20 September 2008

I am a Feminist from Way Back

My earliest memories are of Monroeville, Pennsylvania. We moved to the Pittsburgh suburbs when I was a toddler. My father, recently graduated from college, had gotten a job at US Steel. For a brief moment, it looked as though I wouldn't be saddled with the accent of my parents. Alas, it didn't happen. We moved back. Nonetheless, the first enduring memory I have was of the fallout when my brothers lit a bit of wooded area behind our rented house on fire. I remember Halloween that year. I remember visiting my grandfather's horses at a local farm there. Fleeting memories. We lived in the rented house while our house was built in Irwin.

What does all this have to do with being a feminist, you ask?

I attended my first birthday party in Irwin. I was in kindergarten. My best friend was my next-door neighbor, Gina Stewart, who in reality, was a spoiled, insufferable little brat. We didn't hang that much. I did a lot of playing alone in our flat, unlandscaped back yard or swinging on the swing set. But Gina and I went to the party together with my "real" best friends, Randy and Roger Oates (the twins), but of course a girl wasn't allowed to have boy best friends back then. In any event, I have no idea who the party was for. I do recall what seemed like endless row upon row of tables with paper covers, each with a place setting and a child's name, and a party hat. I found my place and my hat. It was a nurses cap.

A nurse's cap.

*rumpled brow*

A nurse's cap?

But I didn't want to be a nurse. Nurses sucked. Slowly but surely, it began to sink in. I had gotten a nurse's cap because I was a girl. The boys had policeman caps and fireman caps and doctor caps. The girls had nurse caps and teacher caps that I think had rulers and such on them.

I was being indoctrinated into a sexist society in kindergarten.

What amazes me more is that I refused to wear the hat. I rejected the assumption. If they wouldn't give me a police hat or a fireman hat or a doctor hat, I wouldn't wear a hat at all. I remember some female adult, possibly the mother of the birthday child, encouraging me to wear the hat. I flatly refused and it was dropped.

I'm sure the last thing a mother hosting 30 children needs is an irate four-and-a-half year old feminist on her hands.

It was quite possibly my first instance of social disobedience.

PS: Whoa! I can't believe I found this. Here is exactly what I'm talking about. The kid holding the baby in this video is wearing the hat. It is also from the 60s.

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