womanliness, femininity and identity

Much of the work I do encompasses my experience as a woman. I am the self-defined “empowered woman”. I find myself constantly confronted by experiences that either make me want to suppress or enhance my identity as a woman.

I’ve often experienced existential guilt when I needed to express emotion. My perception was that emotion=female=weakness. It was my burden to shoulder certain emotions because that’s what women do. Being a woman doesn’t equate to being emotional, nor does being an emotional man equate to being weak. These are socially defined roles of genders that only create duality within our beings.  I have no opinion if these expectations are good or bad, I would simply like to offer that those who were not raised with those conditions may find themselves in an endless crisis of identity.

Much of our identity is built from the data we collect around us, starting with: “you are a boy” or “you are a girl”. Once gender is established, what follows is a regressing cascade of associations like: “a boy does boy things and like boy clothes” and “a girl does girl things and behaves in girly ways”.

I have a unique vantage point on the problem surrounding gender role denominations because I was never like the other girls! I was an only child, with a close relationship to her aboriginal father. I grew up fishing, hunting, loving the outdoors. I leaned how to use tools and benefited from being mentored from the male and female vantage points. Simply, I was human with limitless potential. In a way, I was much like other girls my age: I could rock the hell out of any princess outfit, find my prince, pony and castle but I was also conditioned to using my mind, using my hands. We learn from watching our parents, then from people around us; what we learn is the foundation of our identities.

I was an early bloomer. Boobies and booty at an age where girls should still look like girls. I wasn’t allowed to look like a woman yet, I should either hide myself in sexual shame or open myself to the misogyny of womanliness. A child who plays with boy things but looks like a woman is a confusing world to build an identity. The answer? Be a tomboy, a wallflower, remain in the fragile infantile state to avoid being pressured in the role of a woman. But people saw me as a woman and associated that womanliness with weakness. I fought back, I built myself on the outside, became stronger and further challenged the social perception of what a woman can do. I am a strong, confident, independent woman who loves to learn, perform and embrace leadership roles. I am skilled in sport and in cooking, I like skirts and pants, runners and stilettos.

At the core of my being I would define “femininity” as an innate sense of self, a place primal interplay that drives our biology. What isn’t primal in gender defined behavior is simply socially imposed. You are, and you are not your gender. Aye, you are a man or a woman but at the core you are human and being human means having access to limitless capabilities. I enjoy both male and female activities, I am a woman who embraces her innate femininity but reject misogyny in my self-defining female role.

I can say this about being the “empowered female”: finding a male partner who isn’t comfortable having his male roles challenged will not be an easy relationship. Luckily there is increasing dialogue around the social pressures of what it means to be a man: provider, powerful, warrior, stoic, successful, paternal (the list goes on). If both partners are empowered in role-sharing, the potential of human relationships also becomes limitless.