I used to wear dresses.
All kinds of dresses. Dresses with frills, with lace, with beautiful floral patterns; dresses that were simple or plain. I loved wearing pants under my dresses for some reason; my fashion never made much sense to anyone.
I’m not sure what happened.
By the time I was in middle school I was wearing boys basketball shorts and baseball caps; call it a personality change, and maybe it was healthy, but sometimes I wonder why I really did it. I can’t pinpoint the moment I first realized that the color pink was a “girls color” or that crying during an argument meant that you lost. Maybe I liked the tomboy style, or maybe I just wanted to be liked. Maybe it was a little bit of both.
I remember being a young girl and being afraid to say that I liked high heeled shoes. My mom never wore them because they hurt and my dad, well, he had some strong negative opinions on them and the women who wore them. So I added high heeled shoes to the list of things I would be made fun of for liking; lipstick, high heel shoes, certain TV shows with female leads; the list went on forever.
It wasn’t just my dad; I internalized all of the things boys said to me growing up. It wasn’t that I had crushes on them, I just wanted to be liked by them. I always tried to be one of the guys because these were the kinds of girls they respected; girls who played by the boys rules. Boys liked girls who could play sports and video games, girls who liked the right movies, didn’t post the wrong things, didn’t look a certain way; you couldn’t be too much of a tomboy so that people thought you were a lesbian, but you couldn’t be girly because that was seen as weak. It was a fierce balancing act.
I’m 23 and I hate how much I still want men to like me.
I can tell that they take me less seriously than they take men. I get criticized for being too sensitive or crying too much; men have never been taught how to cry or given the space. They don’t know how to handle my tears because they were never taught how. Its a fucking shame.
I am slowly learning to untie the knots of toxic masculinity and patriarchal lies in my life. It starts with the belief that femininity is weakness; that things that are considered traditionally feminine are also considered lesser. Female trends are not cringey. Female led media isn’t a joke. Female rappers are just as good, if not better, than their male counterparts. And women do not need to sacrifice their femininity to compete in the real world. We can be soft and, in fact, I encourage it. It takes strength to be able to remain soft and optimistic in a world that worships violence and power. It takes courage to feel every emotion rather than to numb them away.
One of my favorite shirts is an XL t-shirt with Ariana Grande’s album cover for “sweetener” on the front. I’m wearing it as I write this actually. I used to be afraid to listen to Ariana Grande because men made fun of her, pop music is considered not real music, and most people judge you for your taste in music. these days I try not to care; her music is fun to dance to and life is too short to spend it worrying about being cool.
Since I’ve tried to become more aware of the patriarchal influences on my life, I’ve realized how many movies I really don’t like; I don’t think Tarantino is a good director, I don’t like the glorification of violence, man are always dicks in movies, women are so often used as plot devices rather than as characters themselves, and I don’t need to pretend to ignore these tropes in movies simply because Hollywood has deemed the films “Good.” I’m tired of justifying violence and gore. I love movies with cheesy plots and happy endings; I love movies that are directed by women and show really strong, platonic female bonds. I love rom-coms and goofy movies. I wish we stopped having a separate genre for female movies as if they were a lesser form of film.
Toxic masculinity has bored me. I’m no longer interested in having fiery debates with men over feminism, I don’t care that men think my taste is inferior, and I won’t be wasting my breath to educate people who are set on upholding ancient patriarchal ideals. I’ve seen toxic masculinity ruin good men by telling them that in order to be a real man, they must shut out their emotions, keep a stiff upper lip, and worship the god of violence. I’m tired of the music in the industry that talks about women like they’re objects to be compared and contrasted; tried out and critiqued. I don’t think being a tough guy makes you interesting anymore.
It is okay to be soft. Dance like an idiot. Make stupid tiktoks. Do the makeup trend. fuck the patriarchy. I promise; it’s okay to be feminine. pink is not a bad color. and yes, you can be a badass in a skirt. you got this.