As a boy who was always described as being a bit more effeminate than others, I have dealt with my share of ridicule from this gender-obsessed society in which we live. Many of my conversations in middle school, high school and even now, often follow this format:
Them: "Why do you act like that?"
Me: "I don't completely understand -- act like what?"
Them: "Like a girl! Why do you feel the need to prance around like a fairy and have an irritating, feminine voice?"
Initially, I wouldn't know how to respond. Now I know better; I simply call them out on their ignorance, then have a quick educational chat that goes something like:
"Why is it that having a soft spoken voice and very expressive body motions are considered to be 'girly'? Another question is how come being "girly" is a negative trait? If anything, it should be a compliment; women are amazingly talented and manage to thrive in this patriarchal society that tries to terminate them with every chance it gets!"
Anyway, I never understood nor do I understand why certain communication-based actions are associated with a specific gender, or anything for that matter. It was not until recently that I started to look at these situations with a sociological lens. I started to question why I get ridiculous looks when I decide to sport metallic blue nail polish, and how come some girls get side-eyed when they decide to not wear a dress to a formal event.
It's an ideology that's forced on us from infancy. Sometime last year, I complimented a mother on an adorable child who happened to be sporting periwinkle attire. I kindly asked, "Is it a girl or a boy?" She looked at me with disgust, and said, "She's clearly a girl, look at the color of her clothing."
Now, I understand why people who act outside of their assigned gender roles can be seen as intimidating or threatening: because we challenge a system that generally forces us to choose to be one way or another. Unfortunately, there is no "middle ground" that is accepted in society when expressing one's gender. Many of the metrosexual heterosexuals, femme gays, drag queens and kings, butch lesbians, trans* people, androgynous and gender fuck people are discriminated against, because we break societal norms. We live in communities that are obsessed with maintaining strictly masculine qualities and strictly feminine qualities, and somehow those who do not follow these guidelines are seen as freaks whose lives are less valuable than others.
Some girls don't want to wear makeup, and some boys love to wear makeup -- get over it!
I have only been alive for 18 years, but it is extremely evident that enforced gender roles do not only affect those who break them, but also those who give their blood, sweat and health just to fit in with them. The world would be a less difficult place if we could simply recognize that gender and gender expression are fluid concepts. An action cannot be "feminine" nor can it be "masculine"; it just is. Once we move past these simple labels, we can work towards lessening violence and societal pressures and creating self-love and true gender equality.
Photo credits: Rachel Wallach
Related on HuffPost: