Monday, October 23, 2017

Femininity and sexism

Why are qualities that are considered stereotypically feminine so often dismissed with negativity? Why is it that crying is weak, and why is it that even now a woman is often the one responsible for affection and nurturing? The only answer I can come up with is that sexism still plays a big role in our society. I recently had the opportunity to talk with one of my male friends, John, about his perspective on the subject. What I have come to realize is how much sexism takes a toll on women and men of varying gender and sexual identities. I want to focus now on something that I have often overlooked. How sexism plays a role in devaluing femininity in all genders.

I recall growing up as a tomboy, wearing more traditionally masculine clothes and hanging out with boys my age. I cursed all that was traditionally feminine, so to me that meant anything pink, frilly or with bows. As I got older I became much more outwardly feminine and saw that I began to be treated differently. Many times I was sexualized by other people; I was turned into more of an object than a person, all because I was presenting as feminine. I wonder about why I was treated so differently when I simply wore different clothes. I don’t have a simple answer to that, but I believe that it has to do with how femininity is received by others in our community, especially men. Now I am not trying to say that the fault lies with men because they are also affected by sexism.

John talked about how when he was growing up any feminine qualities displayed by him, or any of his male friends, were persecuted and stomped out of existence. Why you ask? Because they were considered inappropriate for a male, a sign of weakness, but what I think is that it all comes from fear. Fear of changing how society is, fear of making things different, fear of the unknown. One way that we can all try to combat this fear and start to make a change it to stand up and cease from being silent, start having these conversations with your friends and family. Speak up and tell others when they are in the wrong. John is someone who has now decided to become an ally to those who are the victims of sexism, and stand up and stop being silent. Here is what he had to say about being an ally: “I will be an active ally by doing my homework, reading current articles related to this subculture, and challenging discrimination and/or oppression when I see it.  My role as an ally will not fix these issues, but hopefully will help and carry over to others who will then join as allies. It is my hope that other members of our society, and beyond, will realize that this is a problem for everyone who desires the freedom to express all gendered aspects of themselves whether it be masculine, feminine, or gender queer, or any gender non-conforming orientation of their choosing.” I found this to be extremely moving to hear from someone who holds male privilege in our community.

 

I write about this topic today in hopes that we can all learn something more, spread the word, and stop being silent. Let’s speak up about how portraying feminine qualities is not something to be devalued or persecuted, but rather positive and natural. We all have masculine and feminine qualities, that is what makes us more whole and we should honor both of them equally.

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