Since age seven, I had a very narrow idea of the gender expectations of a young girl. And I must say, I hated them. I despised what ‘being a girl’ represented. A good girl is dainty. A good girl is sweet. A good girl is polite and kind and wears dresses; and heaven forbid she ever gets dirty.
I believed practicing femininity required a certain level of submission that I’ve never been too keen on. Whereas I saw masculinity calling for a bit of aggression and good amount of assertiveness that I’ve always felt was much more desirable, for the simple fact that assertion leads to more control, therefore more agency. Submission linked to femininity is the main catalyst to the flawed concept of womanhood in relation to men; that women are the weaker sex. I didn’t even realize that my ignorance was only fueling this dangerous belief.
You see, I feared for many years to use my assertiveness, in fear of being seen as too boyish, or too much like a tomboy. And this on top of my then closeted genderqueerness made everyday interactions with cis girls and women VERY difficult for me.
It wasn’t until my preteen years that I learned that being a woman does not mean you must be submissive. Let me rewind. In middle school I was very shy and quiet and insecure. One day one of my classmates thought it was funny to pester me with one of the arts project we’d just made in class. It was homemade potato head made of a real potato. Yes. Though I was annoyed, I sat there like a good little girl and did nothing at all. He kept swinging the potato at me and I simply rolled my eyes, hands neatly clasped at my desk. But then I couldn’t hold it in anymore. The real me came out and I flung my hand out to knock his annoying potato out of my face. Before I could shame myself for being so bold, the guy punched me right in the temple. Like, right there. I’m surprised I didn’t faint. Everything I had learned up to that point about being a young woman flew out the window. I got up and beat that kid’s ass like a boss. No inhibitions, and far more impulsive that I’d EVER been before.
It’s not the fight that changed my life but the reaction from my friends and teacher that completely altered my concept of femininity. And it’s all because instead of being scolded, I was congratulated for standing up for myself! For weeks the kids in school gave me the nickname Ali. When I got home my mom told me my teacher called and expressed how proud of me she was. What? I was so confused. I thought girls had to play nice. No. Submission is only a rather negative, stereotypical display of femininity, not what makes a woman. I know now that women can be assertive and aggressive and even crude, and that, I love.