I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Or perhaps I should say I’ve been thinking about ‘these’. Issues of identity, including considering myself a feminist, and how this has changed as I’ve grown older and one would hope, wiser.
I grew up with two brothers and for a long time, I wanted to be seen as Just Like Them. I loved playing in mud, trucks and cars were awesome, and pink? I hated it. Which was why I was rather angry at my parents when they decided to paint my bedroom pale pink (partly because the carpet already there was a rich rose colour, but mostly because it was the cheapest paint available.) I was a tomboy and proud of it! In playing games with my female friends, I played the male role. I was always the husband squirrel. My favourite band was Queen and that was because they rocked. At the age of nine I became closer friends with an Abba loving, Sindy doll owning girly girl. I began to play with dolls more regularly. Even bought some more. But I was still a tomboy, and not afraid to tell anyone who’d listen that pink was evil and I could best any boy! I never admitted one of my favourite toys was my push-along vaccuum, nor that I harboured a deep yearning for a toy oven. They were girl things, and girl things were inherently icky.
This continued until I was about twenty, in varying degrees, even through my bouts of deep infatuation with boys, real and unreal (the occasional questioning of myself --- do I want to be with them, or be them?) I never felt comfortable wearing dresses or skirts. I almost always wrote from a male perspective. Girl things were icky, dammit. I made friends with make-up wearing girly-girls who I tried to emulate for a while before giving up. It wasn’t me. I’ll confess that I felt a certain amount of superiority over my friends because by this time I knew what feminism was, and by George
During University I started to learn more about feminism and the idea that it’s not one homogenous set of beliefs; that there were contradictory theories and waves, and it wasn’t as simple as I’d always imagined it. I also questioned my role in society --- both the role I held at the time and the one I intended to hold in the future. My perceptions were shifting, or even developing.
Fast forward to today. It’s true that I am often uncomfortable in dresses and skirts --- mostly because I’ve avoided wearing them unless they were uniforms or the occasional party dress, for going on twenty-two years. I don’t wear make-up, because I hate the feeling of it, and most of the time I’m surrounded by five year olds. I do like mud, trucks and cars are awesome, Queen continues to rock (I live in a world where certain covers never existed and don’t talk to me about a Ben Elton musical thing, I can’t handle it), I still obviously often write from a male perspective. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that.
But I have come to realise that pink is not evil. It is perfectly okay to like pink, and it doesn’t weaken you in any way. Girl things are not icky. It’s important to interrogate the constructs we build around gender and sex roles, but to condemn any woman who chooses to stay at home to raise a family as opposed to ‘joining the workforce’ is ludicrous and regressive.
This is where I come to --- the point, I guess, of this post.
I embody many traits, some which are stereotypically feminine, and some which are stereotypically masculine.
I’m a teacher of young children, which is often considered a feminine role because of its nurturing aspect. I’ve always had a high, sweet voice. (It was the bane of my existence for a long, long time.) I’m in tune with my emotional side (read: I cry a lot at films and tv shows. A lot.) I’ve pined for a boyfriend before, one day I would like to be a mother. I’m not bad at cooking. I’m a bit shit at reading maps. And do not talk to me about parallel parking, because I will thump you.
I love computer games; all things technical really, I can change a tyre by myself and wouldn’t think twice about doing so, I think more in terms of what makes ‘logical sense’ as opposed to ‘emotional’, I can be aggressive, I have a fair amount of physical ‘strength’, I guess you could say I have an adventurous streak --- considering where I live and some of the things I’ve done, I’m more of a slob than a neat-freak, I regularly wear more masculine clothes, and currently I have short hair.
And this is what I’ve been slowly understanding for a while --- it’s not necessarily my more masculine traits that make me stronger than any other female. The truth is, I’m not.
I’m strong because I’ve survived through adversity. I have convictions and I follow them. I recognise that I am flawed and whilst I work towards changing aspects of myself that I think need to change, I don’t beat myself up about having these flaws --- they’re what make me. I persevere, and I’m patient, and I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong; that I still have a lot to learn. I know when I’m being egotistical and I make no apologies for being so.
I am strong. Just as almost every woman is strong, in myriad different ways. As strong as any man. Being more stereotypically masculine doesn’t make you better, it makes you more stereotypically masculine, and that is fine. The stereotypes, in the long run? Are just that. There is often a lot of truth to them, because they had to come from somewhere, but they should not be rigidly viewed as ‘true’.
I am a feminist, and proud of it, dammit. Even if it’s taken me a while to truly realise what that means to me and how it affects my perspective of the world.