International Women’s Day—Guest Post by Christine Baldacchino

I guess it would be odd to start off a piece for International Women’s Day by admitting that I grew up rather distrustful of girls.

I was bullied badly when I was a child, by both boys and girls. But being bullied by the girls felt as though it was edged with betrayal, and that left far deeper cuts. I was a girl, they were girls. Weren’t we all supposed to stick together?

I grew up watching shows like Dallas and Dynasty with my parents in the evening, and soaps like Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless in the afternoon. Women were constantly attacking each other. They were getting pushed into pools or wedding cakes. They were pulling each other’s hair or ripping each other’s clothes. They were slut-shaming each other, humiliating each other, throwing each other under buses. They were rarely fighting for money or power – that was for the men. The women mostly fought over men. The women would only fight for money or power if it involved taking it from other women. The woman almost never got to be the super villain – she had to fight other women to be the super villain’s wife.

I slowly started to become aware of how frequently and enthusiastically the media pitted us against one another. And when I say slowly, I mean at a glacial-like pace, because the whole “survival of the fittest/prettiest/thinnest/best-dressed/most popular” thing was very deeply ingrained. It took years to realize that my mistrust had been entirely misplaced. The “mean girls” were also victims in a way, though blissfully unaware of it. Or maybe they weren’t. Maybe we weren’t giving each other enough credit.

When I was a child being bullied for not being “a real girl”, I rarely took the time to consider what had the girls so adamantly believing I wasn’t normal, and what gave their attacks that extra bite. Once I did take that time, though, it went a long way towards me silently forgiving my childhood tormenters and doing a little healing. When I wrote Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, I wanted to infuse Morris not just with the pride that comes with being yourself, but also with the pride that comes with being enlightened. It’s what saved my life. It’s what gave me hope that if I could figure it out, maybe other girls could, too.

I was afraid of girls once. Maybe the same way some people are still afraid of a boy in a dress.

Fast-forward to today, sitting in front of my laptop at 4:30 a.m. trying to decide which of all the amazing, inspiring women I’ve opened my life up to I should write about for International Women’s Day. I’ve been agonizing over it for two weeks now, but it’s hopeless – I can’t pick just one, and if I were to write about all of them, I’d never get to bed.

I could have bigger problems, right?

Christine Baldacchino is a graphic artist and web designer with a background in early childhood education. Her picture book Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress was the winner of the CBC Bookie Award for Best Picture Book 2015. She lives with her husband in Toronto. She likes cats and the colour orange.

Old Woman—Guest Post by Martine Leavitt

International Women’s Day is March 8th, so with the help of some of our female authors, we’ve decided to dedicate the entire month to women and their stories.

Old Woman

Dear Tim and David and Kekla,

I can never explain myself verbally, which is likely in part why I became a writer. I was trying, that night in the faculty lounge, to tell you what it is like for me, now that I’m an old woman. This is what I was really trying to say:

When I was young, though I didn’t know it, I was beautiful. I became aware of it the day before everything changed. I understood on that day that I had been moving through the universe in a slipstream of pulchritude, a sparkling force-field, a charmed existence that softened some hearts and inspired something else in others. One day I knew it, and the next it was gone. One day for knowing, one day for mourning, and one for wondering what I might have done with that beauty if I had known of it.

But then – lightness. I move smaller and unnoticed through the universe, since then, as if I passed some long initiation and now I get to go in peace, as if I am now acknowledged to be made of some finer material. I wonder how I lived before, with the weight of years-ahead-of-me, and ambition aplenty, and having to carry it all with the ideologies of femininity to face like a headwind. I can’t blame everything on the world, however tempted: Every day I shed something I didn’t recognize was my own strength, shed it like a snake sheds her skin, and I wondered at that papery being that looked something like me.

Now I am in the Sabbath of my life, the seventh decade, and in it I find a kind of rest. I have grown into my face. It is comfortable, not too tight, with just enough room to stretch into any given expression at any given moment, according to whim. My feet and ankles ache, but expectations are low. I have the comfort of grandchildren who are being raised better than their parents were. My dieting days are over, and yet my husband likes me just the way I am. I have a little less estrogen, my husband a little less testosterone, and the Venn diagram of our relationship overlaps a little more, sometimes even nests. I never shed my strength now – it means I am less shiny, but more interesting. My writing brings more joy because I have learned to admire where before I had envied, to pity those who are unkind, to see clearly that the line that divides coveting and surrender, pride and humility, resistance and forbearance, is a pale, wandering line.

I see young women as music, each particle of them vibrating at a register of loveliness. But I want to say this to them: One day you will cease to be beautiful and you will be old, and as hard as is it to believe, I promise you will be glad. What a remarkable thing is an old woman, if I do say so myself.

And that, dear friends, is what I was trying to say.

Much love,

Martine Leavitt is the author of ten novels for young readers. My Book of Life by Angel, which received five starred reviews, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the CLA Young Adult Book of the Year. Other titles include Keturah and Lord Death, finalist for the National Book Award; Tom Finder, winner of the Mr. Christie’s Book Award; and Heck Superhero, finalist for the Governor General’s Award. Her novels have been published in Japan, Korea, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. Martine teaches creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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