I want to become a woman.
I am female, yes, have been all my life but I don’t consider myself a fully bloomed woman. Unlike some of those female Olympians, on sight you cannot mistake my gender. I have the requisite derriere and décolletage, and because such things can be bought these days, I have as further proof my success in incubating, birthing and nurturing a child. Alas, all that these prove is that I am female. As we readily agree that being an adult male is not enough to make one a man – we have ideas of what one should be, do or have to qualify as a real man – similarly I’d like you to consider that being an adult female does not make one a woman, despite the fact that females’ womanhood isn’t questioned as frequently as males’ manhood is.
I managed all these feats from sprouting breasts to using them to breastfeed without fully embracing my womanhood. In fact for many years I actively fought it.
I remember very clearly when I discovered that I was one of them, the women. I was distraught. As a kid I hung out with my uncles a lot, then in their early twenties. I came with certain benefits, for example if they rolled with me they got to have the car, with petrol! This made me their favourite prepubescent girl. We used to do lots of fun things, which often involved swearing me to secrecy. I was never to tell the women; who included my mom, gran, aunts and occasionally their girlfriends, what we have been up to. You see, the women were fun killers. If they were not engaged in tedious chores they were raining on your parade.
One day we were getting ready for one of our family fishing trips when I was told that I wouldn’t be camping overnight as usual since none of the women were sleeping over. This is how I found out that I was one of them; in a moment of deprivation when I was refused access to fun, and this is what I came to associate with being a woman – limited choices, no fun, smaller world.
I managed to beat the system by refusing to act like a girl. I couldn’t help my gender but I didn’t have to act like a girl. I became one of the guys. I can walk like them, talk like them, even think like them. I hung out around the braai laughing, smoking and drinking beers with the guys, while the women did whatever they did in the kitchen sipping on their girly ciders. I had a few female friends, other than them and my relatives; I avoided women like the plague. I was a man in a girl suit, and I liked it. When I entered the corporate world, it only reinforced my belief that if you want to travel first class in this world, it’s best you grow some balls. The patriarchal business world loves masculinity. It’s all about being rational, proactive, assertive, pushy, and competitive; none of that touchy feely, empathetic and intuitive stuff. That shit will hold you back, just like looking delicate and pretty will lower the glass ceiling right down to your perfectly plucked eyebrows.
Gradually I tired of playing manly, as much as I was good at it, it was put on. Masculinity was never my true nature it was a decision I made to expand the size of my world. I longed to be softer and more surrendered, to favour attractiveness over assertiveness, to feel more and think less. So I feminized my wardrobe; shunned the jeans, suits and my precious Chuck Taylors for soft dresses and skirts. I started wearing make-up, jewellery and stilettos. This strategy only served to turn me into a female, acting like a man, dressed like a woman. I was now a pretend man in drag!
Increasingly I longed for a more profound attempt at femininity, something more authentic than just looking pretty. I chose to do the opposite of what I was doing all along and adopt an inside-out approach. I decided to start by exploring my beliefs around femininity and what it means to be a woman. I was amazed by what I discovered. Here are some of them:
- It is weak to be feminine
- If you are feminine people assume you have no brains
- Women must be small and curvy
- Women have to be prettied up ALL the time
- Being a woman is boring. All the fun stuff is manly stuff
- Being a woman means staying at home
- Being a woman means being a dependent
- Women are not real sovereign adults, they have to answer to men
- The world is safer if you are a man
- Women have less power than men
- If you are feminine in the corporate world you won’t be taken seriously, men will just want to get into your panties.
- If you want to be taken seriously don’t be attractive, if you want to be attractive don’t be smart
- A woman is a failure if she can’t get a man to marry and take care of her
- To be taken seriously by men you have to be manly
Yikes! No wonder my attempts at embracing womanhood have been so half-hearted and superficial…a pretty dress her, a little flirtation there, an occasional sprinkle of “damsel in distress”. I don’t want to be governed by these rules! Of course with such beliefs I would resist femininity.
Before you judge me, this is not what I want to believe about femininity, this is not what I choose to believe about womanhood, these are the beliefs I have; imbued through the osmosis of socialization, media and culture.
I want to be a woman. I want to be soft, receptive, flowy, intuitive, emotional and grounded. I want to come from the heart and not the head. I want to attract my desires to me not hunt for them, club them over the head and drag ‘em back to the cave. I want to be receptive, nurturing, inspiring, deep, mysterious, mutable, surrendered and open. But with such beliefs I am stuck between a rock and a soft place. Luckily, I know a technique or two for freeing myself of limiting beliefs, which I have started using to work my way down my list of limiting beliefs. (If you’d like to learn how to do this give me a shout).
Already, I have come to the realization that you don’t so much become a woman as allow yourself to be one. Masculinity is active, it is about doing. Femininity on the other hand is more passive, it is a being state. My challenge, it turns out is not learning how to become a woman. It is allowing myself to BE one.
Happy Woman’s Month!