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Yes, girls can do that now

Submitted by on Monday, 24 January 2011 No Comment

He looks around among his friends and sees only a few women in green. It was inevitable that the question would come up.

“Mommy, why aren’t there many girls in the Army?” Big Guy asked.

There are more than there used to be, I said. When I was a little girl there weren’t many jobs that women were allowed to do in the Army. They couldn’t fly helicopters or planes in war zones. They weren’t astronauts or drill sergeants. They couldn’t be airborne, and they couldn’t be generals. There weren’t as many jobs that women were encouraged to think of doing, period.

What do you mean? he asked, stunned. As far as he was concerned the tale was so preposterous that I might as well have started it with “once upon a time.”

When I was a little girl, people taught their daughters to believe that they could be only certain things. If you wanted to go to college, they told you that you could be a teacher or a nurse, and that was about it.

Why aren’t you a teacher or a nurse then?

Because I’m stubborn, I thought, though I managed to stop the words before they came out of my mouth. No need to encourage his natural head-strong streak.

Mawmaw wanted me to be a nurse, but I wanted to be a writer, I said. A sports writer.

What do sports writers do?

They write about games. They talk to the people who play and coach. Sometimes they go into lockerrooms to talk to them. I used to sit by the radio when I was a kid, listening to Reds’ games and dreaming of being there someday.

Hmmm … he paused. That does sound like boys’ work.

That’s what Mawmaw thought, too. She was not happy when I told her I wasn’t going to be a nurse.

So did you do it? Did you write the sports?

Yes I did, babes. And one day my dream came true. I got to sit in the pressbox on Opening Day and cover a Reds’ game.

Wow! he exclaimed. That must have been great! He paused for a second to come up with his next question.

So it didn’t matter then what people said? he asked. Girls could still do different jobs.

It did matter, because it stopped a lot of girls from getting the education they needed to do different types of work. Yes, as girls my age grew older a lot of us realized that what we were told wasn’t true. But not everyone did, and that’s fine. The world still needs teachers and nurses.

And boys can be teachers, too, right? he asked. I might like to be a teacher if I’m not a general.

I didn’t go into the fact that there still are military jobs that women can’t do, because that might not be the case by the time he and his friends are old enough to join up.

For now, it’s enough for him to know that girls can be astronauts and boys can be teachers.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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