When I was a little girl I was a juxtaposition. I wore big poofy dresses but I also loved football. I was a tomboy that didn’t look like a boy. I liked my long hair tied up in a bow, but wanted to prove to everybody that I was as strong as any of the boys on the playground. I was brought dolls I didn’t like, cried when my bedroom was painted pink without my consent and collected football stickers. At 11 when entering secondary school my days of playing football in the playground ended and break times became consumed with trying to catch the attention of boys and the chatter of girly friendship groups. Don’t get me wrong those were the best of times (and the worst of times), but it was what I was expected to do rather than what I chose to do. I would be lying if I said I put up much of a fight, after all a girls got hormones right … but it never really sat comfortably with me that boys and girls were separated in such a way.
All of a sudden in my teens the dresses and lipstick began to mean something very different to the girl who liked putting on her mum’s hats and beads running around the house in high heels 5 sizes to big for her. They became an identifier of the gender expectations placed upon women and girls. And again – I like dresses, they suit me, but I have never liked how physically restricted they are (I mean why can’t I do a cartwheel in it? Or ride a bike?) and the unwanted attention I started receiving from men at a very young age. That said it always felt to me that it was a fate preferable to girls who wouldn’t or couldn’t conform to it. Butch, dyke or simply “you’re a man” being shouted down the alleyway on the way to school. Me and my friend were forever asking each other - do I look like a man in this? Or a transvestite. The homophobic connotations of our gender expectations were strong, basic and utterly unworldly.
In adulthood I present as a feminine woman. Not through fashion choices or particularly enjoying hair, make-up and all that gumpf but through a curvaceous body and soft features that dismiss any hope androgyny. Simple right? A white cis straight woman who looks very feminine. But I have forever felt conflicted about my appearance. Every dress, each leg of my dungarees feels political. I’m making a point to be girly, or to try and failing not to be. If I dress “down” *read comfortably, it’s assumed I’m letting myself go or feeling unwell. If I dress up it’s a girly, pretty assertion that yes I am (for want of a better word) a lady.
There are parts of being stereotypical female I love like being caring, nurturing, sensitive but others I hate like submissiveness or weakness (physical or otherwise) which sadly I think springs to mind when people see a bells and whistles girly girl. When thinking about the positive sides of masculinity (because lets not forget that toxic masculinity, is a crisis of dominance and objectification of the other, not a stick to hit all men round the head with) like assertiveness or strength those are traits I’d consider my strongest. I like being the leader, the centre of attention, protecting people around me. On the inside I sometimes feel more masculine but on the outside I’m feminine. I guess maybe I’m still a juxtaposition.