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thinking about gender + memes

I feel like a bad feminist for saying it, but I hate being a woman. Not even for the social ramifications of it. I just hate it.

I didn't mind being a girl so much - I wasn't a tomboy as a child, nor feminine, just ... vaguely androgynous. Didn't help that everyone was "gah, you are so much like your father" (relatives) and "hello there...oh! you must be Mr Burke's daughter" (random strangers). I felt a little disconnected from femaleness, without exactly identifying with masculinity.

It's sort of how - okay, my father is Irish Catholic, and so are all his relatives and ancestors forever and ever amen. My mother, who brought me up, is very anti-Catholic, as is the culture I grew up in, and their diatribes felt somehow personally insulting, as if Catholicism were ... connected to my identity in some way. But I'm not Catholic, so...? Masculinity was like that for me. I identified as a girl and with female pronouns and Disney princesses and everything, but at the same time, I felt more closely associated with ... boyness, and more comfortable with boys, and most of my best friends have been boys. And when people said "boys are pigs/selfish/lazy/[x stereotype]," I'd feel like they were insulting some part of me. But also not, because I didn't feel like I actually was a boy or even necessarily much like boys.

Why yes, I was an extremely confused child!

Anyway, things were ... somewhat different, after puberty. Physically, I'm very feminine - small, round, curvy, big eyes and mouth, soft jaw (and I used to keep my hair very long) - and from pretty much ten years old on, I was always read as feminine and I felt ... prodded towards femininity, in odd ways. I have thick, coarse hair (thanks, Dad), and I'd feel uncomfortable about my thick eyebrows and hairy legs, but shaving and plucking felt uncomfortably foreign too (as well as painful, of course). Yet I felt enormously gratified to be seen as pretty and feminine - pleased when people talked about how lucky I was to have an attractive hourglass figure (>>this is disturbing in retrospect), surprised and uncomfortable to see my breasts in the mirror. I mean, surprised like why are there lumps of fat hanging from my chest that's kind of gross.

Not just at ten, either. It was like this into my teens - and beyond. I still feel like that when my reflection catches me unawares. Which happens a lot damn mirrors and their stealth reflecting. I'll pass one in the hallway, or just be absently checking my teeth or clothes, and be completely disoriented to see this woman looking back, round and wide-eyed. It's especially weird when - I don't generally think of myself as attractive/unattractive, but sometimes I catch my reflection out of the corner of my eye, and it'll hit me, I'm pretty or I'm ugly (which, depends on the day), and it's just befuddling. That's not me, I think; it feels like someone cast a glamour on me that's nothing like I really am, or I'm wearing an Elizabeth-suit that doesn't fit very well. And every time, I think I need to lose weight: a little because I find all that stretched flesh rather repulsive, but mostly because it'll shrink my breasts, and they won't be so obnoxiously ... female.

I also found myself performing femininity as I grew up - not naturally, but automatically. I have no sense of direction, get lost all the time, and hate asking for directions. As a child, I'd just be "okay, lost, um, well, I'll keep going and maybe I'll find a map somewhere." From about twelve on, I found myself exaggerating my confusion without really thinking about it, looking around plaintively, and basically playing Helpless Lost Female for all I was worth.

Or - I'm legitimately untalented at math. At the end of second grade, my final results were an eleventh-grade level in spelling and a first-grade level in math. As a child, I didn't really care or talk about it, besides the occasional "oh, math's boring" or "math is hard!" As a teenager and an adult, I found myself playing up how mind-bogglingly awful I was at math, even though I consistently fell into the "average" classes (except once when I slaved over it for months and clawed my way into advanced placement). I remember when my best friends and I got our SATs back, I laughed about how of course I'd done horribly in math, as anyone could have expected. The paper said that my 800 in Verbal was exceptional and my 580 in Mathematics was above average. As a child, "above average" meant AWESOME!!11!! As a seventeen-year-old girl, it's like there was a chip in my brain that overrode what was actually on the page and translated "above average" into "lol you're such a girl you suck."

I've only noticed recently that I automatically emphasize my ditziness. I'm very absent-minded, yes, and I have always been so. But as a kid, it was largely ungendered for me. If anything, I associated it with the "absent-minded professor" stereotype. As a teenage girl and an adult, it became "lol I'm such a flake" or "ha, how do I even function without a keeper?" or "gah why am I such a ditz?!"

It's not like I consciously think, "I'll act more clueless than I really am" or "I should pretend I'm incredibly bad at math, and then nobody will make me do it" or "people won't expect much of me if I pretend to be a ditz." I didn't even notice.

By now, at twenty-five, I feel myself as female, that my identity is inextricably tied to femaleness, even when I'm trying to break down stupid stereotypical behaviours I've picked up. When I look at women, I see other women and men as not-women, not-like-me. Around other women (cisgendered or trans), I feel a sense of ... not schmaltzy sisterhood, but being on the same side, sharing some - thing, being safe. But I also feel alien, too, that I don't quite belong, that I'm almost an imposter, and for all the otherness I feel with men, there's a few vague remnants of ... that fellow-feeling I used to have, an instinctive(?) comfortableness and not-being-foreign and almost-belonging (but not quite!). It's not like I'm part of some brotherhood of men; more that I'm a sister to men, except it runs straight up against the man - probably not a threat - could be though process my brain cycles through every time I'm around any man who isn't unquestionably safe. (I've never met anyone genderqueer in RL. On the Internet, it tends to be someone who gets it - but maybe I don't - like me but more?)

I know, it's bizarre.

Anyway, I don't feel like I was ever really male. And I'm a woman now. I know it and I feel it. But I also feel that I've been turned into one against my will. I hate my periods and I hate my shape and my this-is-a-girl face and my high voice and I hate that I've been forced into this and I can't get out. I hate it, hate it, hate it.

Star Wars meme

(10) Who is your favourite villain?

Darth Vader, duh. Tragic, complex, talented, clever, completely badass in every way. Yet sympathetic too. And kind of chillingly deranged from the Dark Side. And good enough that I don't feel it's reprehensible to like him. And evil enough that he can get away with crap that would be largely (or completely!) unacceptable in a heroic character. I mean, that first scene with Motti - if a hero did that, it'd be all OMGWTFBBQ?!! But a villain chokes some asshole bigot and says "I find your lack of faith disturbing," cool as you please, and we're all cheering for him.

The other day, I saw someone saying, You know, villains these days are so epic and terrifying. Darth Vader was so impressive when I was kid, but do you really think he can impress anyone now?

...Yes?

Asexuality meme

(10) What have other people said about your asexuality?

Ooh. *rubs hands* Many things. Many.

- Don't worry about it, we can fix it.
- If God doesn't like it, he shouldn't have made you this way.
- You shouldn't diagnose yourself.
- You just haven't met the right person.
- People your age are so obsessed with labels!
- But you're straight.
- You're repressed.
- It's your father's fault, he abandoned you and messed you up.
- Your religion's repressed you, that's all.
- I don't really think you're asexual, but that [random acephobic phenomenon] isn't cool.
- You're just rationalizing.
- You shouldn't close your mind to other possibilities.
- Maybe you're confused.
- You should try masturbating.
- I understand. No. Really.
- Have you had your hormones checked?
- You're lesbian?!
- Don't be in such a hurry to limit yourself.
- You're a late bloomer.

You know, just off the top of my head. I didn't include things people have said (to me or not) about asexuality in general - this is only about mine. These were all made in person, by the way.

Fanfic meme

(10) Have you ever gone outside your comfort zone and written a pairing you liked, but found you couldn't write, or a pairing you didn't like, and found you could?

I don't think so. Most of the pairings I dislike are immensely popular (e.g., Fitzwilliam/Georgiana, any Jedi master/any Jedi apprentice), and I make a point of going against them. I sort of mentioned Henry Crawford/Georgiana Darcy in passing, which I dislike, but I imagined it ending tragically. Hm. I don't like that many pairings (I am clearly a fountain of hatred), so ... eh, Han/Leia is a bit difficult for me, but that's because I have issues despite sort of liking it too. The closest to going outside my comfort zone was probably Caroline Bingley/Sir Walter Elliot, and that was just for the lulz.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
ladyhadhafang
Jul. 26th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC)
*Hugs* I'm so sorry, dudette.

And very much agreed regarding Vader! :D
elizabeth_hoot
Jul. 28th, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks! <3

I suspect it's hard to disagree about Vader. And the first time I saw him it was like 2000 and he completely terrified me, so ... not really nostalgia.
ladyhadhafang
Jul. 28th, 2011 06:40 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. :)

And yep -- Vader rules. :3
chameleon_irony
Dec. 18th, 2011 04:46 am (UTC)
This is TMI, but so is your post.
I read this back when you posted it but didn't reply because I couldn't find the words. I still have trouble articulating my sexuality and gender identity, but after three months of being a psychology student, I can try.

My experience has been similar to what you are telling in a lot of ways, and yet after trying for 20 years to be a girl/woman, not just look like one, I realized the attempt was a failure and was responsible for the disaster that my love life has been, and I gave up. I concluded - accepted, really, what I had always known - that I'm not really a woman, despite having the body of one. And then to read your post, in which it sounds like you've succeeded, mostly, in 'becoming' a woman... to what extent, though? You don't mind having a feminine username, whereas I would feel like I'm not being true to myself and to other people. But the weirdness of looking in a mirror, the feeling that That's not me - you still feel it...

I don't feel like I was ever really male. And I'm a woman now. I know it and I feel it. But I also feel that I've been turned into one against my will.

I've tried to understand this puzzle: why you are "a woman now", but I'm not. The powerful social pressure that "turned" you into a woman against your will failed to do the same to me (though I wish it had). Why?

I think sexuality is the answer. If I were asexual, I think I could have been able to accept that since I have a female body and am perceived as a woman, I guess I must be a woman after all, even if I've never felt it. I could have fooled myself and been (mostly) happy. But I'm not asexual. My sexuality is a core part of who I am. I think about sex as often as the stereotypical guy (about once a minute). And the sexual part of me has always seen itself as male. What that means is I have to use my imagination to dissociate completely from my body when having sex; if my partner does or says something that reminds me I'm physically a woman, I get all weirded out and disgusted. So I can pretend I'm a woman for career's sake and to avoid being disowned by the family I still need, but I'm always aware I'm pretending. Being addressed by a female first name feels wrong; sometimes it makes me want to scream, but I "grin and bear" it. It's the choice I've made. I've accepted that getting what I want in life is going to take sacrifices. In this case, the sacrifice is being always perceived by others as something I'm not. Wearing a mask I can't remove. That's easier for some personality types than for others. It's never easy, but it can be livable.

Also: my Psychology of Sexuality teacher's stance on asexuality is that asexuals have repressed their sexuality. That's a group of 50 future psychologists who left the classroom believing that to be the only "explanation". The same teacher (a practicing psychologist and sex therapist) said about transsexuality that "I'm not going to talk about it because it happens about once in a million, and you guys will never meet a transsexual in your careers". So much for openness, understanding, and empathy.
elizabeth_hoot
Jan. 13th, 2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
Re: This is TMI, but so is your post.
Hey, sorry it's taken me so long to get back. There was a lot to think about and I want to phrase it right. So:

(1) Psychology -- As a former psychology student myself (and it's still one of my minors), I definitely agree that it can be helpful in providing paradigms and vocabulary. Of course, it's also been the source of a lot of bigotry and oppressive bullshit through the years, so it's an extremely mixed bag. My sexuality professor asked me to be a guest speaker on asexuality for future classes, so I had a much better experience there, but I'm not exactly thrilled about you and I and all the rest of us having to depend on random good will.

(2) Sharedish experience -- When I wrote this, I honestly didn't know if my experience would be shared by everybody, nobody, or anywhere in between. Yours does sound similar in, idk, kind to mine, though obviously much harder because, well, you're a man and I'm not. I think that's probably the central difference.

(3) Just on the username, that's, um, well. This is probably my oldest account anywhere and I chose it based on my fandom at the time (Austen). My main username is "anghraine" (tumblr, twitter, AO3, dreamwidth, wordpress, etc) -- but still, I don't really care if people call me Anghraine or Elizabeth, it doesn't bother me to have a traditionally feminine name attached to me (in fact, I prefer feminine names), and it doesn't feel dishonest at all. So there is a distinction there.

(4) I do feel the reflection-isn't-right thing, yes. The thing is, it's -- I've never been wholly male. Even as a child. I just wasn't female either. Or only female. It's like my gender was a pie chart and the male part was a bit bigger, so being reduced to the female part is this bizarre disorienting thing. But being reduced to the male part wouldn't be much, if any, improvement.

I honestly don't know how much it's affected by my asexuality. I mean, gender definitely gets wrapped up with sex and sexuality, and I don't think that, as a celibate, quasi-cis person, I can really get what it's like for you. But a fairly significant portion of the asexual community is trans* (I think around 10%), so for at least some people asexuality doesn't preclude that identification. It may even be easier for them to accept their identities -- I don't know. I do know that my asexuality is absolutely integral to who I am, though.

Really, when it comes down to it, I feel that I'm basically androgynous. I lean towards the masculine, but I don't even feel my androgyny that strongly, let alone masculinity. And socializing a weak androgyne to a female is, I think, a very different prospect than trying to turn a male into a female.

It's -- for me, there was an element of femaleness for all those social pressures to draw on -- to sort of grab and magnify, I guess. It's uncomfortable, but quite easily endurable; as a woman, I'm being true to at least some small part of who I really am. But for you, I assume it's different: you're not a woman and it just doesn't work. I don't know for sure, but that's what I'd think is most likely.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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