I can remember taking the BSRI (Bem Sex Role Inventory) and getting feminine (and inches away from hyper-feminine, mind you); I felt… well, almost embarrassed. I say time and time again that feminism fights for the rights of both men and women (and those who don’t fit neatly into those gendered boxes!) to be whoever they are and to choose whatever they might choose. For example, choosing motherhood over a career is NOT anti-feminist. My mother stayed at home with us and I am grateful for that (not to mention the fact that she is one of the strongest and most progressive women I know and that I marvel at how hard she worked for her family, at the sacrifices she makes, and at the amazing woman she is). As I’ve said before, I am all about choice—whatever that might mean. BUT, nevertheless, when I look at myself, I somehow feel ashamed of being so feminine. I ask: was I born this way or was I socialized to be this way? I write pages upon pages about experiences that guided my gender role and drive myself mad wondering who I am, who I was born to be and who I feel pressured to be. All this energy and let’s be real: I CAN NEVER KNOW.
So after taking the BSRI, I embraced androgyny. The short hair, the oversized clothing to hide my feminine shape, the obsession with working out (seriously sometimes I think I am trying to look like a 12 year old boy), the bras that make my chest look as small as possible, the refusal to wear make up, the love of mens shirts and vests. I CELEBRATED the fact that a little girl asked me once in a grocery store if I was a boy or a girl. I could’ve hugged her. I rejoiced in edgy androgyny. And to be honest, people took me a hell of a lot more seriously. But was it me they listened to or this image I had crafted for myself? (More questioning to inspire madness.)
Anyway, a week or so ago, my roommate and I were talking about the cultural obsession with thinness and that it also sometimes translates into a hatred of the parts of one’s body that make it most feminine. I had been ranting about how much I hate my chest… and hips… and legs… you get the point. And, well, let’s be real, these are the things that make it clear as day that I am in fact… a woman.
A few days later, I was reading my favorite fashion blog and she wrote that when she put on a certain dress she instantly felt like a lady. Well, what the fuck does that even mean? A lady? I laughed and thought: never in a million years do I want to describe myself as a lady. But why am I so anti-lady?! Doesn’t this contradict everything I believe in??
So a few days later, I put on a deep red dress (without a bra I’ll have you know) with a little pale yellow cardigan, super girly sandals, and went about my day. As I was walking around, I thought: hmm I am a woman. A really feminine one at that. So much so that I don’t think an inch of my body could be confused as anything else. From my little feet to my wide hips to my belly to my shoulders to my little pixie cut, I am feminine. And guess what. It makes me no less strong. No less valuable, capable or smart. It makes my voice and my story no less worthwhile. It makes me no less beautiful. And maybe, just maybe, I don’t need to wish that I looked any different than I do.
Watching the Eve Ensler video that I posted affirmed this moment of pride in my femininity. It’s time for me to come home, and so, today (and maybe even tomorrow too!), I will walk through life shoulders back, head up like the purposefully-made woman I am.—mt