Change Your World-NOT your Body

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Being and Doing

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I make a huge distinction between BEING and DOING, meaning we arent what we do, we are what we are. In less double speak, I wasnt a boy growing up because I did things that were considered by most to BE "boy" things, and yet, that assumption was still there. Growing up I had very long hair, down to my butt, long hair and bangs. I remember every time I was to get a trim, I would be asked if I wanted it shortened, not necessarily into a "boys cut", but something shoulder length or slightly shorter. I never did. Parents or parental figures always seemed surprised by that.

I had no language to explain. I only figured long hair meant I was a girl, because I too had been snowed into believing DOING was BEING. So if girls DID long hair and I DID long hair, everyone would know I was a girl. From about age three on up, that was how I understood things. I couldnt wrap my head around peoples confusion of me, my childhood logic was this: even though I'm DOING "boy" things, I am doing "boy" things with long hair and only girls have long hair so why cant everyone see I'm a girl?

My earliest memories, feelings of wanting to be a boy centered around this confusion, BEING and DOING. I felt if I were just a boy, that constant, persistent question and all those questioning eyes that contained that question would just stop. No one would ever ask me again "are you a girl or a boy"? My logical "girl" hair failed me, it didnt matter that girls have long hair and I had long hair, it was more about what I DID having long hair and what I DID were "boy" things.  "Girl" hair and "boy" things were societies confusion of me, something they couldn't reconcile, two polar opposites that begged the question "are you a girl or a boy"? What I couldnt reconcile was DOING long hair didnt make me a girl any more than DOING "boy" things made me a boy, both we DOING. I only knew I enjoyed and I felt comfortable DOING "boy" things despite BEING a girl, "boy" things made the girl me happy and made the girl me feel "normal".

Strangely it wasnt until around puberty that I more or less quit feeling ashamed when asked if I was a boy or a girl. Perhaps the horrific Butch Shame and body dysphoria I felt at puberty eclipsed any other shame I had up to that point in my life. Yet even carrying the burden of Butch Shame and body dysphoria on my young back and shoulders, I didnt stop having long hair nor did I stop DOING "boy" things. In fact it was DOING "boy" things that helped me get through puberty and helped alleviate some of the Butch Shame and weighted burden of body dysphoria.

Look for my sequal to this post coming this week, Being, Doing and Dysphoria in which I will share how DOING helped me with my dysphoria.

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3 comments:

  1. I remember when feminists were talking about smashing stereotypes and abolishing rigid sex roles. That was what attracted me to feminism when I was a teenager. It means we should be able to do what we want to do in the world regardless of gender. I want to see this vision of feminism come back. Then maybe some of these young people would realize that the problem is not their sex, the problem is sex ROLES!

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  2. Society sends very strong messages about what boys "should" do and what girls "should" do. Girls doing "boy" things are tolerated until puberty and then the messages get stronger and are accompanied by social sanction if one fails to conform.

    Going into adulthood women seen as acting like men are demonized as having "attitude problems" and attempts are made to put us in our place if we get too uppity and start taking what is traditionally seen as male privledge as our own.

    F*ck patriarchy, F*ck male privledge and F*ck those that sell out to both.

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  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this...and thanks to both of you responding. I especially want to quote DM: " DM said...
    I remember when feminists were talking about smashing stereotypes and abolishing rigid sex roles. That was what attracted me to feminism when I was a teenager. It means we should be able to do what we want to do in the world regardless of gender. I want to see this vision of feminism come back. Then maybe some of these young people would realize that the problem is not their sex, the problem is sex ROLES!"

    This is precisely what First Wave feminism, which is part of the Feminism from youth I came up with in NYC, and second wave in college. Just like Alixx Dobkin says "Any woman can be a Lesbian", Feminism says "any woman can do any DAMNED THING SHE WANTS, IF SHE LEARNS THE SKILLS AND HAS THE TALENT TO DO SO!" She can be an astronaut(which is what I wanted to be), a doctor, a CEO, an adventurer, a Scientist, even a President or a Prime Minister(we still have yet to have our first woman president, I had my hopes with Hillary, she came close though), a Secretary of State, a Filmmaker, and so many other barriers women have crossed. Now we need NUMBERS of women to cross those barriers and represent close to 50% of the workforce in all those fields, that's where affirmative action has failed us...it was taken away much too soon. In construction we're still only 2% of the workforce, when we've been Tradeswomen and active in the Tradeswomen movement, a sector of the Feminist movement since the '70's! Our numbers have not increased, in fact they've decreased after the elimination of many Affirmative Action programs. And yet they still have Affirmative Action for vets, for those of various classes and statuses, but not for being Female in many areas any longer, especially in CA. Opportunities have been held back, and Susan Faludi spoke of the backlash against Feminism, which included backlash against Affirmative Action programs because we were just starting to get some power...along with our racial minority sisters and brothers....
    Too many Republican and Demopublican Presidents and congress people.

    I was all for the bra burnings, glad to be able to wear pants to school instead of dresses, and I too resisted having my hair cut cuz I didn't want some frilly 'do, I wanted it left alone, and like you said, fully a girl who did boy things, and completely misunderstood. We SHOULD be able to do what we want in the world without reference to sex, and the problem is not their sex or their expression of it, but the sex ROLES we're still rigidly defined by, ESPECIALLY in the media. Butches are still largely invisible or demonized if they are...or discounted or told to 'femme up' some if they're in a high level position. There's still the shaming going on, it's just somewhat more subtle than in the past when you could be arrested for not wearing 3 items of female clothes.
    -MasterAmazon

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