Despite being seriously deprived of many, many movies when I was a kid, I grew up to be a huge Disney fan. I never saw Dumbo or Bambi or Snow White when I was a child, but thanks to my kids I saw *every* Disney movie that came down the pike, starting with The Little Mermaid.
Okay, okay. I didn’t have kids when I watched The Little Mermaid. But I indulged my inner child, so it counts.
I loved Disney, which bled into a passion for Pixar, which was a tad less sexist than all the fairy tale movies that predated me. (Cinderella isn’t as romantic when you watch it as an adult, especially if you’re a feminist.)
Even though my kids are now adults, I will still throw down animated movies whenever the urge strikes. I once had dental work done while watching Finding Dory, which – if their slightly stunned expressions were any indication – it wasn’t a common DVD selection for an adult to watch during procedures.
Don’t care. Love Disney. I will watch movies till I can recite them verbatim. I used to blame this on the kids, who made me watch the Lion King no fewer than 572 times in the 90s. I can literally recite it from start to finish.
Just watch a Pixar movie with me and see if I don’t drive you from the room.
My poor inner child. She had so much catching up to do.
When Frozen came out, I technically had no small children to justify watching it. But it’s Disney. And there’s a talking snowman. I really need no justification more than that.
Granted, I didn’t get to see the movie until it reached DVD, so I heard the song “Let it Go” before I got to see it used in context. I have to tell you… I was a tad underwhelmed. I’m like, THIS is the big number? You poor parents, having to hear this song over and over again. It doesn’t help that it’s a bombastic song that all of your young children were probably screeching at the tops of their lungs. Like you, I was tired of it before I even saw the movie.
Then I saw the movie and It. Changed. Everything.
Of all the movie princesses in the Disney universe, I relate most to Elsa. She wasn’t sweet, cute or quirky or admired for something as superficial as her beauty. She was an important character – about to be crowned Queen – and she committed the high sin of womanhood…
She wasn’t perfect.
She had a strange affliction where her emotions gave her great power that frightened everyone around her. She had to keep steadfast control over how she felt, trying hard to be a “good girl,” (i.e. quiet, calm and submissive) so that she didn’t upset the delicate balance of everything around her.It was the only way she was permitted to have power, which was really no power at all.
(If that’s not an allegory of misogyny, I don’t know what is.)
When the song first appears in the movie, it is a moment where she finally breaks apart from the society that wishes her bound, to live free… but alone. She has to be alone because if she was truly herself, she’d hurt the people she loves most.
But it is in that sad, lonely moment that she realizes how powerful she really is… and how she’s kind of okay with it.
I have to say that when I first saw it, I fucking cried like a baby. That moment when she tentatively embraces her “imperfections,” what makes her different, what makes her special… what makes her powerful… it was such an emotional release for me personally that I am now that annoying adult who is screeching that song at the top of MY lungs, even though I really can’t get through it without bursting into tears. (Ironically around the lyric “You’ll never see me cry.”)
There was a lot backlash around the song, suggesting that it was teaching lesbianism by “rejecting the good girl,” especially considering Elsa’s objective in the movie wasn’t falling in love or finding a man (which, don’t even get me started.) But as a straight woman, I identified so hard with this song because I, too, was imprisoned by the Good Girl jail cell that kept our girl Elsa bound.
Gay, straight or otherwise, some of us just aren’t meant to be a Good Girl.
“So what are you saying, Ginger? You want to be a bad girl?”
Maybe. Maybe, just maybe, it’s beyond me. I’ve been raised all my life to be a Good Girl and I have to tell you, it’s like a straight jacket that doesn’t fit. I have no interest in being docile or quiet or complacent. I have no choice in the matter whether or not I make a splash when I’m never supposed to make waves.
And it took me until 2013 to realize that I could still be a Good Person and reject, wholly, the idea of being a Good Girl.
The two simply aren’t synonymous.
I used to think they were. Way back in the day especially. My family was a God-fearing Southern Baptist family smack dab in the middle of Texas, a society that had very particular ideas on what made a Good Girl AND a Good Person.
As a result, I grew up confused because what I liked, what drew me in and appealed to me, was the very thing they told me made me bad. Rock music? Check. Three’s Company? Check. Sex… check, check, checkity check.
I remember, vividly, when I was thirteen and talking to my friend, who introduced me to the concept of “oral sex” because she had just had an experience with it. I wasn’t grossed out by her story. I was intrigued.
You did what with what?? Do tell me more.
Bad Girl, indeed. Toot toot, hey.. beep beep.
The whole reason that this topic came up at all for me this week was, in fact, because of music. I was around some other devout Prince fans, which reminded me of how much I loved him and how much he meant to me.
Good Girls weren’t supposed to like Prince.
I *loved* him. (N’ I still do.)
I discovered Prince when I was twelve, a year after my dad died. I was spending a lot of time alone back then, self-managing, self-parenting actually, and I had a lot of sympathy for the grieving child I had no idea how to nurture. I’d let her have another taco, an extra scoop of ice cream… and one more hour of entertainment WAY beyond her years at the time.
I was obsessed with Luke and Laura by the time I was nine. This should tell you all you need to know about what kinds of things appealed to me.
And let’s talk about Luke and Laura for a second. Everyone gives their origin story a lot of shit, because let’s face it – it deserves it. She was the ultimate Good Girl, a sunny blond, blue-eyed innocent with a stunning smile and a doting husband, who married her the second she turned eighteen… the living embodiment of Ken and Barbie. Luke was a rogue from the wrong side of the tracks and he raped her, yet they ended up falling in love anyway.
But it was *because* of the whole Good Girl stigma, particularly in the 1970s, that rape had to be employed at all as a storytelling device. She was married to equally good Scotty, but was irresistibly attracted to the Bad Boy Luke. She couldn’t stay away from him and found every reason in the world to be around him. Despite this, she couldn’t just *sleep* with Luke and act on all that attraction and chemistry between them. If she did, she wouldn’t be a Good Girl anymore and the audience would lose their sympathy for her. So he had to rape her in order to keep her virtue intact, but give fans the intimacy they all craved. Go back to romance books back in that same era and you have the reluctant Good Girl and the Bad Boy rogue who has to manhandle her to get her to give in to her attraction.
Good girls have to be talked into sex, doncha know. Or thrown up against a wall… either way…
Even four decades later the Alpha Male still holds appeal, the dominant who will open you up past The Good Girl the world sees. There’s a reason my blog about General Hospital is still getting hits, seven years after it was written.
It’s a delicate balance we are all forced to walk, like a two inch high wire 100 feet in the air with no net to catch you.
You only get the net if you’re a Good Girl, and I ain’t. Because even when I was nine years old I was screaming at my TV screen for Laura to jump all over Luke and forget Scotty, who was a controlling sexist pig anyway. I would have jumped into Luke’s arms at the first opportunity.
Fast forward to 1982 and along came Prince. I was introduced to him via his Little Red Corvette video and he was unlike anything I had ever seen or heard before. (Small-town conservative Texas, remember.)
I was mesmerized from the start. Most people loved Michael Jackson, since this was right around the Thriller era, but I rejected all that for this unusual man in purple (my favorite color, no less!) who had swagger way before I even understood the concept.
Michael was too straight-laced for my tastes, ironically. I was still that Good Girl who needed a Bad Boy to open the world up for me.
Prince was so that guy.
I was hooked in an instant. I started buying his albums (yes, albums,). In addition to 1999, which was the album I purchased for Little Red Corvette, I had these two on constant repeat:
These included such ditties as “Jack U Off” and “Head,” both of which I could sing from the time I was twelve.
That Good Girl ship sailed early for me.
Whether it’s because I’m a Scorpio or just happily demented, sex has always been a fascinating topic to me. I can turn any topic around to it, and have. (Look at this blog, for instance.) You’re not supposed to admit this as a woman, but fuck it, I’m letting it go. Psychologically we could probably blame it on the attack when I was four, which introduced the idea of “sex” to me way before I was old enough to understand it, which meant I spent a lifetime after it trying to figure it out. But Luke and Laura, Prince… it was clear from the beginning that I had a fascination with all things forbidden… because I desperately want to unravel *why* it’s forbidden in the first place, especially if it’s something I want.
Like everything else, I work all this shit out with storytelling. If you’ve read my books, you understand that this is Bad Girl territory, from the Groupie who has to nail the hot rock star to the rich woman who hires an escort to make all her sexual fantasies come true.
Good, bad, I don’t care. It’s what interests me. Prince was the first person I remember making this okay. He even wove God and spirituality into the mix, which… dude. According to my narrow Southern Baptist confines of what it meant to be “Good,” being drawn to such things made me bad and sinful. With Prince, the message was, “God loves you anyway. Let’s dance!”
As a result, I learned more about spirituality from Prince than any preacher. In fact… despite being in church from the womb, it was Prince’s song “Controversy” that taught me how to recite the Lord’s Prayer.
(OMG Just realized there was an official video to that song… fangirl freakout… music break…)
Per Prince, I could be a “bad girl” and still be a good person; I could still love God, I could still care passionately about what was going on around me in the world, even if it was going to shit in apocalyptic glory. And I could fight it all by simply giving in to what made me… me, even if other people didn’t like it or understand it.
Looking back, I guess Prince was the first little snowflake I created in the Emancipation of The Good Girl.
(I’ve been on this mountaintop a long ass time.)
It’s taken me 47 years but I can say this openly and without shame: I have no interest in being your Good Girl. Being a Good Girl means that I conform to someone else’s idea of femininity and womanhood. It usually involves things like conformity and subservience, the kind of stuff I can barely talk about without engaging my gag reflex.
My name is Ginger, FFS. Have you ever had ginger? It’s strong. It’s spicy. It’s not for everyone, and even for those who like it there’s a fine line between just enough and too much.
Can you think of a more fitting moniker?
Thanks to my Dad, who treated me like a queen from the time I was born to the day he died, I wasn’t asked to contain myself. If I walked into the room, I could state whatever opinion I had. I never had to wait. And even if my dad disagreed, and he often did, and even if he didn’t, he’d argue with a fence post, I wasn’t afraid to stand my ground and make my point, even if I was all of six at the time. And he never once tried to shut me down.
(Thank you, Dad, for that gift of confidence. I credit you for never being overtalked by any man anywhere.)
Like Elsa, when my dad died I was left to navigate a world that didn’t understand me, who was discomforted by the fact that I was a complex individual with highly charged emotions that could intimidate those attempting to keep the delicate balance of polite society.
Like Elsa, I stuffed it all down to make myself more palatable to them. It was something I felt I had to do, just to survive. Often this meant I withdrew from people, because that scary Ginger, that Bad Girl Ginger, IS the real one, and you can only hide it for so long… and I knew even when I was eleven years old this was a deal-breaker.
Don’t let them in,
don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Being who I am became my secret to hide… my super power to suppress.
Come to think of it, I think this is why I love the Netflix series Stranger Things so much because I identify with El – who shares the same affliction as both Elsa and me… who literally had to hide what makes her special just to keep herself safe.
But sometimes… it’s just impossible to keep it in…
Like El and Elsa, self-preservation meant suppressing and denying what makes me special. I’ve adopted The Good Girl persona so people will like me enough that they’ll never leave, because that is my single worst fear. It started when I was an eleven-year-old child and I realized such things happened. Even the people who love you mostest can and do leave, and then you’ll be all alone and vulnerable to a hateful world around you.
Been there. Done that. It sucks. There’s really only one good thing that comes from it: you’re free then to define who you are, and tap into your power and just see where it leads.
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
El and Elsa are both heroes, forced to use their own unique powers to save the people they love, and in doing so embracing what made them imperfect.
They just had to learn how to “let it go.”
I’m in that process right now. I’m in the process of learning that I can still be a Good Person even if I don’t do what others think I need to do to be a Good Girl, someone who gracefully, quietly and prettily fits into polite society, like some docile little bird whose wings have been clipped.
To that I stand in your face, fists clenched, screaming, “SCREW YOUR POLITE SOCIETY.” Polite societies looked the other way during the rise of Nazis, and, quite frankly, can go fuck themselves.
Being a Good Girl isn’t a measure of who I am, it’s how I’m expected to behave, rules set in place by other people. Believe it or not, I can enjoy giving a good blowjob AND be a good mom. I can write about fucking AND still kick misogyny square in the balls like they deserve. I can watch and understand the dynamics of Luke and Laura and still fight against the rape culture. (In fact, I think it makes me stronger not weaker to do so.)
Your shackles don’t fit me, and I have no interest in trying to make them. As a woman especially, the perimeters within I’m expected to operate are extraordinarily narrow, since the power structure built up around us was created mostly by men, which can include the following:
If we’re not pretty, we’re shamed for not putting more of an effort into being attractive to the opposite sex. (It doesn’t matter, apparently, whether I’m trying to attract them or not. Even if you’re 100% lesbian, you have to meet this rule – just ask any butch lesbian who has rejected any trappings of perceived femininity.)
If we ARE pretty, sure we get more perks but the general wisdom is that we didn’t really earn them. A woman can ascend to the top pegs of the corporate ladder, but some idiot somewhere is going to wonder, usually aloud, who she fucked to get there.
And let’s chat a bit about the fucking part…
If we’re not sexual enough, we’re frigid prudes who need to lighten up.
If we’re too sexual, we’re sluts and need to slow our roll.
If we’re married and we cheat, we’re selfish, hedonist sluts.
If we’re married and our husbands cheat, we obviously didn’t do enough to keep them happy. God help us if we dare “let ourselves go.”
If we’re lesbians, we just haven’t “met the right guy.”
If we’re raped, it is somehow our fault for either attracting the attacker or not being strong enough to fight him off.
If we’re married with kids, a stay-at-home mom, we have no goals, no separate identity.
If we’re career women who have shunned staying at home and having kids, we’re man-hating feminazis who are threatening the very fabric of America by attacking the nuclear family dynamic because we’re too self-centered.
If we’re docile and quiet, we’re pushovers.
If we’re loud and pushy, we’re bitches.
And you can just fuggetaboutit when you become a mother. Pregnant women become less valuable than the cluster of cells they carry in the womb, and we’re expected to carry that lesser value into motherhood, always placing the children and the family first – even if that means you give up goals and dreams you worked an entire lifetime to achieve.
Men and fathers can still do both. Women, not so much.
(Jeff and I will be watching Bad Moms later, which was actually a coincidence, but now I think is fitting the theme of the day.)
Basically there’s a critic for everything you say or do, how you look, what you wear, how you parent your children, how you manage your marriages and relationships… all of it. And basically to be a Good Girl, you have to be doing the opposite thing, whatever it is, of what you are currently doing… particularly if it brings you any joy.
That little box for the Good Girl? It’s tiny, y’all – about the size the pocket society wants to keep you in. It doesn’t fit. I’m uncomfortable, and – contrary to Good Girl wisdom, losing all my weight so I can check off at least the “pretty” box – it will still be way too tiny for all of this Ginger.
What’s a girl to do?
We’ll I tell you what this girl is gonna do. I’m gonna say what I want to say. I’m going to wear what I want to wear. I’m going to look how I’m going to look. I’m going to do what I want to do. You might not like it. In fact, like true ginger, it may get to be “too much.”
But I have faith in you that you’re strong enough to take it. You’re a survivor, you. You’ll live. You’ll live your life doing what you want to do, saying what you want to say, and I’m probably not going to like all of it either.
Being a Good Girl, I’d have to swallow it all and accept it.
I can still be a Good Person and refuse to allow your rules define me.
So I’m letting it go.
Good girl? No thanks.
I’d rather be a motherfucking queen.