Sometimes I get bored of being a woman.
There, I said it.
It’s confusing to have conflicting feelings. I am bored of my gender but I also think that I am proud to be a woman. But what does that mean, proud to be a woman? That implies that there is an essence or heritage to being a woman that I have a share in, and that all other women have a share in too. I’m not sure that is the case.
I am proud of lots of elements of myself that are considered ‘feminine’ – I am caring, a good listener, I’m very emotionally literate. I’m soft in places where men, traditionally, are hard (get your minds out of the gutter).
Is that the same as being proud to be a woman? That would imply that I am those things because I am a woman – but aren’t I those things because I am me, a person, and those are all things that a person can be?
I am trying to think of ‘masculine’ qualities that I have that I am proud of. I can’t think of any. Only the ones of which I am ashamed. I can be competitive. I can be narcissistic. I can be melancholy.
Are men ashamed when they are these things? My instinct is to say no. Men are not competitive or narcissistic or melancholy. Men are driven and confident and pensive. Is it because they are ‘masculine’ qualities that I, as a woman, am ashamed to have them? Would I believe I needed to ‘work on’ those elements of my personality if I were a man? Would I believe I needed to work on myself at all? Would I need to work on myself at all? Would those elements of my personality still be present? Would I be the same person?
Probably not. Gender shapes women’s lives. We are women before we are people. Men are people before they are men.
Is this valid? Perhaps not. Perhaps I wasn’t caring before I was told I should be. Perhaps men didn’t think twice about carrying babies until they were told they shouldn’t by one Piers Morgan. Perhaps we are all affected in equal measure. But I don’t think that’s true either.
I’m not the first person to say things to this effect, nor will I be the last. See de Beauvoir for further details.
I feel the need to point out these caveats. I feel the need to mitigate. I feel the need to add disclaimers to my writing, my ideas and my life. Because I am a woman.
I feel this way! Disclaimer: I know I am being unreasonable.
I thought of this thing! Disclaimer: I developed my ideas from reading what other people have said, and they said it better than me.
I exist! Disclaimer: I exist as a woman.
Perhaps it isn’t true that women are women before we are people and men are people before they are men. Perhaps it isn’t valid as a fact. But is it valid as an opinion? As a feeling? As an experience? As my experience?
I do not believe I have the right to make assertions based on how I feel. Sometimes, I do not believe I have the right to feel or to speak at all. I have imposter syndrome. Do I have imposter syndrome because I am a woman? Or because I am a person? Or because I am one very specific person, a person who has a certain personality and was told that she was stupid and not worth listening to when she was very young, a belief that she has internalised to the point of irrevocability? A person who just happens to have this experience in common with quite a few other, very specific people?
Disclaimer: Irrevocability is not a word.
She. She. She. Daughter. Sister. Girlfriend. Her. I understand the fuss about misgendering through pronouns. Almost every time anyone speaks to or about us, we are reminded how we appear and therefore what we are and therefore what we are not.
I cannot exist. I can only exist as a woman.
Do I experience myself as a woman? I suppose so, but I feel like a person first and foremost. In fact, I experience myself as the universal, something I know not to be true – but it still feels that way to me. How could I, how could anyone, feel otherwise? But I am not arrogant enough to believe that how I experience myself is how I actually am.
A thing is not a thing, it is what is said of the thing.
If apples are apples, but everyone believes they are pears and calls them pears, at what point do apples become pears?
If a woman falls in the woods and nobody hears her, is she still a woman?
Gender is tied up in everything I do. It is never, ever not a consideration. Walking home at night, I don’t wear headphones and am hyper-aware of who is walking behind me – because I am a woman. The shampoo I use is more expensive than my boyfriend’s – because I am a woman. So is my underwear and my makeup and my nails and my shaving equipment – because I am a woman. On social media, I am bombarded with articles about women and female empowerment and feminism like screams into the void because I have created an echo chamber around myself of ‘women’s issues’ – because I am a woman. When I go food shopping, I always buy a lot of veg because I am conscious of my health – or, more honestly, of my weight and the state of my skin – because I am a woman. For God’s sake, they’re vegetables.
I am not just asleep, I am a woman asleep. I am not just at work, I am a woman at work. I am not just writing, I am a woman writing. Neutral activities are inherently gendered when a woman performs them.
I live with two boys. Sometimes they talk about things and don’t ask my opinion. Often, I think they don’t ask because I am a woman and they don’t value my thoughts. Other times, they ask me what I think… as a woman. They ask me to speak on behalf of my gender. On behalf of half of the population rather than on behalf of myself. On behalf of millions of other women from different backgrounds, with different upbringings, different educations. Women of different ages, life stages, races, sexualities, religions, nationalities, classes, political leanings. Women who fall on the other side of the smooth/crunchy peanut butter divide. Women who don’t even like peanut butter.
How can I speak for these women? Why can’t I just speak for me? And what’s more, why can’t I speak all the time? Why do I have to wait to speak until I am spoken to?
Other times, they ask me because they think they should, because I’ve told them that it makes me feel like shit when they exclude me from the conversation. And some of those times I have nothing to say, because I don’t care about American football or Call of Duty. Then I feel gulty on behalf of all women. I have asked to be a part of a conversation to which I have nothing to contribute.
Why did I have to ask? Why do I feel the need to contribute, to prove myself? Why isn’t, ‘I don’t know anything about this topic’ a valid answer? Or even, ‘This topic bores me’? Is it a valid answer? Then why don’t I feel like it is?
Do I tend away from sports and video games because I am a woman? Or because I’ve been told I am a woman? Or is it because I am a person and not all people like sport and video games? Do men who like sport and video games ever ask themselves if they like sport and video games because they are a man or because they are a person?
I don’t know what I am trying to say. This post is not articulate or thought-out or referenced. I am not claiming to have any answers or even any questions. But I am allowed to write rambly blog posts without a clear point, even when I am capable of much more.
Even though I am a woman.
I’m tired of being a woman all the goddamn time. For a while, maybe even just for 5 minutes, I would like to be a person. Just one person. Just me.