Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Performing gender

When it comes to gender presentation I over-compensate - I have curves and breasts and I'm about 5'3 or 5'4 short, and I hate all of it. In an ideal world I'd probably identify more masculine than feminine anyway, but we're not an ideal world, so I get vehement about women's issues because whether I like it or not, they affect me to a great degree. But it bothers me that it's so damn hard to get people to notice that I'm explicitly trying to present as not-female. An mtf transgender person is recognised more easily (notwithstanding that it's also much more dangerous, since societal misogyny can't deal with the idea that a man would "try" to "look like" a woman, let alone with the idea that she is a woman), but someone who's female-bodied with short hair wearing men's business wear, carrying a completely non-feminine bag from the men's section of the luggage store, is still referred to as a lady and called ma'am.

At any rate, I've been trying to be aware of the unconscious things I do as a result of being socialised female. One example is trying to walk more confidently - head up, brisk pace - because somewhere along the line I picked up the idea that I should try not to draw attention to myself (see: street harassment). Something else, though, was about my messenger bag. I love it, it's very utilitarian, and I can just sling it over my shoulder. I've always had this strong feeling, though, from seeing countless women do the same, that holding onto the strap with my hand to my shoulder was a feminine thing to do - whether that's true or not - though I wasn't really aware of how or why. But today it came to me. I've always held onto my bag strap, whether it's a backpack or a single shoulder strap, because it's on the list of Things Women Should Do To Avoid Being Attacked. It's more geared towards muggings than sexual assault, but it's still tied into the idea that women should always be wary of something happening - even walking through an area full of offices, even at rush hour with witnesses everywhere. Not to mention that if something did happen, hanging onto the strap means you can swing the bag around, build up momentum, and use it to hit an attacker.

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