I came into this world on the fifteenth of September in the year of the rabbit. I was born a girl.
With my birth came ideas & belief systems that were set to define who I was. Most of these views were bestowed upon me without my permission. The essence of my gender was one of them.
From a very young age, I was taught consistently & subliminally about what it means to be a girl, to the point where it became second nature. The Disney films, fairy tales, & depictions of women in the media gave me a good definition of what femininity was. It also showed me what femininity wasn’t.
It wasn’t grass stains or bug catching. It wasn’t action figures or video games. It wasn’t dirt underneath fingernails or combat boots. It wasn’t disheveled or uncouth. It wasn’t callouses or splinters. & it certainly wasn’t the color blue.
No, the definition of Female was shaved legs, long hair, sitting with legs crossed, & cleavage. It was Barbies, being a princess for Halloween, & the color pink. It was the anticipation of being rescued by Prince Charming & eventually being a mother. It was dainty, cute, elegant, delicate.
All of those things were expected of me the moment my parents knew that their first born was to be a girl. Before I even took my first breath, the classification of my sex was already in place.
I cannot say that those characteristics were unfairly given to me (what mother doesn’t want her little girl to be elegant?), but I do think that society puts an amazing amount of pressure on us to be as much of a girl/boy as we can, & this spills over into our adulthood. People (our parents especially) want us to be the fullest extent of our genders as possible, to be the polar opposite of a male (or female) so as to not confuse the general public. This is why my mother put me in itchy dresses for church & gave me dolls to play with.
The priority that is placed on the way we present ourselves in society as it fits the genitalia we were born with is rather silly.
I myself have been feeling rather disassociated with the word “feminine,” & not because I’m trying rebel against labels & traditions that I didn’t consent to, but because of the ridiculous insecurities that have surfaced because of it. I’ve been asking myself lately what it means to be a female to figure out one thing: Am I feminine enough?
It wasn’t always this way. When I was little, I went through a stage where I practically slept in dresses & dress shoes, where the highlight of my day was wrapped around the purse I let dangle on my shoulder. I was conditioned to see femininity as a particular way for most of my life, so my idea of it depends solely on everything that was given to me as a child, from little words of wisdom to Christmas presents. Ever since I came into being, I’ve had a set conception of what it meant to be a girl with the help of society & my own ritualistic upbringing.
Many of those things were based on lies.
Today, I have tattoos plastered on my body & a short haircut. I fancy mystery novels & thriller films more than I do Harlequin romance books & chick flicks. I abhor any kind of shoe that has a raised heel & I curse like a sailor. I am also more likely to wear pants than I am a dress. Do these things make me less of a woman?
By my own standards & the things I was taught… it does. & because of this, I admit to spending too many days feeling rather awkward in my skin for fear of exuding not enough femininity, which therefore implies I am perhaps more masculine.
These thoughts have been in my mind since I began developing into a young woman, but are present even more now since I shaved my head last July. This worry of appearing too boyish has been bothering me so much that I find myself grasping onto ways where I can overtly let the world know without a doubt in their minds that I was a girl, even if that means changing who I am: wearing clothes that don’t fit my style, smothering my face with eyeliner & lipstick, taking on mannerisms of The Stereotypical Female, & so on.
What am I so afraid of? Of being mistaken as a boy in the grocery store, of course. But why? Why is that I often feel apologetic, even a little ashamed, that some of the characteristics I exude aren’t directly influenced by femininity? I am old & smart enough to understand that I can define my life any way that I want to; why doesn’t this include the way I define myself as a girl?
There should be plenty of room to move around, to bend genders & stereotypes, & there should be nothing wrong with doing so. But I haven’t given myself room for that. I’ve always associated being opposed to frilly things & the color pink as a direct disgrace to my sex, rather than a celebration of the fact that femininity, as well as masculinity, isn’t always black & white.
Feminine doesn’t equal long hair. It doesn’t equal pastel colors or heterosexuality or fancy dresses. Feminine doesn’t equal anything, really, & neither does Masculine. I think femininity is expected to fit into a perfectly wrapped, little pink box with lacy ribbon on top… but it doesn’t.
I’m not suggesting that we should embrace a sexless existence. But I am pointing out the ridiculousness of the standards we place on ourselves for the glory of remaining “true” to our respective genders, whatever that means. I believe that having variety in your gender is a beautiful thing, rather than living in a homogenous world, which is rather boring & predictable. There is a full spectrum of expression in our gender that we don’t always encourage or embrace, & I think that instead of dwelling on proving something as ambiguous as gender — The Male & The Female — it’s more important to have blissful awareness in yourself.
It’s more important to be an authentic human being.
I have yet to completely latch onto that idea, & I’ll no doubt continue to struggle defining my gender in a way that doesn’t inhibit me. But the most I can do in such a gender-centered world is persist in reminding myself of & celebrating the ways I exude high femininity, while acknowledging & enjoying my masculine tendencies.
It’ll always be a work in progress.
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Tell me… have you ever struggled with the way society defines your gender? If so, how have you defined it in a way that works for you?
Spill your thoughts in the comments section.