When I was a little girl, I saw that boys were treated differently than girls.
I saw that boys were taken more seriously.
I saw that boys were better respected.
And I saw that, when boys grew up and became men, they had more control over their own lives.
So, I decided that I wanted to be a boy.
And I don’t mean that in a gender-orientation way. I am a cis-gendered woman who never knew what it was like to be born in the wrong body. I mean that I wanted the people around me to look at me and see what they saw in boys. I wanted to be respected and taken seriously. I wanted to grow up to have complete control over my life, without having to worry that I might have to give up something that I held dear because “men won’t like that” or “you won’t have time for that when you have a family to take care of”.
And the way that I saw it, the best way to reach that image was to give up all things ‘feminine’.
I refused to watch romantic movies because they were too ‘girly’, and if anyone were to point out that a movie I liked catered specifically to a female audience, I’d suddenly become awkward and uncomfortable and refuse to watch that movie ever again.
I refused to learn how to cook or bake, because those were the tasks of women. That was what wives did, and I didn’t want the role of a wife. I wanted to be a husband, with all the benefits of control over my life, and respect from people who didn’t automatically assume themselves to be my betters.
I held my ‘I’m not like other girls’ banner up high, pretending that not engaging in traditionally feminine activities somehow made people see me as better.
But the thing is, it didn’t. Even if I thought that I was earning the respect of men, I never was. I still had people ask me why my passions were so important to me when I was just going to give them up for a family soon anyway. I still had people laugh at me when I said that I didn’t want children, assuring me that that would change with time. I still experienced the boys in my class reducing me to little more than my gender, even if I was trying to escape it.
So, eventually, I found myself forced to ask the question: if denying my femininity isn’t earning me the respect that I wanted, then why am I doing it? And, more importantly, is this really what I want to do?
Because when it comes down to it, I’m not a particularly masculine woman. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with being a masculine woman, but personally, I enjoy a lot of traditionally feminine things.
I love to play around with make-up and costumes. I love to feel like I look beautiful, because it gives me a great rush of confidence and makes me feel like a model on the runway.
I love shopping – really, there are few things in this world like the rush you get when you find the perfect item on a good sale!
And you know what? I love a lot of films that cater specifically to a feminine audience. In fact, I find that the fewer women there are in a story, the less interested in it I am.
And what’s wrong with any of that? Why would femininity make a person less deserving of respect and control? Because, really, it doesn’t.
A love of make-up and shopping and baking does not somehow intercept a person’s thought processes and make them incapable of making decisions for themselves. A person is not less deserving of respect because they are feminine. But there are people who have decided otherwise, and these people decided so based off the sexist, patriarchal assumption that men are better than women. And that idea is much too ancient to be taken seriously any longer.
Femininity is a beautiful thing. Femininity is soft and emotional, while remaining strong and complex. Femininity is something that should be celebrated and respected just as much as masculinity already is. Femininity should not be seen as an impediment to progress and control, and femininity should not completely define a person. It is possible to embrace your femininity, and yet be just as capable as any masculine individual. The fact that people believe otherwise just proves how much our society still distrusts and dislikes femininity.
I’ve since stopped denying my femininity. All that doing so did was make me feel that much more uncomfortable in my skin, while never once earning me the respect I yearned for. Instead, I’ve embraced my femininity while simultaneously demanding the respect and control of a man, by trying to force myself into the spaces that I want to take. Like, say, refusing to have children if I don’t want to, regardless of what the people around me say about it. Maybe I don’t always win. Maybe there are still some men who look at me and see only a woman. But that’s just the reality of being a woman in our society, feminine or masculine, and at least now, I’m no longer denying parts of myself.