Oh, You’re Wearing That?

“I don’t mean to go on a rant here” but I’m going to anyways.

The female culture in my little mid-western town really chaps my ass. I notice it because I have struggled for years with trying to figure out how to fit into it or understand it. It has taken me nearly 12 years to come to the realization that I am not socialized as a woman. I much prefer the culture of men, and find most of my friends there, even though I’ve got two X chromosomes.

I have tried to find female friends in the past. I have participated in many primarily female activities. I have worked hard to be honest with those around me that I struggle with these issues and have asked for their help. And yet, I still find myself not being able to understand it at the end of the day. So let me enumerate some of my confusions.

1) Look pretty.

I’ve heard it explained in many different ways, from ‘a good woman takes pride in her appearance,’ to ‘if you don’t make yourself look pretty, no one will find value in you.’ And none of them really connect in my mind. I’m not a fashionista. I don’t have a hard-on for shoes, nor do I coordinate my outfits. But that doesn’t equate to me lacking pride or self-worth. When I was a performance artist, I got many a compliment on my appearance from make-up to hair to costume. I taught classes and workshops for several years on these topics also. I’ve studied the human form and fashion in the sense of how fabric goes with the human body and how to manipulate such things to achieve the look I want.

But in the day to day world I wear T-shirts and jeans. They are comfortable, they fit, they don’t get in my way, and they allow me to do what I want to do. A belt to clip my knife on is essential. Belt loops for my keys, and pockets for my gloves. I need sturdy pants that won’t rip when I haul dirt or bricks, and a shirt that can get soaked in sweat and air back out. I never trained myself to ‘sit like a lady’ so skirts are often out of the question. And if they are longer than my knees, I think they are hot and hike them up for some air circulation, hence defeating the point of the long skirt in the first place.

I have long hair, which I keep up during the day. Pulled up into a bun or a braid. I don’t wear makeup, because I don’t see the point in my daily life. When I dress up, it is nice slacks and a nice button down shirt. I brush my hair and make sure I am clean. And while this would be fine were I male, it isn’t enough for a woman in this society.

2) Act like a ‘Lady’

I’m not exactly sure what a ‘Lady’ is in this circumstance. I am often told this when I am being crude and cracking a joke, laughing at myself, or in some other way poking fun at a taboo or fringe subject. And this I find amazingly narrow minded. As if having a vagina means I should not have a sense of humor, or perhaps only about certain things. And it usually comes up when I make sexual jokes or remarks. This bothers me too. There is so much bullshit red tape tied up with women and sex; from the virgin and whore paradox to the idea of Christian original sin. And I just can’t hack it into my life. When I find things funny, I laugh. When I find folks being uptight about something, I crack jokes. It is better for me than pointing out to them that they are uptight and uncomfortable with some aspect of their own life. I have no problems with my own sexuality, my own sensuality, and even that part of me that has a rather ribald sense of humour..

I also hear this admonition to ‘act like a lady’ when it comes to being a ‘good wife’ and supporting my husband. Now, I am totally for being a supportive spouse. After all, I love him enough to marry him, oath to him, live with him and raise children with him. There is no point in tearing the man down. But that is often not what folks mean with this sort of statement. They mean things like do the cooking and cleaning, don’t share your own problems and act submissive. And while doing ones’ fair share of the housework leads to a less hostile home environment, the others I think just make for a screwed up marriage. I trust my husband to be my partner. That means when I have problems, I talk them out with him. And when he has problems, he talks them out with me. We are there for each other. We share in the house duties. We share in each others’ lives, both the good and the bad. And we are on equal footing with one another. We don’t play games, whether those are power struggles or mind games.

3)Ladies don’t curse

This is probably the one that gets me the most. As if my gender or genitalia has a bearing on my vocabulary. I curse, I cuss and I swear. It is part of my vernacular. Not because I am unintelligent, or not well read, or any of those other tropes. I use the words I do because I find them the most adequate and appropriate to express myself. And the idea that my expression should be policed based on my gender, well it is probably the height of offensiveness. Silencing someone’s expression of self is NOT OKAY. And doing with a big ass blanket of sexism, or racism or classism is super NOT OKAY.

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