Here’s a guest post from my friend Ebony regarding the topic of gender shopping, I’ll be back next week with regular posts I promise 😛 so without further ado –
The issue surrounding gender stereotyping and other such issues have always been quite close to my heart, but I never thought that I would end up feeling strongly about them as to write an article (or blog post, whatever you wish to call it) about it! However, through both positive and negative incidents in my life, I formed a strong opinion and this is what prompts me to do this. To sit at a computer at 11:30pm and try and organise my opinions, memories and arguments into something vaguely cohesive and hopefully interesting. It will hardly be an essay of sociological issues, but I hope that it gives you, dear reader, an insight to my experiences and thoughts. The conclusions I leave to you- I do not expect to swerve your thoughts, only to give you another point of view.
I had two polarising schools of thought on gender when growing up; my father’s side of the family, who possessed more conservative views when it came to gender, and sexuality for that matter. Girls must wear pretty dresses and have long hair, play with dolls, and generally thought of as delicate little things. Boys are the rough-and-tumble ones, must be seen in masculine colours and, of course, MUST HAVE SHORT HAIR. Because God forbid that they were “mistaken for a pouf.” To add context to these views, these people were born and bred in Devon, where intolerance is rife in a country which has shown itself to be much more progressive in recent years (gay marriage, anyone?!).
Then, on the opposite side, there is my mother’s side, whom I believe I draw most of my views from. These people are the strong, independent women that Beyoncé sings about. Everyone can look and be how they want to be, because no one should be worried about how society wants to label them.
And so, with a bit of context out of the way, I come to the crux of my point.
I, like many people, have a shaved head. The unusual thing about this is that I am a woman(ish)- I prefer to be thought of as androgynous/gender fluid but am generally perceived as female by family and peers- I haven’t really talked my feelings through with anyone except close friends, and even then only a bit. But I was astounded at the reactions that I overhear on this subject; even the positive ones could sometimes end up being back handed or inwardly insulting.
I’ll use for my example the one that I received first, namely a woman sat near me at the salon where I had it done. She was watching me avidly as my stylist got the clippers out and got to work-
“You’re being so brave.”
Why? Why should having shorter hair be considered brave? Bravery is going to fight in a war for the good of your country, or fighting a terrible disease. Not having an unusual flipping haircut. HAIR GROWS BACK, for God’s sake. I don’t like it, no worries, it’ll be back soon. Is it because she thought I’d be judged, because I appear to be female? This seems likely, and also incredibly wrong. From birth, society stamps girls with a need to have long hair- and become incredibly attached (emotionally, I mean!) to their long hair. I certainly can’t say this is true of everyone, I know several people who slipped through the radar, and I applaud them. I’m not demanding that every woman chops off their locks, I only point out that we shouldn’t encourage the ‘short hair is for boys, long hair is for girls’ stereotype.
I have two sisters, and the first thing they said to me upon seeing my hair (or lack thereof) was, “You look like a BOYYYY!!” And this is what we need to change; Children need to be taught that any hairstyle can be for any gender- and gender identity should not be forced upon them.
I’ve been on this Earth for 17 years, and I’ve had to close my ears to a LOT of ignorance towards my appearance, and that’s made me more outspoken than ever; the more I receive the backhanded comments, the more I proclaim “It’s all good! It’s all good and fine and dandy!” Because although I don’t care what you think of me, I do care how you carry that belief forward. An example of some of the things I have experienced:
“LOL, that’s a dyke’s haircut.”
“I can’t tell whether that’s a really pretty boy or a really ugly girl.”
“But the long hair made you look so FEMININE.”
Firstly. Can we just stop using the word dyke, like RIGHT NOW. Horrible and offensive, so stop or leave, please. I have no problems with being called a lesbian- I’m bisexual, so I guess they were half-right(ish). But stereotyping a whole group of people to one (in retrospect, extremely bad- it was a Beatles bowl cut) hairstyle isn’t okay, they come in all shapes and sizes like EVERYONE ELSE. C’mon guys, it’s 2015. I thought we’d established this.
The second one- again, no problems with sort-of being called male; I feel somewhere in between the two gender binaries. However, I am concerned with their potentially narrow view of what females and males look like. Gender identity is a spectrum, not a set of boxes with appearance tick-lists.
And the last- just no. HELL NO. Don’t you DARE go there. I’ve explained myself clearly enough on this issue- to think that this came from a member of my family breaks me a little inside. This, in short, is why I feel I cannot talk to my family about how I feel yet. Simple narrow-mindedness.
So, to conclude. We don’t need a revolution, or a surge of huge gestures. We only need to stop the gender stereotyping that is pressed upon children from birth. All that needs to be done is to stop telling children “This is for boys, that is for girls,”- because everything is meant for everyone. We need to stop worrying “but this might make me look like a girl/boy.” Like what? Beautiful, independent, a wonderful example of a human being? If that’s the only thing holding you back, then don’t worry about it. You look how you want to look, a little ambiguity never hurt anyone, and it certainly won’t change the opinions of the people who matter.
We need to be proud of who we are, and accept that everyone is equal in their rights, whether it be the small issue of a haircut or the huge issue of marriage. Not everyone fits into the gender binary, and what’s between our legs doesn’t define our appearance or our gender. Some people will never question theirs and others will spend their lives doing so. So most of all, we need to be compassionate to people who don’t fit into society’s ‘boxes’.
So this is the voice of an androgyne. And I say we are all beautiful.
As usual leave your comments in the below and be nice :)💛 💜 💛