Monday, October 24, 2016

Valuing My Femininity

The more I become aware of myself as a woman in today's society the more frustrated I become with all the standards we put on ourselves. These are standards and high bars that are coming at us from a different place than the usual kind launched daily from media, politics, and ads. Those are bad enough, but then comes the inner workings of our own motivations and how they're so likely to clash with each other. 

Let me give you an example. 
I recently read "The Miseducation of Cameron Post", an amazing read for anyone wishing to be exposed to the hardships of the LGBT youth in rural America. There's a scene where Cameron's conservative aunt has successfully set herself up as a saleswoman for a company that provided tool kits specifically for women; so small electric drills in pretty colors designed for our dainty hands. My reaction to this was the reaction the author intended; why the fuck would I need a different tool set than a man? Am I so weak and in need of sparkles? My second reaction was an unexpected bit of guilt. Unexpected because I've been pretty secure in the knowledge that I've risen above the stereotype of linking my sex to fragility, and guilt because I'd just caught myself in the act of shaming other women. 

You see, for so long what feminism has meant to me is I can achieve what the boys can. I'm strong like boys are. Use tools that boys use. But I've noticed a transition in recent years that's not entirely unwelcome; I can be like girls too. In other words, should I really judge someone for enjoying a pink hammer rather than the typical brand? 

In comes the newest standard I now must meet; juggling my disdain for products marketed solely to women based on color and size along with my respect for women who don't give two shits what others think when they pick up that glittery allen wrench. Our femininity isn't something we need to be ashamed of, yet I'm still fighting off my enjoyment of pink pens. I was educated in a community that prized masculine tendencies over everything, whether you were a boy or a girl. Yes, we had the cheerleader and football player stereotypes, but we also had a state championship girls basketball team, a regional championship volleyball team, a girl on the state championship baseball team. The focus was on athletics, excellence, and tough attitudes for everyone. It gave me a love for sport that continues today, but it also gave me an aversion to showing off my feminine side. We made fun of girls for wearing makeup during games (despite the fact that we ourselves made our hair pretty and put gunk on our eyelashes) and scoffed at the idea of wearing anything but sweats and spandex during the season. When I look at that now, at my behavior towards girls who actually embraced the idea that they were girls, I really do become uncomfortable. I've come a long way for sure, but there are still negative thoughts like that lingering despite my best efforts. 

One of the more frustrating parts of this line of thinking is I actually have a solution to the predicament I find myself in! I would stop hating the idea of enjoying colorful tools if they weren't specifically oriented towards a single sex. For one thing, that's not how gender works; there's a spectrum, not just a binary. For another, if we stopped saying those cute hammers are only for girls we'd actually be helping everyone out. Anyone can have their own preferences and there's no reason they need to be directed at just girls or boys. I can still value myself as a woman while wearing flannels and playing rugby, just like a man can still value himself as a man while wearing his hair in braids and using a bright tool kit. It's just silly to limit yourself based on what sex is on the packaging. 

So while I may be frustrated at the standards I put on myself it's infinitely better to think critically about all this and deal with the confusion instead of buying into everyone's bullshit. 


(for those of you who don't quite get why products marketed only for women are so infuriating)