I never played with dolls as a child. I only played with dinosaurs and stuffed animals. I assigned a male gender to most of these toys. Even when I was playing make-believe games with my friends, I would always be a boy. My friend would play a kidnapped princess and I would be the Prince of Persia coming to rescue her (specifically I was the Dog of Persia, because being a dog was way more fun than being a human).
It wasn’t always like that. I remember when I was very very young I would dress up as Glinda from the Wizard of Oz in a bedraggled pink tutu and cardboard crown. But as I grew up and gathered more and more information from the world around me, it became clear that in order to have the grandest adventures, you had to be a boy.
The main characters in my favourite books, movies and tv shows were almost always boys. Even when there was a female protagonist, she was usually overshadowed by a more interesting, wisecracking sidekick. It became so ingrained in me that boys were better than when a great female protagonists did occasionally come along, I wasn’t interested in giving them a shot. So I kept playing with my male toys and taking them on epic adventures around my bedroom, and every lunch break at school I would turn into a boy.
And it wasn’t until yesterday, at 26 years old, that I realised how messed up that is.
This wasn’t about gender dysphoria or anything like that. I never actually wanted to be a boy. I had simply been taught be society that male protagonists were the norm, and that anything else was going to be less fun.
This is why I love Brave and Frozen, why I’m glad to jump on the Hunger Games bandwagon, why I will be thrilled to see a Wonder Woman movie get made even though I know nothing about Wonder Woman. This is why I’m writing a novel about ass-kicking magical bird girls with nary a boy in sight.
We need to show young girls that they don’t have to reject their gender in order to be the hero in their own adventure.