Gender stuff: I’ve been pondering this for a while

I know people who feel like being feminine and beautiful as a woman = being in danger. (Specifically assigned-female-at-birth people, not trans women dealing with transmisogyny.) Like fitting standards of beauty is scary, because it attracts sexual harrassment and abuse.

I never got that.

I mean, I’ve never felt that way, and until recently I never got that kind of unwanted attention, either. And I still haven’t gotten any that really scared me.

The double-bind for me wasn’t that beauty/femininity was required, but risky; it was that it was required, but I wasn’t good enough for it, and I could either stay in my ugly girl box, or be mocked for trying and failing or just for trying too visibly instead of Just Knowing what to do. (And when people think of you as the ugly frumpy girl, being more fashionable at all is automatically “trying too hard”.)

I never felt that I wasn’t a girl, but I felt very strongly that pretty, feminine things weren’t for me. There’s no specific thing I can point to as the cause. I mean, I felt disconnected from my peers in general. I felt that “you have to Just Know and I don’t” thing about social things in general. I assumed that things that appealed to me were silly and embarrassing, for related reasons. Some of it was body hatred. I got the usual messages about nasty hairy fat bodies, and I responded to them by thinking I was hopelessly nasty, rather than frantically trying to fix myself like some people do.

Some of it was structural and/or cognitive things. I never had an allowance or regular pocket money (or a job, until I was in college) so in order to get makeup, or clothes, or anything, I would have had to ask my parents. And that’s a lot to explain. The few people I could have asked for fashion advice were people I saw rarely, usually in larger groups, so it would have been hard for me to broach the topic. I genuinely felt that I didn’t have enough time to take any longer getting ready in the morning, which you can blame on the usual teenage lack of sleep or on executive function problems or whatever.

Some of it may have actually been smart– I think part of the reason I didn’t try to seek out, e.g. girls’ fashion magazines, is that I knew things like that could be nasty and shaming.

But there were some feminine things that I really did want. I didn’t think all femininity was nasty cattiness. I was just so sure I couldn’t have them that I only looked at them wistfully from afar.

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