Thursday, September 2, 2010

"What I am is what I am. Are you what you are or what?"

My first assignment for my women's studies class is to write about how I express myself in terms of gender (with focus on the ways in which I both adhere to and break gender norms). And I also need to include others' reactions to how I present myself, especially when I deviate from what's expected of me.

I thought it'd be an interesting topic for a blog post, so here goes:

The bottom line is that I do whatever the hell I want. I'm a woman. Some days I look the part, and some days I don't.

I seldom wear makeup. My eyebrows only ever look decent when my friend (who works at a hair salon) gets tired of looking at them and ties me down to wax the hair away. I don't care whether my outfits match. I will mix colors that aren't "supposed" to go together, just because they happen to both be on top of the clean pile.

I love to wear dresses/skirts/sarongs, because I find them more comfortable than pants. I'd wear 'em year-round if I didn't live in a state with such brutal winters. I paint my toenails. I own well over forty pairs of shoes.

So while I'm not by any means a "girly girl," I'm not a tomboy, either.

In August of 2009, I was on my way out the door and happened to be wearing a little bit of makeup. I ran into my roommate's mother in the parking lot of my apartment complex. She stopped me, looked closely at my face and asked, "Is that lipstick? Oh, honey, you've come so far since freshman year."

Others' reactions are similar. What really bugs me is that people seem to think that because I don't wear makeup, I must have low self esteem. That's not the case. It's just that I'd rather spend more time in the morning drinking coffee and tooling around on Facebook than looking at myself in the mirror.

Most tend to react similarly in regard to how I dress, even though many of them have known me for a long time and should be used to my seasonal change of wardrobe. But when it gets warm and I bust out the peasant skirts, someone--used to having seen me in jeans, Converse high tops, and t-shirts all winter--tells me I "clean up nice."

I ignore people for the most part. But what bugs me is that they see my lack of femininity (in certain aspects of my appearance, at least) as a sign that I don't value myself or have any respect for my body.

But I do. Not that it's any of their business, but aside from a huge chocolate vice, I'm a very healthy eater (my favorite food is salmon). And my preferred mode of transportation is my bicycle.

I happen to be small-boned and thin: both features associated with femininity. And so I guess it bothers people that I have all this "potential" to be the cutest little thing on the planet. And yet, I won't "try just a little harder," as they put it.

I put my energy elsewhere. Maybe they should, too.

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