WHAT IS FEMININITY?
A few months ago my sister’s friend was grilling me about my sexuality, she wanted to know if I was really apart of the LGBTQ community and if so, what label in the spectrum of queerness could she could place on me. She made being queer seem like some exclusive club that I could only be accepted into if I passed her little initiation test. She looked at me as though I had just shoved a worm in my mouth when I said I’d never been romantically involved with someone.
“So you have sex, but you’ve never really liked anyone? How can you know you’re queer if you’ve never pursued a relationship with a woman?!” she snarled.
I’m sorry. I’m pretty sure kids who are around eight years old and show signs of attraction to someone have never been in a romantic relationships, but that doesn’t make their sexuality any less valid. She didn’t get it.
At the end of her spitfire questionnaire she gave me her diagnosis: “You’re a stem. You know what that means? A mix between stud and femme, because although you dress feminine, you’re personality is aggressive.”
This bothered me. First of all, I don’t understand the need for labels like “stem” in an already label-heavy community. Also, why is me being an assertive forward woman make me more masculine? Why is aggressiveness only associated with men or studs? There’s evidence that throughout history women have been warriors and cold killers, so being strong-headed is not something new to us. My brazen aura shouldn’t be looked at with such shock.
Writing this, I don’t even know what femininity is. The google definition says feminine means “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.” OK, well being pretty is subjective, and isn’t everyone delicate to some degree? There are certain actions and things that can break any of us. As a kid, I thought being a girl automatically made me feminine, but I guess I was wrong because my reluctance to wear dresses and affinity for climbing trees had family members begging me to to do more “girly things.” Then, as I started high school, it was “why don’t you ever wear dresses? You should try wearing makeup.” and I didn’t and still don’t understand why those things are so essential to performing womanhood. Identifying as a girl should be enough to deem someone feminine.
These past few years I’ve incorporated more dresses into my wardrobe, not because of pressure from family but because I enjoy wearing them now. Finally, I thought, this will be enough to get everyone to stop bothering me about looking like more typical girl. But nope, now it’s: “You know, you’re very forward. You walk like this. Haha, you’re such a boy when it comes to relationships.” If I do anything outside of what people see as traditionally feminine I’m suddenly not a woman anymore. I constantly feel like I’m walking on a tightrope in front of a huge crowd. and if I sway a little to the left, without even being aware of it, the crowd begins to shout and boo at me, telling me to get back in line.
In my opinion, much like masculinity, there’s little multiplicity in being feminine. There’s no room for complexity, and that makes me feel trapped, which sucks because I should feel liberated. Being a girl is awesome. I have no qualms with my gender identity, I’m fine with the gender I was assigned at birth, but I don’t like all the pressure that comes with it. My sister’s friend labeled me “aggressive” in the middle of summer, but toward the end of the season I was hanging with my friend Ally after a night of fun when Ally said, “Ahh Thahabu I love you, you’re so aggressive.” Ally called me aggressive as a compliment, while my sister’s annoying friend said it was something to be wary of. It’s quite clear I’m not the only person who’s bored with femininity.
This topic crosses my mind more and more as I grow older and “become a woman.” I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in these finite notions of femininity, as a girl who was raised solely by her dad and was what some would call a “tomboy.” I’m not saying we need to abandon femininity, but it should to be expanded into something broader. There shouldn’t only be one way to be feminine.