Grace from arewomenhuman encouraged people to read Julia Serrano’s Whipping Girl and discuss it on Twitter. I don’t tweet, so I’m sorting out some of my thoughts here.
It is a great book: well-researched, personal, thoughtful and passionate. It helped highlight some of my own misogyny as well.
It also made me question if I am cis-gendered or not.
I’ve rarely enjoyed being female, especially before I got married. As a kid, if I’d been offered the chance to be a boy there are times I would have taken it without a second thought. As I get older I am enjoying living in this body more so I guess that makes me cisgendered.
I think that my dissonance with being feminine had much more to do with misogyny than being transgendered. I internalized a lot of hatred towards the feminine. I didn’t feel like I was truly a boy; I just felt like I was truly a person. If females weren’t fully human then I must not be entirely female.
I am also not naturally hyperfeminine. I am taking a belly dance class at our community centre. Looking in the mirror I see that while I have wide hips, I don’t move them as gracefully as the others. I stand like I’m ready to throw a basketball or catch a baseball. My movements are sharper than the other women’s. The others get told to put more energy into their moves and I get told to move smaller and smoother and stand differently.
I could not relate to the girls in my class who loved to shop or ogle boys. The hip swish, the wrist cock, and the head always off balance all feel unnatural. I can mimic them, but they don’t feel right. I assumed that those girls who zealously displayed hyperfemininity were just better at playing the game or wanted more social acceptance and attention than I did. It didn’t really occur to me that those movements felt natural to them.
I also assumed that guys who talked a certain way, pushed out one hip and flipped their wrists when they talked were also putting on an act. I thought it was some sort of code to signal that he was gay the same way that another guy puffing out his chest and staring aggressively at you signals he is trying to intimidate or dominate you.
It is likely impossible to differentiate between biological and social reasons for why we behave the way we do. Perhaps part of the reason that walking more ‘girly’ feels weird to me is that I associated it with inferiority. Could be. It could also be that how I walk is a survival tactic in the rape culture that we live in that defines femininity as being prey and displays of it as an invitation for sexual aggression. Or maybe it is just that I like running and swishing hips is an inefficient way to run.
As a kid I thought I really wanted to be a boy and now I realize I just wanted to be respected like I knew certain boys were. I did not want to be dismissed or sexualized like I knew girls often were. Birth fascinates me as do most bodily functions, but I never had aching desires to have babies. However, I did not really want a penis. (I didn’t really want breasts either. Floppy dangly things aren’t comfortable when running.) I just wanted to be a person and didn’t know how.
I guess that makes me a cisgendered woman who was as scornful of and scared and mystified by femininity as most masculine people in our culture are raised to be.
Has anyone else been aware of gender dissonance? or of fear of the feminine? or love of it?