February 13th, 2007

Loz Cola

Learning how to be a woman...

I'm a feminist, but for a long time, I didn't realise. I actually used to say things like "I don't want to be thought of as a feminazi, but..." I regret those days.

As part of both my arts honours and education degrees, I was lucky enough to be forced into reading a lot of material on gender and schooling, the differences between how boys and girls learn, gender construction and gender interpretation. Almost every article I read contradicted every other.

Similarly, my views on myself as a person, and furthermore, as a gendered person, contradict each other too. I fall into a set of criteria that make me more or less 'feminine' and more or less 'female'.

For instance, I rarely wear skirts or dresses, I am disinterested in shoes or fashion, I dislike shopping, I hate the colour pink (even though it apparently suits my colouring wonderfully), make-up and having long nails. If I never had to shave/wax my legs again, I'd be happy - because I'm clumsy, I hate pain and I feel it's unfair that because I'm female I'm somehow expected to do it.

On the other hand, I can be very emotional, I tend to rely upon emotion as opposed to logic and value it more highly too. I have nuturing aspects to my personality. I think of myself as a compassionate and empathetic person.

These are all prominent stereotypes surrounding my gender, both attributed to being 'feminine' and 'female'.

I mostly tend to think of gender as a process - and one which we get sucked into from the moment we're thrown into the world. You're taught that boys do this, girls do this and never shall they ever understand each other - ever. These ideals are reinforced in the media, in society, in your family. But there are differences between males and females; biological ones which probably do affect personalities.

I get to the point where I wonder if my identity is entirely built upon social expectations and in some cases, me acting in opposition to them. I could say that I hate the colour pink as an act of rebellion - though I more often say that it is because my parents painted my room that colour when I was seven and I had wanted a nice greeny-blue. I could say that the only reason I am remotely nuturing is that from a young age I was taught that all women were.

But I'd like to say that isn't it. I'd like to say that I hate the colour pink just because I do and I'm nuturing just because I am, and the fact that I'm female has little to no relevance. I feel like I'm learning to be a woman, that I don't completely fulfill that role and that I'm not sure I ever want to.