I hate women. You know the ones. Those skinny, blonde women who know nothing about football and talk about shoes all the time. They are everywhere as well. On billboards, on TV, in all my favourite sitcoms, in every music video. Every stand-up comedian on TV talks about them as well – often with anger and annoyance. I completely connect with that – those women sound incredibly annoying. So I hate them too.
I can hate women because I am not one. I am one of the guys. I always have been. There came a point growing up when we all knew we had to make a decision. We were no longer children; we were either little men or little women. I looked to my mother for guidance on how to be a little woman, but she just stood in front of me wearing clothes from the men’s section in our local supermarket; the closest her face had ever come to make-up was a little stain of paint from when she single-handedly painted our entire house; her shoes were cheap trainers, worn down from long shifts at the factory; and her pose was manly, arms folded and feet firmly placed on the floor. No angles in her body, a brick. She rolled her eyes when I asked if it was time for us to buy me a bra – and then sat me down to watch another Nicolas Cage action movie with her. The other girls in my class had received guidance – and soon we split up. They became little women and I became one of the guys.
You are never truly one of the guys. No one ever tells you that. No one ever told me to be careful – because no matter how many headshots you are able to kill with in Counter-Strike, you are never anything but a girl. Michael fell in love with me first. Then Morten. Tom never fell in love with me, or maybe he just never said it – because our two friends had beat him to it. I was furious that I could not just be one of the guys, that suddenly I had to think about how to be a woman again. I intensified my male behaviour: I skipped class, I burped, I talked loudly and often about porn. All to remind them to not fall in love with me – for I was a friend, not a girl. I dated Michael for a while and gave Morten his first kiss. I did not fit into the new box, girlfriend. So I left.
I was one of the guys in high school as well. Except there it was just me. I protested everything and I protested it loudly. The drunk biology teacher who graded us by throwing a dice. The curtains that had not been changed since 1985. The overpriced carrots in the cafeteria. The students they gave a two-week detention – and nothing else – for attempting to rape another student. She left the school. They graduated and they are smiling in their class photo.
I was told to arch my back, smile and do my homework like a good girl. Stop trying to get attention, I was told. It is very unflattering. I did not stop protesting till they threatened to kick me out of the school. I wanted to stay. My masculine energy was helping me get to Louise, a beautiful redhead who only wore sweatpants and hoodies. She cared about handball and nothing else. I thought we would be one of the guys together. Two of the guys. She was the reason I rigged a drinking game, just so I could kiss her. When we returned to school after the summer vacation, she was wearing heels and make-up. I should have been upset but instead I was jealous of how quickly she had learned to become a woman. I then started hating even her, for caving in, for becoming what I could not be.
After high school, I met Ina. She was not a woman either. She did once buy fifty pairs of shoes in one day, but they were all in sizes way too small for her, as she was handing them out to orphans in Saint-Louis in Senegal. She does boss men around, like the women on TV, but only because
he is the leader of the fundraising department of one of the biggest charity organisations in Denmark. She does not know the offside rule though. Typical women.
I met Eva. Eva was not a woman either. Not just because she had a tendency to sleep with them every once in a while, but because she was always a rock. To me and to everyone around her. I know of men who cried on her shoulder. She cut her hair short. She sat like a man would, with spread legs and shoulders raised, as if she was always ready for a battle. Which I think she always was. I believe her shoes were always dirty and had holes in them. I never found out if she knew anything about football, because we were always busy discussing homelessness or mental health.
I moved in next door to Michelle. Michelle is not a real woman, far from it. Michelle drinks like a man, burps like a man and speaks like a man might after spending a year at sea. When a guy tried to stick his finger into her anus on the dance floor, she turned around and smacked him so hard across the face that he fell to the floor. Later, she made sure he was fired from his job. Real women do not do that, real women do not cause scenes like that. Arch your back, shut up, Michelle.
Ida was not a woman. I once saw her drink a can of beer from a straw – through her nose. And Ane, Ane always complains that her boyfriend does not want to have sex as often as Ane does. Sanne has chosen not to shave her pubic hair. Lucy is afraid of commitment but her boyfriend wants marriage and kids. Amy puts squeaky toys in her bra so it makes a noise when she honks it. Then she laughs for hours.
I am still one of the guys. The guys being this layered, diversified, strong, opinionated, colourful, extraordinary palette of women I never see represented on TV or in other media. In 1994, when we had to choose if we wanted to be little women or little men, they should have been up there on the billboards. There are currently two types of women: the woman on the billboards and the women who grow up feeling wrong. I was twenty-five years old when I realised that I did not hate women. I do not even hate the woman on the billboard. I hate that the possibility of not being her, of not being a Barbie doll, was hidden from me. I hate that I was never given the opportunity to embrace my version of womanhood. The womanhood that is inclusive of all kinds of women. We need that. That is why I am a feminist.
The above essay appears in I Call Myself A Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty (Virago, £9.99)