word vomit: escaping womanhood
time to word vomit a continuous stream of thoughts that have been going around in my head for a while now. will probably run with this more later. cw: slurs
the binarist society(/ies) we live in fucks over everyone– be they trans or not– with its enforcement of binary gender roles, among other things. sometimes i’ll come across an article, blog post, whatever talking about this. to a point. sometimes it will be pointed out that how and to what extent society polices and enforces gender roles differs based on the assumed gender at birth of the person in question, among other things. that in American society, for example, people deemed to be females at birth are afforded a certain amount of leeway that people who are deemed to be male at birth are not.
case in point 01: in America, a person who is assumed to be a girl– whether that person actually is a girl or not– is very likely to be allowed to play with “boys toys”. she (bear with me here) may be deemed a tomboy by her parents and by society and she may or may not be subject to some level of ostracization because of it. that said, if someone who is assumed to be a boy wants to play with “girl toys”, there is no equivalent to “tomboy” available for his parents or society in general to label him. rather, he is much more likely to be denied those “girl toys” all together and punished simply for wanting them, let alone the ostracization he would be subjected to if he got them.
case in point 02: in America, an assumed woman can wear clothing that society has deemed “men’s attire”. she can wear a necktie, she can wear a three-piece suit, she can wear cuff links and cologne. she is likely to be considered “dapper”, “debonair” or “androgynous”– all words that are generally meant to be complimentary. an assumed man can wear clothing that society has deemed “women’s attire”. he can wear a dress, he can wear heels, he can paint his nails. however, he is likely to be considered “feminine”, a “fag”, “performing drag” or a “tranny”– and no matter how not negative some of these words may actually be, the intent behind them when used towards this person who is assumed to be a man is often nothing but negative. that person may very well be harassed or worse, but just as notable is the fact that “androgynous” would not likely be among the word used to describe him.
case in point 03: what is commonly considered to be gender neutrality or ambiguity (eg. androgyny) is often markedly more “masculine-coded” than it is actually “neutral”– whatever that actually even means. be it clothing, toys, cellphone cases or anything else, if it’s being labeled as “unisex” or marketed in a way that does not target a specific gender, the color scheme, the design etc will be notably closer to that of things marketed towards boys / men than what you see marketed towards girls / women. anything seen as veering closer to “girls’ / women’s territory” is simply “feminine”.
all of these “cases” are things that i see touched upon at times in articles, blog posts, etc that are more often than not aimed at raising awareness among cis people that– hey! the gender binary fucks you (or rather “us” as the author is often cis as well) over too! and i myself, a non-binary person, agree with the above, even if i do sometimes have a bone or two to pick with the authors about this or that.
that said, the conversation about how society fucks us all over with its binarism, when not delving into the issue of race and / or culture, more often than not ends there. it ends with “yes, people who are assumed to be female have to deal with misogyny– we won’t even mention that because that’s a given, right?– but they also have a lot of leeway that people who are assumed to be male do not!“ or in other words, “yes, misogyny, but leeway!! no wrong way to be a woman!!!”
which leaves me sitting there like, yeah. okay. yeah but. there’s more to it than that.
for me and many others who are assumed to be female at birth– regardless of whether we actually are female or not– that “leeway” is a double edged sword. for me, there are times when that leeway is the very thing that undermines my non-binary gender the most in the eyes of society at large. no matter what i say or do, no matter how i exist as a person in the eyes of others, i am forever thought of as ““nothing more than”” a “tomboy”, an “androgynous” woman– whatever. i am still seen as a girl / woman, just a “masculine” or “androgynous” one, unless i happen to at some point cross some magical line in a person’s mind that puts me into the category of ““passing”” as the man that i am not.
while many fight to have their womanhood recognized, for me, someone who constantly has womanhood forced upon them, the parameters of womanhood are so goddamn wide that trying to escape them feels like Mission Impossible meets The Matrix where Morpheus is every “enlightened” cis woman who approaches me saying “I’m trying to free your mind, [Neo]. There is no special door for me to show you. Didn’t you know womanhood already includes butch / tomboy / androgynous / masculine women like you and me?”
the very thought that you’d want to “abandon your sisters” in the fight for women’s rights let alone escape womanhood all together has been, for me at least, fraught with guilt that has plagued me both internally and externally. that leeway that women now enjoy but men do not did not happen without a fight and it most certainly did not happen overnight.
and yet here i am, perceived as turning my back on it, ungrateful for it.
and yet here i am, rendered invisible and invalid in large part because of it.
maybe i simply haven’t come across it [yet], but i haven’t seen a lot of talk about this aspect of navigating social gender norms. i think i’ll revisit this word vomit of a post at a later date to reiterate or even elaborate on it on YouTube when my life isn’t so chaotic…
edit: …annnd this post is finally a YouTube video with its own Tumblr post. also see the discussion that took place in the notes of the original Tumblr post.