I hated being a girl.
I hated it.
I was surrounded by messages that girls were weak. We were useless. We were frivolous, vacuous and incapable. Our only value lay in our appearance; in how well and quickly we can ensnare a man. And I wasn't pretty enough, or even had the inclination, for that. So I had absolutely no value.
Girls weren't supposed to like swords and fighting, action movies, or science fiction, fantasy or horror. We weren't supposed to like rough-housing, climbing things, getting our knees skinned (scars on a woman are unattractive, after all).
There were many evenings that I spent up in my favourite mango tree, wishing to hell that I was not a girl. Then I would be able permitted to love all the things I loved. I would be allowed to rough-house, and play with swords, and get into the mud to chase insects and frogs. Everything around me told me that was not acceptable for girls to do.
This is a similar experience that a lot of trans people have. And I would be lying if I wasn't questioning - really hard - if I was a girl at all. After all, everything I loved seemed to be boy things, not girl things.
The problem, and the difference between myself and trans people, is that I didn't feel like my body, my gender and sex were not wrong. They were not a poor fit. I did not feel like this body was wrong for me. I was a girl. 100%.
I just hated it.
And I fell into the trap that was set for me. Everything feminine became toxic to me. I despised the colour pink, in all its forms. Skirts and dresses were stupid. Make up was even more stupid. Anything and everything traditionally associated with femininity was a symbol of the lesser. It was a symbol of idiocy and inability. It was stupidity and frivolousness. It was weakness.
I existed in a strange place. A girl who despised everything about herself, who wished she was not a girl, even though she didn't and couldn't identify any other way.
Oh, the therapy I went through to unpack it all!
It took me until my very late twenties for me to begin to even start to break down the nonsense that I had drilled into me about femininity.
It wasn't until I hit thirty that I realised the problem was not that I was a girl. The problem was all the bullshit that people think being a girl means. The problem was how we tend to devalue things considered feminine. The problem was what we tend to consider feminine in the first place.
First, let's talk about the devaluing of things perceived to be feminine. I know a lot of people who will get their backs up about this, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that is, in fact, exactly the case. Here's an article about it. The fact is, I fell into the trap of thinking that because it was girlish, it was immediately lesser. And that's bullshit.
Fun fact: men used to wear make up and heels. Then women got into the game and suddenly it's 'not manly.' That's for girls, and now also frivolous and entirely without value. Oh, and let's not forget the 'false advertising' argument we hear so often, as if women wear make up for anyone's benefit other than themselves. Some might, I don't know. Despite coming to terms with much of my femininity, I'm still not a fan of make up. Except at Hallowe'en.
Society does devalue women and our contributions. Women in the sciences and their contributions to history were entirely ignored (though major efforts are underway to correct that. Have I gushed enough about Rejected Princesses on this blog?). When women enter a profession, the pay in that profession drops. Society does not value women, their contributions or their labour.
Given that this is the case, it is a hard task to ask anyone to value femininity. We're told explicitly and implicitly that femininity is without value. No wonder I rejected it so wholly when I was younger.
There is also an enormous problem with gender roles. I honestly think they're utter bullshit. Gaming isn't just a guy thing. There are plenty of men who don't like gaming. There are plenty of women who love it.
Rough-housing is not just a guy thing. Plenty of women adore it. Hi. I'm one. In fact, I would wager that the reason more women aren't in martial arts is a combination of factors including being told that they don't belong, they shouldn't want to - it's not ladylike, it will turn men off and so forth.
In fact, I know for a fact that people are uncomfortable around muscular women. People have declared out loud that it's "gross." Women with muscle have their gender continually questioned. Physical strength is considered unwomanly. You see, women are meant to be slim, but not strong. Or, if they are, they mustn't look strong. That's off-putting. That's unfeminine.
What utter bullshit.
Physical strength should not be relegated to one gender or the other. It's bullshit. I'm 100% woman, and I'm proud of what strength I have. I'm actively working for more. And it's not because I'm unfeminine, or I'm rejecting femininity.
Women, it feels like, must continually diminish themselves in order to fit into the teeny, tiny space in order to be acceptable as women. They can't prove to be too clever, or too strong, or have too firmly held opinions, or be too independent.
Christ, the number of times I've been told to diminish myself because 'boys find you intimidating.' Honestly, that sounds like a them problem. But it also became a me problem. I was told I was 'too much' to be womanly.
What utter bullshit.
I don't believe that strength, or lack of interest in fashion or makeup has anything to do with gender. I am 100% comfortable in my gender. I'm 100% woman.
These realisations came slowly to me. It took me a long time to even look at a skirt like it would be something I would want to wear. It felt like a surrender to frivolity to wear one. I felt like I would be treated even worse than usual, even more like I was an idiot, even less like I had value. It wasn't until I was able to shed all the baggage around my gender that I was able to happily wear a skirt or a dress. It wasn't until that I understood that the bullshit surrounding the feminine and femininity was actually bullshit that I no longer cared what people thought of me. I knew, in my core, that it was possible to be a woman who loves gaming, loves martial arts, loves being, feeling and looking strong, and still be womanly.
I am all the things people claim that women should not be. And I am 100% woman.