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Tag: gender roles

Living outside the binary

In August I wrote a post for Caleigh’s I Have a Voice project about gender – gender identity, gender expression, specifically mine. It’s been interesting since then – nice to have finally gotten it out there, because it had been welling up inside – I think I’ve come to understand myself a bit more and I occasionally write addendums in my head.

Today’s kinda started off on a not good foot(?). I feel sick, I’m sleep deprived and (I think unrelatedly) I feel so tired of feeling like my very existence is both a threat and threatened. Not physically, but because…. I don’t know. Live alternative to the way you grew up, get married, do not have kids, and watch as your friends get married and have kids, and try not feeling the pressure from everyone and the world and your upbringing to conform and join the rest. Try not feeling vulnerable when your existence flies in the face of everything you ever knew and were taught; and while you wouldn’t trade it for the world, sometimes, it just, gets old. Because even this has stigmas attached.

I don’t identify as a woman even though I have female anatomy. I don’t really connect or feel at-one with my body most of the time. It’s a weird state of flux – I often feel as though my body and I are at odds if not all out war, but also, like, I still feel “fat”(thanks hormones!) and sick and hormonal and self conscious and all of those things. I occasionally disassociate, and holding my partner’s hands keep me tethered and grounded (this really doesn’t happen that often, but, it’s happened).

I identify to myself as gender-neutral or genderless, for ease when talking to people, I use genderqueer. I don’t feel like I am a man the same way I don’t feel like I am a woman. I don’t embody the binary roles we try to split people up into at birth. I am me, I am human, I exist, the end.

I frustrate myself though, because gender identity and putting people into categories of binary gender is so ingrained that even though I don’t accept it on a personal and logical level, it’s still a thought pattern that I’m trying to unlearn. I still find myself trying to categorize people – the way it kills me to be categorized – instinctually, which is when I stop myself and step back and say “that is a beautiful person” end of story. Because gender really doesn’t matter – not as a category and certainly not as binary.

Gender is a social construct that we force people into because we can’t accept that people don’t fit outside of our two boxes. Which leaves those of us who exist outside the boxes feeling broken and wrong. We either learn to suppress it and squeeze into the box, or we change and let ourselves live – but it’s lonelier out here, and the people who either embrace or have squeezed into the boxes don’t really understand.

Gender presentation is often mistaken for gender identity, but they are not the same thing. Just like not everyone who wears plaid is a hipster (and not all hipsters wear plaid). I present myself in the way that gives me confidence. I spent far too long hiding my body in baggy clothes and layers, so I present as femme. I accept female pronouns because existing is complicated and I don’t feel like correcting people (not that it’s not a valid thing, because it is, I really want gender neutral or genderless pronouns to become common – I just don’t have the emotional energy do it; I don’t even have the energy to correct people’s pronunciation of my name, which is largely why I go by Kiery now), but, if you use hen you will win all of the things.

The idea of women are this and men are that is soul crushing. The idea that your life and path and interests are chosen for you at birth because of your anatomy is ridiculous.

The culture we breed of women must want babies or something is wrong with them and all men care about is fucking and their own pleasure is archaic. We are human, and we are more than that. We are more than one organ of our body. But try accepting that and living as though your life’s worth does not depend on the use of your reproductive system, and you’re bombarded with social stigmas of something is wrong with that person.

I’m 99% sure that guys deal with this too. Nice, considerate, empathetic guys are ridiculed and shamed for their lives – not being manly enough. Like women not having children are shamed for not being womanly.

WE ARE NOT THE SUM OF OUR PARTS.

OUR VALUE IS NOT IN OUR REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS AND HOW/WHEN/AND HOW OFTEN THEY ARE USED.

However you identify, however you present yourself – your worth is not (well, should not be) in your anatomy.

But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’m still fighting old thought patterns and habits, I get angry because I’m not where I want to be. When I think I’m making progress accepting myself (and others) something happens and I feel like I lost it.

I don’t know how comfortable I am sporting the genderqueer label, but it’s better than getting angry whenever someone refers to me as a woman (strangely enough, _lady_ doesn’t bother me, but that’s probably because I say it in a sexy voice…laaadeeey and it doesn’t hold the same connotations for me that woman does and as I said before she/her are okay, because I present as femme but hen is best).

Or maybe it’s because I don’t feel queer about it (even though that’s kinda the best term we have atm). I am a person, gender doesn’t apply.

STOP FORCING ME IN YOUR WOMAN BOX.

Background in chronological order (AKA previous posts on the subject. It’s like you can watch the evolution and how I’m still dealing with the same things a year later!):

Insignificance

Women are less

A Freeing Realization

Because of What it Means

Coming To Grips With Gender (Profligate Truth)

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On Femininity

Good Homeschooled Girls are supposed to be perfect. They’re supposed to be Pollyanna, Elsie Dinsmore, and Jane Bennet.  They’re supposed to be completely innocent, unnoticed, modest, graceful, but still look beautiful and unblemished (while not thinking too hard about it).

Good Homeschooled Girls are impossible. All of us are wearing masks, we’re all acting feminine, we’re all hiding ourselves, because none of us are that perfect.

Instead, we are berated – we are told we are never enough, that we’ll never be good enough, that we don’t measure up. We’re told we need to fix our hair and only wear makeup to cover our acne, we’re told we need to look just so – but not focus on it. Our appearance and personalities are shamed, muted. We are turned into china dolls – empty, silent, porcelain – while we die slowly inside. Our unique identities are stripped – told to be sinful – our independence denied, and to fight for it is to abandon all that we were raised to be.

Our dreams – if they exist outside the chosen path – are cast aside, scoffed at, or allowed under very specific circumstances and made to end upon marriage and/or pregnancy.

And if we abandon this dream, or if we seem to have a particularly hard time measuring up to this standard? We are broken, and there is something wrong with us. To base our worth in who we are instead of when our uterus is used flies in the face of this ideal.

Elsie DinsmoreBeautiful Girlhood, and Jane Austen are the books that are handed to us as examples of femininity and how we should conduct ourselves. Good Homeschooled Girls are supposed to be quiet, demure, masters in the art of domesticity – never raising their voices or asserting themselves, never doing heavy lifting (unless it’s babies or laundry baskets), always walking with poise, always graceful, always innocent and perfect, never loud.

The first two emphasize the devaluing of self as godly and feminine. I can’t speak to Jane Austen because I’ve never been able to make it past the first chapter.

Innocent, all with Hayley Mills and a yellow house in Maine and everything, harmless. Right?

If we leave it at the movie, sure(?).I didn’t know at the time, but the out-dated standards they sing about – is something that is invisibly expected of all Good Homeschooled Girls.

The line: hide the real you while it was probably meant to be funny and absurd was essentially my way of life.

I’ve always been stubborn, strong-willed, and independent – when it worked in my parents favor, this was a good thing, otherwise it was something to be squelched.

I was never really a tom-boy, sports bored me and seemed pointless – which, I suppose naturally meant I was a good candidate for the social experiment of super-girly-femininity. I was given books – Elsie Dinsmore, Beautiful Girlhood, Pride and Prejudice or Emma or Northanger Abbey (I don’t remember which ended up in our collection), and etiquette 101 for tweens (I can’t remember the name). I had to learn to be hospitable and submissive, though my parents never (or rarely) used the word feminine. Submissive and feminine are often synonymous here.

I read them, dutifully, internalizing the expectations (well except Austen. I just couldn’t, but that comes in later). My parents never really talked with me about this, they had a tendency to just give me the books and expect I learn from them. Elsie is less fiction and more a not-so-subtle way of giving young girls impossible and unhealthy expectations and telling them they’re worthless if they can’t master it as Elsie did.

It didn’t take long for me to realize Elsie is an impossible set of standards that I was never going to meet. Though the real line was when she married her father’s best friend. I couldn’t bring myself to do it anymore, arranged marriages to a man who’s old enough to be your father who was creepy as hell to you when you were 8, AND you’re too perfect and ideal to even exist or be relatable. Just, no.

The appeal of the civil war/regency era vanished – because I saw through what they were trying to do and I think it was my own secret form of rebellion, sort of. Good Homeschooled Girls are given these books as guidelines – Beautiful Girlhood literally is a guideline for femininity and social conduct.

First Recital
My first ballet recital to “Femininity” from Summer Magic

As much as I tried to mask my nature, to hide the real me, I was never able to do it well enough to be the pinnacle of femininity that I felt I was supposed to be.

Austen bored me, because I couldn’t get into the obsession with ribbons and dresses and who’s-courting-who. Elsie and Beautiful girlhood just made me more painfully aware of the inadequacies I was already painfully aware of.

I felt broken. I felt broken because I didn’t live up to this idealized standard of godly womanhood (or girlhood). I felt broken because I am not delicate, and no amount of silencing myself was going to re-write the core of my DNA. I come from a line of stubborn women, you can’t demure you’re way out of it. Or maybe you can, but I couldn’t. I felt like that meant I was less desirable (the end-goal of being female being married and having kids).

Being born female meant that I had my entire life and code of conduct set in front of me, no personality required. I was required to follow the program. I felt wrong because the very fiber of my being was in direct opposition to it.

It still is. 

I remember when I was 11 or 12 trying painfully to write fiction about an edwardian-era girl (instead of my book about the secret society of women who fought in the Revolution via spying because the Quartering Act) who sat in a garden in her frilly dresses and waited for suitors. I think I got maybe 4 paragraphs and then became frustrated because it was impossible for me to even write about that without getting bored.

The idea of being locked up, spending my life in waiting for someone to whisk me away, and then to spend the rest of my life locked up birthing and raising children horrified me. No matter how hard I tried to make it not, or how hard I tried to make it seem…as ultimate as people were telling me, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself it wasn’t certain death.

I couldn’t escape the feeling of the futility and meaninglessness of my life if all I was allowed to do was wait, and then have kids, and hope that one day they’d grow up to do the great things that I wanted to spend my life doing.

That meant something was wrong with me. I was too independent and god wouldn’t like that.

I remember being told, on several occasions, when I chose to fight for my autonomy, “independence is bad [for a woman], how do you think GOD feels about that [me being autonomous]?”

I was wrong and broken because I was not, am not, could not be demure, quiet, and feminine. I would never live up to the standards that good homeschooled girls are supposed to live up to – no matter how many masks I put on, or how hard I tried to hide myself.

I may never have been a tom-boy, but I was never the epitome of girlishness either.

Masks could only cover so much. I found ways to let myself be stubborn in subtle and approved ways. I was compliant to a point.

The things is, I know now that those books are poison to my rose-soul, but I still feel the need to embody all that is wispy delicate and feminine. I still feel broken because I don’t fit  the mold when other people project it onto me. Because it is impossible for me. It would require giving up my autonomy and a complete change of taste.

I can’t watch Pride and Prejudice without raging, I generally hate dramas (there are exceptions to this), I’d rather read a good fantasy or scifi novel or comic than a book about amish courtship (don’t get me fucking started), I love a good action movie – Give me robots fighting monsters any day.

None of my most basic preferences are even considered in the world of godly womanhood and good homeschooled girls. It is assumed that I LOOOOOOOVE anything by Austen, that cooking, courtship, and children appeal to all of my tastes and interests, that robots and monsters and other-worlds are boring and unnecessary, and action movies are for boys. When I express otherwise, it’s all but laughed at or ignored.

I watched the Lizzie Bennet Diaries without raging (loved it, even). I know Austen was groundbreaking for her time (a woman author? *gasp*), but I can’t read her – not just because I find it dry, but because of homeschool culture.

Good Homeschooled Girls are supposed to be looking waiting for their Mr. Darcy (an asshole, really?). Good Homeschooled Girls are supposed to be Jane Bennet (Lizzie is far too independent) which doesn’t make sense because Jane marries Mr. Bingley? I know too many people who are trying to hack the 21st century into a Jane Austen novel and it frightens and sickens me. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were balls and you married the person you danced with? I feel like that can’t be the point of Pride and Prejudice, but you wouldn’t know it in this particular subculture.

^ Don’t start thinking about it too hard, it’ll hurt your brain.

It is the obsession with denying women humanity – autonomy – and worth that pervades this whole idea. Good Homeschooled Girls have no needs. Good Homeschooled Girls are whatever they are told to be. Good Homeschooled Girls must gracefully and perfectly meet and fulfill contradictory requirements (look perfect, but don’t obsess about it! learn things, but don’t use your brain!), while never having a bad day or a human moment. Good Homeschooled Girls aren’t allowed to be.

All in the name of femininity.

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Babies, bathwater, and shit in the brownies

Whenever people write about something remotely controversial the people who disagree generally respond with “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!” and occasionally the  viewpoint opposite will make a retort about how if you had a brownie with dog shit in it you wouldn’t eat it.

My response to the two of them are as follows: one, if the bathwater is dirty, the baby and the bathwater should probably be taken out; two: why are you baking with dog shit? When was that a thing? And why are you trying to poison me?

However, I’m not writing an article on the merits of metaphor, I only brought it up to make a point – I know that what follows is more than likely going to be controversial. While I know this going in and it doesn’t bother me, if I see one of these or another similar metaphor take place in the potential conversation I will roll my eyes; because you are more than likely missing the point and should be redirected to the above statement about dirty water and poison.

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