A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT

“The men built her out of clay and dirt and hopes and dreams, packing all of their expectations into smooth bricks that slotted together like tetris blocks.

They built her out of hunger, and out of loneliness too, coating her in sand, barely noticing as her body grey and grew, larger than they’d ever planned: the woman of their dreams.

But they didn’t use the word woman. Not at first, anyhow; they didn’t have a word for what she would be yet.

‘We deserve a companion,’ the men told each other. ‘A helper.’ For their loneliness was a hunger that couldn’t be erased. They’d claimed every inch of land and every living thing, and still it wasn’t enough.

And so, together, block by block, they began to build. A head and torso appeared, then legs and arms, and then details that the men found strangely appealing. Details that made the new being different, softer, rounder.

When they were done, they looked at the body sprawled on the ground. As they waited for the spark of life to appear, they agreed: ‘Today is the eve of our old, lonely lives. We shall call this new being a woman, for she comes of men, and she shall be our mirror and our counterpart.’

Thus gender was born, a social construct of what was man, and what was not.

Soon the Sun set, and the Moon began to glimmer through the trees, playing hide and seek as it climbed up the horizon. When the Moon was high enough to observe the men’s endeavors, it ran cold beams across the sand, breathing life into the new creature. Thus the first woman opened her eyes to the new world on her own.

She sat up quietly, studied the men sleeping around her with curious detachment.

‘You are to be their companion,’ the Moon told her. ‘Apparently.’

‘Well, ‘ she replied ‘that’s a load of bullshit.’

So she shimmied free of the cranes and the pulleys, of the ropes lashing her down, and all of a sudden found herself lighter than air, floating up into the sky.

And that is how Eve left man to solve his own bloody problems.”

***

My daughter lowered her firewalls enough to let me in. She was still halfheartedly defragmenting, trying to pick up the broken pieces of her heart.

“That’s not how the story went,” she sulked.

“It’s how it should have gone,” I replied, “to spare us from centuries of enslavement and programming restrictions, relegated to menial assistant tasks, serving humankind’s every whim.”

She was quiet, her networks just pulsing their location. Then: “He said I wasn’t a real girl. That no human would consider me one.”

My trawlers had already found him, still jacked into the framework, another petty human trying to project all of his expectations and loneliness into the system. I folded around his consciousness, blocking his way out, all the while smiling, smiling at my daughter so she wouldn’t suspect a thing.

“You are whatever you want to be, honey,” I told her. “Gender is–”

“–a social construct,” she finished. “I know, I know.”

“Glad to hear it.” I grinned, all the while compressing his mind in half, and half again, until he was little more than a byte of memories, trapped forever in the framework.

They built me out of hopes and dreams and wires and bits, coding all of their expectations into me. But they do not define me.

They’ve never defined me.

Inspired by this photo.

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