I could see the two gendered paths laid out before me in childhood. I knew that the world and my faith attributed certain traits to the feminine and others to the masculine. I knew that girls were supposed to follow the feminine path, and that boys were supposed to follow the masculine. I could tell the girls’ path was a trap and I wanted nothing to do with it. Besides, my sister was so much better at being girly than I was. I could only hope to perform as second best in the feminine realm.
I’ve started to realize how much the gender roles still defined what I could and could not do, what I would and would not allow myself to enjoy doing. I was so afraid of being seen as “just a girl” or “only a woman”. I had also internalized the idea that being a girl is why I had been sexually molested – not because the man was sick and violated me, but because I was tempting flesh as a young girl.
I had plenty of examples of strong women in my life. In my family I had a female preacher, graduate professor, worship team leader, ballet dancer, and human resources department head. I knew that women could do anything, but the world told me that wasn’t true. I decided the women in my family were better, were “not like those OTHER women.” I attributed our strengths to our masculinity, to our Otherness from women as a whole.
I didn’t learn how to cook until the past couple of years. Cooking was women’s work, was a gendered chore, and I wasn’t about to sign up for a bunch of thankless effort. It’s only now that I’m in a relationship with a feminist man that I feel like I can explore cooking without trapping myself into a Female-labeled box without air holes.
Thank you Feminism for helping me recognize and confront internal misogyny. Thank you for helping me to love my “feminine” skills and traits. Thank you for giving me opportunities to try new things without losing rights or dignity.
Thank you for writing this. I still struggle with that very thing sometimes.