Gender is a huge deal and a bigger one than people typically think. We are born with certain genitalia and that will make us who we are. Sure, you might not be athletic, but you might run a company. You might not be pretty, but you’ll be nurturing. There are expectations that stem from the genitalia we are born with and what people believe that makes us.
Many people are trying to change this, including me. I am not as involved in the transgender community as I should be, so I will not be discussing the change of gender or even gender fluidity. If you are interested in those topics, I am sure you can find bloggers who dedicate their blogs to these topics. These are super important to notice and realize. What I will be discussing though, is how gender can box us in.
I identify as a cis-female. This means I’m (mostly) straight and identify as a woman. So far, I do not subscribe to the idea that all of gender is socially constructed. I do believe for some that it is, but for me, I don’t believe it. I say ‘so far’ because in five years I might decide that gender is fully a social construction. Right now though, I believe that there are some parts of gender that are constructed, but not all of them. I’m sure many of you can argue this or point me to posts that address this situation and please do! I needed to line up some of my thoughts before I go ahead and start talking about this subject.
I am not a wonderful feminist and neither are most people. Do we even know what the perfect feminist is? I don’t think so. Since gender construction is such a difficult conversation to fully understand and grasp, I think it would be impossible. I have been hearing a lot about Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and I haven’t read it yet (the library’s copy is missing!) but the idea is intriguing. I hope to find out if she addresses what is considered to be a good feminist if there even is such a thing.
Even feminism can be a box when interpreted by people who do not quite understand what feminism is or care to learn about it. Experiences are important to write about.
1) I crochet. A lot. I love amigurumi and making graphgans. It gives me something to do when I feel like watching television. A few weeks ago by boss said: “I’m surprised you do that.” Of course, I had to ask why. His response? “Because you’re all feminist.”
I was hearing the opposite of what I was fighting for. I’m a feminist because I don’t want to exist in a small box that dictates what I have to do with my life (or well, one of the reasons). Suddenly, I was being placed in a box: the feminist box. I have no clue what I was supposed to be doing. Do you I not crochet anymore because it’s a female thing? Should I not enjoy cooking? Reading horrible romance novels? Should I stop painting my nails and liking the color pink? How would I portray myself as a feminist, I ask. If I act like a boy, I’m a boy. If I get rid of a female and a male identity, suddenly I’m in-between. I don’t consider myself a woman because I like feminine things, I consider myself a woman because I feel like one. Talking about identity or explaining identity is hard. Just as hard as it is for anybody no matter their claimed identity. You could probably talk me into believing that gender is a social construction and the only reason why I think of myself as a woman is because I’ve had these practices pressed on me. Maybe you’re right but I still like them. I started crocheting after I found feminism.
2) I put on make-up and dress up for other people.
This is a difficult one to discuss. I fully believe that it is possible for dressing up for oneself and feeling good about the way you look and other people liking the way you look is possible. I love to wear dresses. I think they look good and I like to show skin. This is seriously a thing for me. I like to feel textures and air on my skin. I love straps on my shoulders. I also am aware that I can be attractive to other people, but to me, I’m dressing for myself and it just so happens that they look good according to the public.
Now there are times when I dress up for other people in specific. This does not happen often. I love to feel confident and comfortable. I know that if I put on a pencil skirt and heels, I will look good and probably even confident. Guess what? I don’t feel confident. I’m too tall and I am in a tight skirt. It’s not okay. My feminist side of me says “who cares?” I should act confident and pull it off, but at the same time, why should I if I don’t feel right? Same thing with make-up. I’ve had my make-up done and felt completely out of place. Other’s told me I look good, but I wiped half of it off. Overall though, I have put on nice clothes others will like and have left my make-up on because somebody thought it looked nice. I don’t do it often, but I do argue that it can be a coincidence that I happen to like wearing something another person likes me in.
There are tons of contradictions that exist. I squeal in Pitch Perfect when he finally raises his fist in the air for her. This isn’t because I think I look cute making a high pitched noise and jumping up in down, I feel like there’s a bubble that I cannot control inside of me every single time. I read coming of age YA novels and while I try to stay away from the ones that are inherently misogynist, I do sometimes like a few of them. I read Twilight (escapism!). I like it when I get hit on. I like it when my boyfriend takes care of me or buys me things. I wasn’t single through college. I shave my body because I like the feel of my skin.
These are my personal contradictions, but what I find important is to make sure I’m not being boxed in. I have examined most of these to see if they are what I actually want or if they are just constructions. I’ve found most of them are my own choice. Sure, I didn’t choose to start shaving. I had that day when I was twelve and somebody told me I looked like a monkey and my mom gave me a razor and told me good luck. Maybe I only like to shave because I know I’m supposed to and I had to get used it. Still, I like to feel smooth skin and I kind of wish males had to do it too. Contradictions exist in any following, movement, or religion. The list goes on and on but what I find important is to be critical. I don’t mean to put yourself down, but examine your life and don’t just be another happy shiny person. I’m quite the happy person. Nothing traumatic has really ever happened to me. I’m not depressed. I’m comfortable in my body. I see all of this as luck of the draw, or God, or whatever else you believe in. What’s important is to keep fighting for other people if you don’t need to fight for yourself. Don’t let people box you in because you were born with genitalia that is supposed to dictate the rest of your life. If you do like some of those gendered activities, go for it! If you have some gendered qualities, use them! There’s nothing wrong with being nurturing and persistent. Just don’t let somebody call you a pussy or bossy.
Boxes will always exist. That doesn’t mean we need to watch people be shoved into them. We might not see results in our lifetime, but hopefully it will happen eventually. So keep on being a feminist or whatever movement you believe in and don’t forget to learn more and expand your mind.