I’m walking down the hallway of my high school, attempting to navigate the crowd when an extremely tall girl pats me on the head like a puppy. I realize I am pretty short, 5’2″ isn’t exactly the size of a basketball player, but I also believe it’s taller than most children. The pat was a little harder than I would have liked, but the words she said still made me want to kick her in the shins and run. You’re so cute. The words themselves aren’t offensive it’s the way she said them. As in, you’re little, you’re small, you’re not to be taken seriously. I know I’m adorable as a person, that’s just a given, (wink wink) but I am not without merit or intelligence.
I like to think of myself as a pretty easy going type of person. There are very few things that make me feel enraged. For example when I’m driving down the road and the person in front of me is going beyond slow, I try to remain calm and think perhaps the reason I’m behind them is because going faster would cause me to get into an accident. Or when I told a classmate that I wanted to become a doctor and his response was, “Don’t you have to be smart to be one of those?” Wait, that did make me enraged. The point is I literally (and yes I actually mean it when I say it) cannot stand being made to feel tiny because of my stature or because I am a woman.
Once I became a mother I felt like this gender stereotype became even worse. Suddenly, and especially because I chose to stay home, I was looked at as nothing more that a silly little girl who was raising a baby. How cute. Cute – the word makes my blood boil and causes my hands to shake. Then I decided to get back into the workforce. At the second meeting I ever had an office owner told me, “It’s cute you are trying to be all professional.” The same inclination to kick him in the shins came flooding back. I wanted to scream at him. Is it cute because I’m trying? Is it cute because I care? Is it cute because I’m short and a woman? Would you call a male counterpart cute? And especially to his face about his business contract he was presenting to you? Doubtful.
From then on I felt the need to prove my intelligence. Do you need to know my GPA? My ACT/SAT scores? Will my college rank make you take me more seriously? I felt incredibly helpless after several “cute” encounters. Especially after having a friend echo what the world was telling me. Just be that cute little girl, no one expects anything else. Was I the only one screaming at this point?!
I am unable to change my height or my gender. I can’t change the way I look. But there is one thing that I can do. I can raise awareness. I get to decide how it affects me as woman, a wife, a mother, and a business owner. I also can raise two little boys to know the difference between cute and “cute.” I may not be able to change the world today, but it’s not going to stop me from trying.
And one other thing. Don’t. Call. Me. Cute. Unless of course you are referring to my adorable shoes, then go ahead because I KNOW they are cute.