sources define masculinity.
Masculinity: The qualities appropriate to, or usually associated with a man, or forming the formal, active, or generative principle of the cosmos. [I swear, my dictionary said this!]
Boy World: You control your friends with a look or a "hey." You effortlessly have the right style and a great body (if it's not effortless or you think too much about it, you'll be accused of being gay), you can laugh off emotional and physical pain, the right girls like you and you like all attention girls give you, you're competitive about everything, and by five years of age you can discuss professional sports with authority (although it's permissible to trade knowledge of sports for expertise in martial arts or cars).
Dad World: You make lots of money and never worry about the money you spend, you're married and have a good relationship with your wife and kids, if you have a lawn it looks like a baseball diamond, you can fix things, and you're in shape but not too much in shape (because then you look like you're trying too hard), and you have a good sense of humor.
Act Like a Woman: Mommy's Little Girl Grows Up
When I work with girls, I explain my definition of culture and then I ask them what they think the culture is trying to persuade them they need to be and look like and what the culture says they shouldn't be. Then I ask them how a girl in their school earns high social status or low social status. I write their answers in for them as the "Act Like a Woman" box.
What the girls realize is that their answers about what the culture wants and doesn't want them to be often mirrors the "Act Like a Woman" box they've said exists in their own community.
Now let's compare the girls' answers with the answers mothers told me when I asked them the same question--but directed to them.
As I talked to mothers, it became clear that the unwritten rules were way too extensive for me to do them justice with a box. So here they are in full.
The "Act Like a Mom" Checklist
Are you simultaneously laughing, cringing, and resentful? Me too. And just as girls know they're held to an impossible standard of beauty but chase that ideal anyway, mothers know that this ideal is ridiculous but still stay up until 2 a.m. baking cookies for a bake sale instead of buying them on the way to school.
Excerpted from Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads by Rosalind Wiseman with Elizabeth Rapoport Copyright © 2006 by Rosalind Wiseman. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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