This Is What It’s Actually Like Growing Up As A Millennial Girl

Quentin Keller
Quentin Keller

1993

I’m born female, 7 lbs 3 oz., 21 inches long.

The UN World Conference on Human’s Rights in Vienna confirms that women’s rights are human rights.

1998

My sister writes a note at Girl Scout’s camp. “Katie wants to haf seks with Jake” Our camp counselor tells our mother. Mom sits us down and tells us sex is bad. Only married girls have sex. We don’t know what sex is. We don’t talk about sex again until we’re grown up.

It is the 150th anniversary of the Women’s Rights Movement.

1999

My brother is born. He screams all the time. Nana says baby boys who cry will be great entrepreneurs. Dad says he is now the king of the household.

The Supreme Court rules in Kolstad v. American Dental Association that a woman can sue for punitive damages for sex discrimination if the anti-discrimination law was violated with malice or indifference to the law, even if that conduct was not especially severe.

2000

A girl from my class looks at herself in the mirror in the girls’ bathroom and says “I’m gross.” “What’s gross?” I ask her. “It means bad or fat,” she says.

2002

Mom tells me I’m getting too old to wear mini skirts. “It’s inappropriate” she says.

The House Democratic Caucus elects 15-year veteran Nancy Pelosi of California as Democratic Leader, making her the highest ranking woman in congressional history.

2003

I’m in the fifth grade. I have the most stickers on the progress board in the back. The boys tell me “you’re a know-it-all.” Those same boys chase my friends around the playground trying to touch their bottoms. I chase them away from my friends. They call me a bitch. I don’t know what a bitch is.

2005

My neighbor and I go for a walk to buy candy at the local CVS. I’m catcalled for the first time. “They’re looking at our butts,” she says. Two more cars drive by and beep on our walk. We’re 12.

In Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, the Supreme Court rules that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, also inherently prohibits disciplining someone for complaining about sex-based discrimination.

2006

One day in church my dad tells me the worst thing I could ever do is get an abortion. Don’t ever do it; God will be angry. In CCD, we learn about Mary the mother of God and Mary Magdalen; the virgin and the whore. Those are the only ones mentioned. Be like one, not like the other, they not-so-explicitly tell us.

2008

A friend finds online messages about my friend and my plan to eat 500 calories a day or less. We send each other photos of “thinspiration”. We’re reported the health center. I work out 3 times per day and skip meals to try and be thin. I keep a diary to record my weight and my feelings of fatness. I start to hear the girls in school whispering about the “ABC” diet. They want to lose weight too. They want to be hot too.

2009

My friend and I sneak away from her high school dorm to a local party. We make out with two boys in the back of a truck. She and the boy she is kissing leave to go back to the party.

The boy I’m with flips me under him; it’s the first time I realize how much stronger boys are. I protest. “Please stop.” He takes off my top and puts his mouth in places I’ve never been touched. He keeps going until his friend hears me and opens the trunk. “Dude, get off her.” He leaves. I put myself together and don’t mention it to my friend. It’s just boys being boys, I tell myself.

One week later I have a panic attack during a meditation exercise in health class. I tell my teacher what happened after class. We never talk about it again. I never mention it to anyone. The boy never says a word to me.

President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which allows victims of pay discrimination to file a complaint with the government against their employer within 180 days of their last paycheck. Previously, victims (most often women) were only allowed 180 days from the date of the first unfair paycheck. This Act is named after a former employee of Goodyear who alleged that she was paid 15–40% less than her male counterparts, which was later found to be accurate.

2010

My mom tells me I can’t sleep at my boyfriend’s house because everyone in town will think poorly of me. “Do you want everyone to think you’re a slut?” I wonder if anyone would say the same about him.

2011

It’s my first year of college. I start dating a boy. He tells me he would never date anyone in the double digits. Sleeping with a lot of guys makes you gross. He’s well above that because of a competition with his friend — who is also a man.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 is to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.

2012

My friend tells me that guys won’t want to date me if I sleep with them right away. “They’ll think you’re too easy.”

2013

My little brother, who is now a teenager, complains that it’s not fair how girls get free drinks at the bar. I think about how those drinks are never really free. I think about the times I’ve had sex because I felt I “owed” someone. I think that I don’t really want the free drinks.

Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (originally passed in 1994). The new bill enhances judicial and law enforcement tools to combat violence against women, provides support for victims, and extends coverage to young victims, immigrants, Indian women, and victims of trafficking.

2014

I get pregnant in a foreign country. I have an abortion. I feel guilt for my actions. Later, I don’t feel sad. My friend, a man, tells me I do feel sad but I just don’t know any better. I feel guilty for not being sad. I feel like a defective woman.

2015

I come out as bisexual. The men I meet want to have a threesome. They want to know which gender I like better. They say that dating a woman cannot be as satisfying. I feel like I’m placed in an over-sexualized box. A man I’m sleeping with tells me that he’s looking for a girlfriend, but that I’m not a contender.

2016

I go to meetings for work every day and meet with people in positions of power. They are primarily men. They flirt with me. They comment on my clothes and insist on paying for business lunches that my company will expense. I wonder if they do this with the men they meet. My friends that are men talk about bonding with their bosses over women, golf, and sports.

Every day I wonder if I should use my more feminine or my more assertive voice. Do I use a firm handshake? Do I let them open the door? Am I under-dressed? Is wearing my hair down too sexual?

During my lunch break I avoid eye contact with groups of men on the street who whistle and yell after me.
Out at the bars on the week-end, men grab my ass and ask if they can fuck me. I shove them. They tell me to calm down.

People tell me I should have kids sooner rather than later. That one day I’ll have to pick my kids because that’s what good mother’s do, that good women do. They sacrifice. They sacrifice for their children, their husbands, their partners, their coworkers, their friends…they give and give and give to satisfy others, until eventually they shrink away.

A presidential candidate calls women fat pigs. He discredits a woman’s frustrations, saying she must be on her period. He says he cherishes women.

People tell me sexism doesn’t exist. That women have made legislative progress. That we are equal as men and women in society.

I don’t believe these people anymore. TC mark

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