For most of my life I’ve been one of those girls who’s “just one of the guys”. I had a lot of male friends and I found it much easier to get along with guys. I got in to comic books and video games and sports and found that I was much more comfortable in a group of guys than a group of girls. I was a “guys girl”. I never really gave any thought to the significance or reasoning behind this, it’s just the way I was.
The other day on Tumblr I saw a post about being “one of the guys” and how this persona is really an active rejection of stereotypically feminine qualities. I had never thought of myself as having a persona or rejecting my “femininity”, but when I started to really examine this line of thinking some interesting stuff surfaced.
All those years of being one of the guys were really years spent being scared of my own femininity. I didn’t want to be a woman because I didn’t feel like I knew how to be a woman and I was scared of what I thought being a woman meant. Namely, I was scared of having emotions and being weak.
Women are stereotyped as being more emotional than men. This emotionality is blown way out of proportion to make women seem crazy, like slaves to their emotions, but like many stereotypes, there is a sliver of truth. Women are more encouraged to express their emotions than men and are more encouraged to feel their emotions than men. So it follows that women learn to be more visibly emotional than men. I internalized this early on and came away with the conclusions that women feel more than men and that men are more immune to emotions.
My problem was that I was always scared of my emotions. I always felt like I had too many emotions; like I felt too much, too intensely. I felt like my feelings were frighteningly out of my control. I would much rather not feel. So I started to build up my armor against feeling, which caused me to adopt a more typically male persona. I stuffed my emotions until they exploded, usually through anger instead of tears. I was much more comfortable using violence to navigate tough situations than expressing myself. I was much more likely to keep people at arm’s length than to let them past my armor. My fear feminine over emotionality pushed me in to a masculine persona.
In hindsight I see that this response was an immature survival tactic, but I also see the ripples of patriarchal programming. I had so internalized the message that emotions make women weak and lack of emotionality made men strong that I abandoned my femininity in order to be strong. At the time I didn’t understand the vast strength of feeling and sitting through tough emotions. I didn’t understand that women who feel are strong and powerful. I couldn’t find my strength in my femininity.
Today I still have many male friends. I find that friendship is often less complicated with men, but I have also discovered that it tends to lack the beautiful intimacy of female friendships. I have spent the past few years cultivating trusting vulnerability with a few women who are now like sisters. It was incredibly uncomfortable. Forming these friendships was much harder than creating bonds over co-op video games or the last UFC event, but the uncomfortability has paid off many times over. I have begun to discover that feeling intensely and deeply can be shared among women so it’s not so scary. I have begun to find the incredible strength in sitting through emotions and being held by those who love me. I’m less afraid of my femininity and more willing to fall in to it, gently.