You know how in cartoons, a giant lightbulb appears over one of the characters’ heads when he/she has an epiphany or suddenly solves the issue at hand? I swear to goodness that’s what happened to me on my last day of my Intro to Literature class. My giant lightbulb was caused by an epiphany. An epiphany as to the real reason why I declare myself a feminist.
On our last day of class, we were assigned to present a chapbook of poems that all relate under a central theme. Naturally, my theme was “Self-Representations of Women.” I actually thoroughly enjoyed this project, as I found multiple poems that I could completely relate to. Anyway, my epiphany hit in the middle of my presentation when I began slipping into the unscripted abyss that is a college kid’s Intro to Literature Chapbook Presentation.
At some point, I had said “The real problem at hand is that we assign virtually EVERYTHING a gender. It is either masculine, or feminine.” That didn’t really resonate with me until after i’d finished my presentation with the words “Smash the patriarchy!” with blushed cheeks and returned to my desk to find a hand-written note from a classmate that was seated nearby.
His note applauded me for presenting feminism in a way that had never occurred to him before, and he concurred that it is extremely problematic to assign everything from character traits to colors of the rainbow to a category of either masculine or feminine. I suggested hie look further into feminism, and we parted ways.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how this binary mindset our culture has ingrained in us limits us to who we think we are allowed to become. Unfortunately, femininity is considered the lesser of masculinity, giving most feminine things a negative connotation when compared to more masculine things.
For example, math and engineering, toy trucks, and football have all been deemed “masculine” and “boy activities,” and those who are not masculine are discouraged from engaging in “masculine” interests.
On the other hand, cooking, sewing, dancing, and hair-styling have all had the word “feminine” slapped to their foreheads to ward off masculine intruders.
This is problematic for dozens of reasons, and it affects all genders. Rather than allowing each individual to choose his/her interests, we steer them toward what we believe will be most fitting for them, based on their sex. This holds true not only for interests, but for emotions and personality traits, as well.
Women are supposed to be weak, submissive, gentle, soft, and nurturing. If we’re not, we’re considered masculine women, and what could be worse than that?
Men are supposed to be strong, athletic, assertive, and smart. If they’re not, they’re considered ‘femmy,’ which is even worse than being a masculine woman, because, after all, masculinity reigns supreme in the realms of the patriarchy.
I am a feminist because I don’t believe that everything a person can be needs to be assigned to a gender. Society is shaping who we are going to become, and we are playing right along with it. I am sick and tired of the “pink is for girls” and “blue is for boys.” Because I like blue, dammit. And superheroes. And math. And tacos.
Stop gendering everything, people.