The patriarchy. Ooh, the patriarchy.
Isn’t it fun, being told who you should be based on the genitals you’re born with? Being told you should have certain emotions and should not have certain thoughts about your life sure is great! And then, the horror of doing something that has not been assigned to your gender, the castigation following actions that you dared to do, finally culminating into humiliation and ostracism – really warms the heart. Got to love patriarchal society!
Being from a dominantly patriarchal society means that life very quickly gets segregated into ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ aspects. Women are encouraged to develop active interest in pursuits considered ‘masculine’ – ranging from sports all the way to seriously considering their career and financial stability. That is, until it’s time to fulfill their set of obligatory societal ‘feminine’ duties – that of home, hearth and heir.
Men, on the other hand, are pushed into a state of emotional constipation, unable to express emotions and behaviours beyond those considered ‘strong’ and ‘masculine’ – including, but not limited to, courage, valour, aggression, anger. After being fed the propaganda of toxic masculinity for their entire life, they are then asked to ‘express their emotions’ and ‘open up about their mental issues’, to only be rejected by those closest to them, or those they choose to show the instability behind the rigid walls erected in response to societal pressures.
I personally didn’t face a lot of sexism for the longest time, a privilege I completely understand and appreciate. To aid softening the blow of my ‘societal obligations’, I initially chose to reject all that belonged to my ‘side’ of the gender divide. I rejected the value of my physical appearance, the knowledge of anything considered ‘feminine’, and immersed myself into activities and pursuits that were considered ‘for the boys’, ergo, ‘un-womanly’. In fact, I spent so much of my childhood trying to be ‘one of the boys‘ – made easier by the fact that my earliest and longest playmates were all boys – that when someone finally showered me with attention and romantic interest, I was blindsided. I neither knew how to evaluate the worth of a romantic partner nor to recognise the signs of disturbance and toxicity, or red flags (as it is better known) and floated around like a leaf in stormy waters for a long time before anchoring myself and finding my feet.
Growing up, my parents not only had no issues with my process of ‘self-masculinisation’, but they encouraged it, to the point where I placed little to no value in the way I looked or in basic abilities like sewing and having any sense of fashion (because I considered them feminine). I, instead, placed all my eggs into other baskets labelled ‘career path’, ‘financial independence’ and ‘aggressive teeth baring for self preservation’, to name a few.
Now that I look back at it, I was probably trying to escape the discrimination I would inevitably face as a woman by trying to run as far away as I could, by trying to outrun the truth of being a woman. I thought, by some twisted logic, that the lesser I presented myself as a woman, or the more I emulated ‘masculinity’, I could, at some point, eradicate the probability of being discriminated and harassed. And, for a while, it did work.
I wasn’t never the girl all the guys wanted to date or had crushes on. I wasn’t on any of the lists dedicated to the most desirable girls. I was the person who listened to guys bemoan their bad luck, or inability to get the attention or keep the interest of the girl they were interested it. Comments such as, ‘But you’re not a girl, so you won’t feel/do/think ______’ were constantly aimed at and sent my way. No one thought it weird or found it out of place to see me sitting with a group of guys to enjoy a round of drinks, no one even thought it possible that I’d be trying to get a guy’s attention in a romantic/sexual way. You get the idea.
Funnily enough, however, I had been in more relationships than the people around me, or had been with more partners than the girls or guys I used to hang out with. Which shouldn’t mean too much, however, since I used to attract crazies earlier, before I got my shit straight.
Speaking about getting my shit straight included the realisation that feminity was way more than being a girly-girl, and, most importantly, there was nothing wrong with being feminine. All the nonsense I’d fed myself about masculinity being better than feminity, about disregarding knowing about basic things because the gender society assigned to them, was just that – absolute nonsense. Being able to apply make-up decently well and knowing which clothes went well with which shoes was not comparable with getting good grades and having a well paying job, but all these things were important to different aspects in my life in their own way.
Over time, I realised one thing – I was doing myself no favours by rejecting an entire part of myself, and by extension, an entire part of my life experiences.
Eventually, with conscious effort, I did learn to appreciate every facet of my life, but it’s only been recently – ever since I started living on my own – that I’ve realised that the concept of segregation itself is absolute bullshit.
And let me tell you why.
Living alone means that when shit hits the fan, be it in a big or small way, you’re the only one who’s affected by it, and, therefore, the only person who needs to clean it up.
Be it whacking cockroaches with a shoe, buying and storing groceries, getting wifi installed for the house or getting the HOA society to process your request – I’m the only one here to do it, and if I don’t do it, I don’t have a brother or husband or father or friendzoned guy-friend waiting around the road corner ready to spring out and take care of it for me. But the expectations of the people I have to deal with – that some man will eventually join me and take over in getting my affairs in order is… Astounding. And the speed with which things happen when it’s a woman who needs help versus when it’s a woman who is helping herself is another mind-blowing phenomenon. Finally, what really got my goat was the number of people offering to help me with the comment “… Because you’re a woman.”
It made me realise that even if there aren’t any male family or friends around the blind curve in the road, the sidewalks sure are packed with self appointed knights-in-shining-armour. And as with any group of people, some are genuinely trying to help for the sake of helping, while others are busy putting the ‘creep’ in creepy.
I’ve definitely seen more and faced more sexism and gender based perception shifts after shifting in alone than I have in my entire life before, while I was staying at home. Not only am I not considered more masculine than feminine, I now am even considered attractive, something I consider as a problem due to the drama it has attracted in the past, drama that I intend to stay away from as much as possible. And the sexism that comes my way isn’t the type that you can directly protest against without looking like a complete dick, because it’s the type that gets under your skin and digs in deep slowly, even after you brush it off.
If micro-sexism isn’t a thing yet, it should be. As I’ve come to realise, the number of sexist white knights far exceeds than the chauvinist pigs, not only in numbers, but in damage they cause as well.
A direct blow may hurt for now, but it can never exceed the trauma caused by a hundred needles slowly making their way from your skin to your heart.