Where my girls at?

Beyoncé asked a profound question: “Who run the world?” I don’t know, Beyoncé, but I’d like to have a word with them.

If ignorance is bliss, no wonder I’m so happy: I don’t know what’s going on in the world.

Don’t call me “uninformed,” as I don’t like to be thought of as “un” anything but, the truth is, every day I consciously choose to only let certain information into my brain. I can watch an entire newscast and exclusively absorb the things that I want to know. I can walk away with only a weather report; a good news story about a lost dog returning home, four years after having gone missing; and the latest Kardashian news.

Am I what’s wrong with America? Probably.

All I know is that when I watch the news and really take in all of what is being spewed forth, I get blue. I might not even know why I’m blue, I just carry a general ickiness around. Like my heart suddenly remembers that life is hard and not fair and people are struggling every day. That, on top of my own struggles, is a heavy load to bear.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret…I’m not blocking, I’m filtering. It’s all in there, somewhere, sitting in a dark corner, waiting to make an appearance. Usually, when I least expect it.

A few nights ago, I went to a comedy show here in Richmond. I wasn’t performing this time, just supporting some friends who were and another friend who organized the whole thing. There were quite a few comedians on the bill, and I was especially delighted by the ones I’d never seen before (sorry, friends, but I’ve heard all your jokes). After all of the lesser-known (read: my people) acts had come and gone, it was time for the headliner, a man of some renown, judging by the introduction he received, but of whom I hadn’t heard.

This man was the best of everything that I usually like. He told jokes and played guitar while he sang funny songs. He had a good voice and was a talented musician. However, his 30-minute set was not female-friendly. I don’t mean he sang songs that were primarily male-oriented humor (certainly the case, but not at all the problem), I mean his songs degraded woman. People laughed; the man was funny. I had an actual anxiety attack: shortness of breath, a tight feeling in my chest, a cold sweat, dizziness. I hung on until he was finished, lamenting having chosen a seat near the front, thereby making it impossible to escape without interrupting the whole show.

I vamoosed as soon as he was off stage, confusing my friends. I mumbled something about having to go on my way out the door and left quickly. I sat in my car for a few minutes afterward, waiting until I was fit to drive.

Over the next day or two, I really pondered my reaction. Everybody was laughing, so what was my problem? His guitar, his voice, his delivery were all perfection. This guy was obviously good at what he did and, judging by his resume, a lot of people thought so.

Then, I ran into the friend who had organized the show. He also happens to be a personal friend of the comedian in question. He innocently asked “Hey, how did you like the show the other night?”

I burst out, “It was horrible! Who does that guy think he is? DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO BE A GIRL RIGHT NOW??”

In a week where lawmakers were making some pretty heavy decisions about women’s reproductive health and rights, I guess a little of that had seeped in.

As I cried about how it feels to have the fate of your insidey parts decided by those who don’t even share them, to a man who was completely confused by my complicated reaction to a seemingly simple question, I realized that my initial statement was true: it is hard to be a girl in the world, right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that it’s been much tougher, throughout history, to have a vagina (and respect the fact that, while it’s not my experience, it’s probably difficult to have a penis sometimes, too). I get that. But for how far we’ve come, we’ve still got farther to go.

Look at the media. Movies, television, and online gossip sites are all tearing down women. Little digs about their bodies, jokes about their cattiness,1 scenes of extreme violence against females. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was getting Beyoncé to sing “Who run the world? Girls.” while not wearing pants. If we ran the world, B, you’d be warm and cozy in some comfy yoga pants while still being respected for your immense talent.

But that’s not the world we “run”, so what can we do?

There are a lot of us women, yet we are so divided over the some things (abortion, parenting, pornography, politics, religion) that it prevents us from coming together over other things that we may agree upon. We can work on being better represented by those who make the laws that affect us.2 We can work on being better represented by the media who sets the tone and gives voice to the collective conscious.3

We can be nicer to each other. Regardless of our different circumstances, or beliefs, or backgrounds, every human being wants to be respected. To be recognized. To be heard. We can hear each other. We can debate, respectfully. We can make ourselves heard, without having to silence others.

Every one of us has a complicated life and a complex background and I refuse to boil you down so that you fit into a box like “bitchy customer,” “snobby mom at the school fundraiser,” “judgmental internet commenter,” or “bad mother, screaming at her kids in Red Lobster.” I don’t know what you’ve been through in your life, I don’t know what you’ve been through in your day, but I do know I can love you in this moment because fate has brought us together. I can refill your tank just a tiny bit–even if it’s from “E” to “just above E.” Let me put something in before you sputter out.

All I’m asking here is for us to not help with the tearing down. That’s being done for us, and quite efficiently, by the world at large. So let’s show we stand together and are a force to be reckoned with. Let’s validate. Let’s love. And let’s stop watching The goddamn Bachelor.

— ∮∮∮ —


  1. Have you seen The Bachelor? These women are tearing each other down while competing for a man like he’s the last one on earth! News alert: there are more of them out there! Many more! 
  2. In 2012, women hold only 16.8% of the 535 seats in the 112th US Congress and 22.7% of the available statewide elective executive offices
  3. From 2010 to 2011, women dropped from 20 percent of behind-the-scenes entertainment television roles to 4 percent. Women make up only 21.7 percent of the Sunday morning talk show commentators on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and Fox News. And in one year, women in radio dropped 7.2 percent. Women direct only 5 percent of films and make up a third of speaking characters. 


Photo by: Schjelderup

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. john moon on said:

    My god, you’re so wonderful and what you think and say is even more wonderful!

  2. The truth on said:

    My wife spends most of her free time shopping.

  3. Amazing, thank you for posting this! Putting into words what some of us have a hard time expressing.

  4. Holly on said:

    Hear Hear

  5. I think if you substituted “human” for each “girl”, “female” or “woman”, the article would be equally valid and true. The world is a very hard place for most everyone these days, but the ways it is hard tend to be different.

  6. So I’m pretty intrigued as to what your friend’s response was? (The one who organized the comedy event.) Did he know this is what the act entailed and did he have any sort of response to your reaction?

    In the recent backlash against the RVA Magazine online post on women’s footwear causing STDs – the editor posted a thoughtful response explaining his disappointment and regret in judgement for posting the article on his personal blog. I am curious to know if your friend had any sort of remorse once he realized your (and probably others) reactions to the content of the show.

    And yes, it is a hard time out there for everyone these days – but I wouldn’t say there is an all out war on men happening. Women’s rights – or an attempt at reversing them – has been at the forefront of legislation over the past few months and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up over the Presidential race either.

    Jennifer – You are so right on that women need to rampantly support one another in this atmosphere. Thanks for the thoughtful article.

  7. elizabeth on said:

    love love love your writing. this is one of my favorites. thank you so much-

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