I'm Stephanie.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

post xi: Our Two Very Inadequate Options: Man or Woman (pt.1)

I grew up surrounded by amazing men.  My dad is the ultimate daddy - a suit-and-tie businessman, who loves his big screen TV, home-cooked meals, gets flowers for his wife on Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, and her Birthday, and loves his baby girl (uhh, me) to death.  He'd threaten every prospective and new boyfriend with an excellent penetrating coldness, at least initially.  "They all start on the 'shit-list' and have to work their way off it", says Dad.

(oooh that's mah name behind my Diddy...gettin honors and shit)

My dad is the reason that I've had the freedom to become what I'm becoming - hopefully, a writer and one day a professor, and right now, a prospective graduate student of Poetry.  He is also the reason why I have the freedom to explore my own thoughts as I do, through poetry, fiction, this blog, and my interactions with other people, my interactions with and within myself, as well as the self that I am free to project.  I will never not be loved.  And I will never not be supported.
A large part of this has to do with who we are within our gender roles.  No matter how much I've tried to deny it, I am my dad's little girl.  Always will be.  I will not be my dad's "uninfluenced by gender, flexible individual offspring."  I am "little girl," and truthfully, I love this role, just as I know my dad loves the role of "Diddy," as I like to call him.

(trying to be just like Dad fixing cars)

Succumbing to roles doesn't necessarily make us weak or brainwashed.  It can make ourselves, and someone else, very happy, as well as feel safe.  The hard part is when the roles become dogmatic, and put unwanted pressures upon each side to remain unbending, even when a situation may call for a bendable self.  While I love my daddy-daughter relationship, I do not want to be seen by everyone as a little girl.  Or just as a girl or woman at the forefront, and all of the things that go along with being a "girl"/"woman."  I want to be seen as a person, but the truth remains that when we see another person for the first time, or maybe every time, the first thing we see is "male" or "female" before we just see "person" (at least, this is true for me).  "That guy," "That girl," "The lady in the red...," "The guy holding the baby panda."  Again, this isn't necessarily bad, but I feel like we put far too much identity pressure upon gender (especially when so many people can't identify as solely male, or solely female).

I never felt fully like I only belonged in the female.  I've always had mostly male relatives, and even mostly male best friends growing up.  The only girlfriends I've ever held onto for a long time (you know who you are) don't fit precisely behind the line of only female, just as the guy friends I've held onto don't fit behind their line of only male.

(Typical.  Surrounded by boys.  The first of many naked phases, I'm sure.)

The point, the point, yes the point.  And I'm certainly NOT the first to express this dissatisfaction: We have limited options - MALE or FEMALE.  So when we feel dissatisfied with our expected role, it seems like the only alternative is to branch to the other side, when I can't help but feeling like it's the sides themselves that are so detrimental to the formation of complete unhindered identities.  Yet, it's also these sides that offer many such an immediate place of comfort and supposed self-recognition.  But it's a problem when for so many others, these sides only offer societal estrangement, and even a deprecating sense of vulnerability.  This entire paragraph was "buts," "yets," and "howevers," and I feel like these words kind of define the entire struggle I'm talking about.  This whole topic is really too complicated to be remotely linear, but I think we all need to talk about it and at least explore how we treat gender in our own spheres.  We're all connected somehow, and if we can be aware of at least our own projections and our own relations with others and with ourselves, then maybe gender can bend a little bit more and more, in a way that is more natural rather than shocking, so even if the binary does continue to exist (as it will), it can be as more of an optional guideline rather than the force responsible for formulating entire identities.  We are too complex for this.

I'm not remotely surprised that we've elected a Black president, before a female president.  Having a Black president does not change the dogmatic infrastructure set in place, in the penetrating way that having a female president would.  No matter what "Other"s societies may configure for themselves and people who are different from them, I see the greatest source of "Otherness" as being the relations we have in place between men and women.  Every other difference, cultural, ethnic, and even ethical, takes a backseat to the divide present between "male" and "female."

Even my brothers, who were always pretty (for lack of a better word) "macho" have been good to me overall, and I've been able to observe them, not feeling like I'm looking up to them exactly, but always like I was learning something crucial from them.  From them, I had a pretty good inside look at what it's like to be raised in the masculine and have masculine pressures.  Although I would squirm at some of the things they would say while getting ready to go out, mostly about girls, in the bathroom next to my room, I was learning valuable things about being a woman, and also, about being a man.

Growing up, I didn't really look up to anyone (except for maybe this older girl in ice skating, but that was mostly because she was both beautiful and defiant with a really tremendous rack which must have made it difficult to skate).  Instead, I looked to others, at others, observed, and absorbed.

I'm going to make this post a "pt. 1" because there is more I want to get into, always more.  Please comment if you have any further insights you want to bring up, any disagreements, or anything you feel about this topic.  Agreements and disagreements are equally welcome.  I want to make this blog as much of an instrument in on-going conversation as it is a personal exploration.  I know I contradict myself.  I'll avoid quoting Walt Whitman right now, but you get the idea.  Shit's complicated.  This entire blog is a contradiction because I am trying as hard as I can, to be honest and thorough, and honesty is by nature, contradictory.  As is the individual trying to uphold it.

Let me finish by getting something off of my chest that's been bugging me: girls/women cannot MOON, at least not alone, and have it be funny/insulting.  It is pretty much only "sexy," at least kind of, or horribly inappropriate, and I really hate this.  I grew up with boys mooning and it was the most amusing thing ever at the time.  But when I mooned, it was a no-go.  It was dangerous and I didn't understand why it was less funny.  It was simply wrong.  I once dared another little girl to moon a bunch of boys at a party, and we both got in a bit of trouble...
I've just always loved that the simple, carnal act of showing one's buttcheeks can have such a capacity for amusement or insult, but I hated (still do, really)  that I couldn't be a part of it.  I remember when Crystal and I tried to flash someone on a road trip to Arizona as an affront, but then realized, wait...this wouldn't be pejorative to him...it would be a treat.  So we relented, disappointed, but also realized something legitimately worth talking about.  To be continued...

Ahh, SoCal Amtrak mooning.

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