We were scared of our own bodies when we were still in school. Training bras pinched us and res-trained us and even then – in those first few secret shopping trips – we felt men’s eyes upon us as we chose. A no choice choice. Could sex be anything other than a quick coupling for male satisfaction?
We were scared of our own bodies and we wondered what would happen next. They started to bleed and this was seen as shameful . We were told to hide all evidence of bleeding from the boys who would find it distasteful. Our bodies were tastes after all. The Bible backed them up – bleeding was shameful and dirty. We could not wash it away with water because it was inside us, this dirt. We were making something shameful with our new bodies. We were not ecstatic. We were not proud.
We were scared of our bodies – we watched those female teachers who seemed to have aged into stiff, stuffed shirts and suits that did not fit them, fixed to fit the male lens. Women’s bodies do not suit a jacket. Female power scares systems and attacks those women who refuse to buy into the concept of the male lens. Dressing like a man, you mean business. It’s an illusion but we didn’t know that then. At the time, I just stared at those women – the tall, too thin women who were detached from their sexless bodies, the apples who tottered on heels and thrust their heads back to defy gravity. The overweight, shapeless women who kept their heads down in their jumpers when challenged. The small, exquisitely groomed women who didn’t care what we did because their husbands were rich and this fact seemed to detach them from our daily struggles to be an ugly girl. Our daily, monthly, bloody lives. The women who hid behind masks of makeup and laughed too loudly. The ugly girls all grown up into the most power they could ever hope to achieve – wrestling with a group of 12 year old girls, chased by younger, prettier graduates who could do it better.
Those teachers had their favourites but I hated them all. There was not one decent role model amongst that bunch of losers who represented all the ways to never grow up. I couldn’t learn anything from those half dead women – killed slowly by societal expectations. I could only learn from her. Future me.
Alice Smith on working class teachers in working class schools