Gender roles: a rant

I am an LGBT ally, and what bothers me most on a personal level—beyond the fact that equality should be for all—is the stress society places on gender roles and expectations. For several years now, I have chosen to wear my hair short. It was long once, and over the years it gradually got shorter and shorter —from elbow length, to shoulder, then shorter until I had the sides buzzed, as can be seen in my hairventures. I don’t like the feeling of hair touching my neck or face, and short hair, for me, is easier.

And yet I get questions from complete strangers asking me why, as a female, I chose to cut off my long hair. I have had several people confuse me for a male solely because of my short hair. At first I didn’t mind the questions, but if a stranger is going to comment on my appearance, I would infinitely prefer they ask me about my piercings or my tattoos or the clothes I wear. Honestly, I would be more comfortable explaining to someone I don’t know why I have the serenity quote tattooed on my arm than why I cut my hair short. The only trouble is that the tattoo explanation would make everyone else uncomfortable.

I don’t buy into gender roles. I am female, but I can’t cook or bake or sew. I wear jeans and tee shirts most days, and oftentimes shopped in the boys’ section as a child, and played in the mud with my brother and his friends. I play video games and curse like a sailor. Yet I do love a good twirly dress and heels, and I have more Barbies than most people I know. I wear makeup 90% of the time—and a lot of it, too, only designed to look subtle.

And if we’re really going to delve into it, I have this:

IMG_20130120_143519

a traditionally feminine shape.

I have an hourglass figure. I have enormous breasts, a narrow waist, and hips. I have the body of pinup girls from the 1950s.

“How could someone possibly think you’re male?” you might ask.

“Because of traditional gender roles,” I might answer.

Women have long hair. That’s the way it has always been.

I’m glad to have grown up in an accepting, progressive household. My mother let me dress like a boy if I wanted, and has never stopped me from doing whatever weird shit I want with my hair (her theory is that, eh, it’s just hair, it will grow back if you don’t like it). The most recent time when I was called a male, I was visiting my then-91 year old grandmother. This is a woman who grew up with very traditional English values in a time where classes were still segregated by the rich and the poor. We were standing outside—me with my short hair and baggy sweater—when a friend of my nan’s said, “Oh, is this your grandson?”

Nan made a sort of dry, condescending noise and corrected, with her adorable and proper English accent, “Actually, this is my granddaughter.”

On an unrelated note, that woman is an inspiration.

Even women with long hair get judged on their appearance in the traditional gender roles. A friend of mine was recently confused for a male despite her feminine shape and ludicrously long hair solely because she was wearing plaid (at least this is our assumption. Otherwise, we can’t figure out why the fuck someone thought she was a dude).

My plight is more annoying than anything else, and I can’t pretend to really understand what other people go through in their search for who they are. But women and men should be allowed to express themselves and their appearance in any way they choose. If that means having short hair and wearing plaid, then why not? It effects no one but themselves, and is the business of no one but themselves. Short hair and baggy clothes do not a man make. Nor do long hair and tight clothes a woman make.

Why is this feminine?

January 2010

And this masculine?

2013-08-04 00.22.14

It’s 2013. We are a modern society that is finally blossoming and understanding that these “issues” have been around for centuries. We have to evolve with it, and not dig our heads in the sand. The next time a small child asks his father if I’m a boy or a girl because of the length of my hair, I’ll shrug it off (and try not to judge the parent for pressing these unfair mores on their unsuspecting child). Because I will continue to have short hair, dress like a boy, and hate cooking, because those are some of the weird things that make me who I am.

What shocks me the most is that the people who are least accepting of these physical “oddities”—my piercings, tattoos, and wildly strange and funky hair—are the middle-aged boomer crowd. Elderly folk adore my quirks; when my hair was white, purple, and pink, two ladies asked me if I got in the middle of a paint fight. We have to grow into acceptance, and that is a long and arduous road. We’re getting there, but it is only a start.

Gender roles are ridiculous, and a step back for human equality. If I have a son one day who wants to play with Mommy’s collection of Barbies, he won’t be stopped and told to play with GI Joe. I will help him dig out the gowns and brush their hair. If he wants Lego and Tonka trucks, then I will buy them for him. If I have a daughter who wants to play in the mud and dress in boys’ clothes and shave her head, I’ll gladly let her. It won’t matter, because they are expressing who they are. Who am I to stop them from being themselves?

So now my frustration turned into a rant, and my rant turned into an essay. But this is something that has been sitting on my shoulders for a long time now, and I guess this is my way of getting it off my chest. If you disagree, feel free to tell me. I won’t agree with you, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Try to have an open mind. It really can be as simple as that.

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