Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why "Reluctantly Female"?

When I was seventeen or so, I had a minor epiphany.  "It's okay for guys to like pink," I had told someone.  A few days later, it hit me.  I had never liked the color pink: I had always considered it "too girly".  I had avoided this color for as long as I could remember, not because I didn't like it (I like pink as much as any single color), but because, subconsciously, I thought it wasn't okay for guys to like pink.  Except, of course, it is okay for guys to like pink.  This produced a contradiction, and I realized that I, too, could like to color pink without being a girl.

The problem* with this logic is that, biologically, I am a girl. I have all the female bits, and I'm generally happy with them, so why do female gender expressions make me so uneasy?

I hate filling out forms. There's always the space that asks for your "sex" (or worse, your "gender").  It's better now-- most of the forms I fill out have a "prefer not to answer" option, which I take whenever it's available.  When I was thirteen, I would always the blank with "YES" because I was oh-so-mature, but really, it's still the answer.  You want to know about my sex?  I like it, when it's consensual, and not otherwise. That's not what you meant? Is it really your business what bits I have under my swimsuit?

I'd never really thought of myself as a potential wife or mother.  Oh, I thought about getting married (and being a "spouse" or a "partner"), and I thought about having children (and being a "parent"), but I always thought about it in terms of a personal, concrete events (making and eating dinner together with my family, negotiating holiday family-sharing, teaching a child how to garden, etc).

A couple of things have come up recently that change that.
  • I'm planning a wedding.  This makes me, to nearly everyone, a "bride", which is a hugely gendered role.  (Especially since I'm marrying a man.)
  • I'm thinking practically about having a child, especially in terms of the impact to my career. Biologically, being pregnant and giving birth are exclusively female activities.
  • There's been a lot of public controversy about reproductive health care recently, and reproductive health care tends to be a woman's responsibility**. The tone of the discourse (that birth control should be a special exception to federal healthcare mandates because of "religious freedom" and that an unborn fetus should have rights greater than or equal to the rights of its mother) is scary, no matter what I think about abortion and the individual mandate.
My reaction to all this has been, approximately, "Oh, I guess I am a girl after all! How do I go about being a girl, again? And can I be a girl without, you know, actually being a girl?"

The answer? I don't know.  I don't know what any of it means.

I hope to find out.
*Problem for me, not necessarily a problem for anyone else.
**I don't want to diminish men's reproductive health or the role of a second parent in reproductive health care, because having a child is usually an important personal decision for two adults, but it is a biological female who bears the bulk of the risk and responsibility for a pregnancy and, by extension, birth control.

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