I usually don’t watch these kinds of programs, but I do think they are interesting because of the issues they raise, mainly what it means to be a woman and what it means to act a specific gender role.
The notion of “femininity” for me is a complex one. Although I consider myself to be cis-gendered, I’ve never felt particularly comfortable about the fact that I am female. I was content being a girl until I hit puberty. Suddenly, everyone’s expectations about what I should be and how I should be changed radically. I was told how I should act, what I should or should not do, etc. People starting talking about dating and who liked who. Being the cartoon-loving video game geek I was and still am, it came as a shock. Bodies changed along with this mess of development and, to be honest, I wasn’t ready for it. It blindsided me and I’m still trying to come to terms with it (despite the fact that I’m already in my mid-twenties).
Me feeling uncomfortable being female isn’t driven my desire to be a man or anything in particular, but I don’t fit the box of “woman” that I am expected to be, either. I reject make-up, I don’t often enjoy shopping, I don’t like concerning myself with appearances. I have trouble relating to feminine women and a lot of female behavior. I have a history of hiding in over-sized clothing. I involve myself in geek culture and, while I do have some feminine hobbies like knitting and cooking, I tend to go for gender neutral hobbies. I don’t particularly want kids and getting married isn’t terribly high on my radar list. Maybe some day I’ll be able to deal with that, but right now, it kind of freaks me out. I’d go so far as to say I’ve had issues with internalized misogyny. Though, in my case, I think it might stem more from a complicated notion of what being a woman actually means and the fact that I’ve tried to fit in to mainstream society but can’t. Honestly, before puberty hit, I had this “magical thinking” notion that I was gonna be different. *I* wasn’t gonna have to go through all that nasty change stuff. Maybe I wouldn’t even start my period. Wouldn’t that be nice? But no, hormones hit just as they were supposed to.
Sometimes I find myself wishing that there was a third option amidst that gender binary that didn’t involve looking frumpy or overly casual. Where I could be comfortable about my frame, but also not have it be a sexualized or objectified one. I don’t like that women’s bodies are made to be so politicized, no matter what they do. The idea that people are looking at me and judging me based on my outward appearance makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. It’s not that I’m afraid they are criticizing me. It’s that I don’t want to even be factored in or noticed at all. I don’t like attention from people. I don’t want to be a target because of what I look like. In a lot of ways, I’ve wished to disappear and become invisible. I want to be appreciated by who I am internally and I want my body to not factor in at all.
Body image, as a concept, is complex. On one hand, I can say that I have a positive notion of who I am. I have a lot of strong features. I like my personality and who I am. I like my hair, I’ve got a good face, etc. Now that I’ve been working out a bit, I’m happy to say that I am looking trimmer and less pudgy around the waist. All that is good. Maybe I wish I didn’t have as much body hair, but that’s really not a game-breaker. Hair is normal. I could say I’m beautiful or pretty and not be lying. However, I even have problems with the notion of “beauty”. It feels very presumptuous to me that, what every girl should want, is to be and feel “beautiful”. I think there should be a lot more to life than that. I bristle when I’m complimented on my appearance. It feels very contrived and superficial. I can’t help it. Why, then, would I want to feel that way inwardly, too? Feeling confident is one thing, but why must outer appearances or complex notions of beauty dictate self-esteem? It just doesn’t make logical sense to me.
So, it’s complicated… on one hand, maybe I can accept that, in order to be societally accepted, I have to either be obviously female or male. I’m told I’m supposed to be female, based upon my body and feminine frame, so shouldn’t I try acting the part, too? On one hand, I feel content that I might be trying to invent a new form of femininity for myself, a “me”-ism. On the other hand, maybe the outward appearance that I project is holding me back. Maybe by learning to play the part better, I could further myself and my goals more easily. I really don’t know. Whatever the case, I don’t want to lose “who I am” in search of some unattainable goal that is society’s expectations. Chasing after some idealized image is not the way I want to live life. However, I do hope that one day I can find some happy medium where I can feel wholly comfortable in my skin and my identity as “female”.