Eighteen Years of Injustices Experienced as a Girl
Artwork by Maria Patricia Mejicano
By Gabriela Garcia - First-Person Experience
April 7th, 2021 at 7:00 P.M. EST.
I have been belittled and over-sexualized because of my gender my entire life, all while pressured to accept this injustice. Now that I am a grown woman, I am still treated differently solely because of my gender identity. When I was young, I was not allowed to play soccer or baseball with my male cousins since these are labeled as “boy” games. What I most despise is being told to dress “a certain way” to avoid distracting men and not provoke them in some way.
As early as first grade, I noticed the uneven playing field between genders. During my lunch break, my best friend Nicole and I strolled outside the school to play with toy cars in the sandbox. My hands clutched the red dump truck, and I flung it into the sky as I made “beep-BEEP!” noises. We filled the dump truck with sand and dug a small hole.
All of a sudden, a boy from my class snatched the truck away from my friend.
“This is a boy’s game! You can’t play with it!” The little boy stared at me and yelled.
My face was flaming red. I felt powerless and humiliated and I dashed to my teacher, Mrs. Veloz, as I tattled in shallow breaths.
“Well, maybe that little boy likes you and that’s how he is showing his affection. If anything, why don’t you two play with the barbies along with all the other girls?” She calmly stated.
I still remember this as if it were yesterday; I could not believe that Mrs. Veloz not only justified but agreed with him.
At home, it was not different from school. Growing up with my male cousins had its pros and cons: a huge problem was the difference between what they were allowed to do and what I had to do because I am female. In this case, they went out as they pleased without a curfew. I rarely left my room; my family felt that a girl’s place was at home. One day, I rushed to my mom’s room and asked to visit my friend at her house on a Friday night. When I went up to my mom, I could already feel her furious voice echoing in my head; nonetheless, I decided to ask anyway. For the umpteenth time, I nervously went into her room and stuttered.
“Mama, I finished cleaning the bathroom and kitchen, so I wanted to ask you if I could please go over to Cynthia’s to do some homework together?” Unsurprisingly, my mother glared at me before responding.
“No, it is too late, and I don’t want you out in the streets where a man can kidnap you,” she answered.
I knew not to badger her because if my mom replied no already, she would only get furious if I attempted to ask again. I accepted my defeat and moved my two feet spiritlessly over to my room. A moment later, I heard my cousin asking for permission, and he was granted it.
One day in the seventh grade, I wore an appealing but appropriate rose-colored tube top. It was a bright, sultry day, and drops of sweat ran down my chest. I had gone to my English class with no complaints of what I was wearing until I sat down for my math class. My male professor did not stop inappropriately staring at my chest. His gaze definitely made me feel highly uncomfortable and disturbed. Even more, he approached me and embarrassed me in front of the class.
“Gabriela, you are distracting everyone in the class with your inappropriate clothing. I am going to need you to go to the office and change as it is distracting the other boys in this classroom and me.”
To this day, I have never felt more disgusted with an older man as he was utterly improper with a middle school child. As I nervously walked to the main office, our female principal agreed with my professor, claiming I was disrupting the classroom with my tube top. I felt judged since I was sexualized due to my shirt. As women, we have to deal with men treating us as if we were objects and other women who try to convince us how to protect ourselves instead of holding these men accountable for their actions.
We live in a male-dominated world where everything is seen through the male gaze, where men depict women as objects of sexual desire. As a society, we need to advocate for change and incentivize women to feel free to perform the same actions men do. We should promote a space free of judgment passed on to an individual's body image and gender. Women and little girls should not be objectified or even insulted because of the toys they play with or the clothes they wear. I wish for a future where my daughters can make their own decisions, dress as they please, and enjoy life outdoors without fear of being judged or criticized because of their gender or feel unsafe.
Gabriela Garcia is a first-year student at the Miami Dade Honors College Dual Language program at Eduardo J. Padron Campus. She is majoring in accounting and hopes to transfer as a finance student. She is currently treasurer of Phi Beta Lambda and a research assistant for Dr. Belarmino Gonzalez. Additionally, she is an ambassador for the IMPACT committee and is passionate about improving her community and provoking change. During her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, tutoring children, and volunteering in her community.