I was one of three girls in family, and I was the only tomboy in the bunch. While my two sisters, one older and one younger, were all about dolls and playing house, I was playing with Legos and Erector sets and Tonka toys. For my third birthday I requested a red dragline. How in the world I knew about draglines at the age, I don't know. But I knew and I wanted one ...a red one. My mother did her best to talk to me into a nice 'dolly' or maybe a tea set of my own, but I wanted a red dragline. To my mother's credit she got me one.
We moved a lot when I was growing up and it always seemed to be that there were other little girls in the neighborhood who were my sisters' ages but only boys that were my age. While my sisters went to sleep overs and did girly things, I was playing backyard baseball and wrestling with the boys. I would even scrap with the boys from time to time because one of them would get out of line and call me Rocky. My given name was Roxanna and though I chose to play boy games with boys, I took offense to being called what I considered a BOY name. It never took more than one good scrap to set all the boys straight on that subject. I don't know if I came out on top because I was really capable of holding my own with the boys or because they held back from actually hitting a girl. But I won myself a reputation of one not to mess with among the neighborhood boys.
When I got to junior high, things changed. Other girls gave me a lot of grief for not being all dainty and interested in girly-girl things like they were. I ignored them for the most part and went through school on my own agenda. I joined the Ag class in high school, became a member of FFA (Future Farmers of America) which required me to ride a bus at noon from my own school to one out in the country that offered the Ag classes. Some of the other girls on the bus were riding because they were in office work or marketing co-ops which were also only offered at the other school. The first week of school that year, several of the girls starting chiding me about my choice to be in Ag. "Why would you do THAT" they'd ask, giggling with each other. "Only BOYS take Ag classes." Well, my only motivation was a love for livestock and agronomics, but in a rare moment of inspiration, I promptly replied, "Well, DUH!" The flash of lightbulbs going off in those girls minds was almost visible. By the beginning of the next semester, there were six more girls from my school riding the bus to Ag classes.
I stayed in Ag all through high school but did not get to enjoy a rural lifestyle until I married Yeoldfurt in 1999. A lot of the knowledge I gained in Ag is put to use on a daily basis now. But the values I learned in those classes have been just as important in my life. One of the biggest things those classes did for me is remove my inhibitions and doubts about what I can and cannot do. I am not afraid to tinker with a tractor or repair a fence. I can palpate a cow, assist in birthing most anything, and doctor most any wound. I have never had to, but I also know how to shoot an animal to put it out of it's misery if the situation arises. The classes taught me to have confidence in myself and that is probably more valuable than anything else I could have learned.
To me, a 'real' woman is one who is not bound by anything but her own goals and aspirations. She follows her own heart and shouldn't have to apologize to anyone if her interests lie outside of the stereotypical. I do not believe, however, that being a 'real' woman requires you to verbally trample men who treat you with common courtesy and etiquette. I think Yeoldfurt appreciates the fact that I can help him with the tractoring or wrangling the horses. And I appreciate that he always opens the door for me and carries the heaviest packages and just generally treats me like a lady. I'm all for equal opportunity for women and equal wages for the same job. But I think the feminist movement does women a disservice when they belittle men for simply being GENTLEMEN. I have even seen women criticized for allowing a man to hold the door open or pull out her chair when comes to the table. I think that's ridiculous. And sad.
Men and women should have equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal privileges. But they should respect and celebrate their differences as well. My interest and aptitude for typically male venues does not make me less feminine, and it certainly does not make me less of a lady. As a society, we do our sons and daughters a terrible disservice if we stop teaching them how to be ladies and gentlemen. I, for one, am glad I'm married to a gentleman!