While I hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to pose this question, I feel obligated to provide readers with a little description of who I am.
I am a heterosexual female, born female and I’m 99% sure that if a stranger looked at me they would think that too. I’m what most people would class as a “normal” girl.
But I’m not like other women. There’s something inside me that is proud to be different and deeply frustrated by the gender normative assumptions of what it means to be born with a vagina and only fancy men.
Originally, this desire to be different manifested itself in my seeking to prove I wasn’t what society would call ‘girly’. I took an online BBC test which supposedly calculates whether you are female- or male-brained and was thrilled when my result was an “average male brain”. I saw it as proof that I’m not condemned — intellectually, that is — to being a female and all the negative connotations attached to this title.
There’s nothing more frustrating than when science and then business science conclude that, by nature, females have greater empathy and nurturing skills. Not because there is anything wrong with those traits — I’ve noticed a growth in society’s appreciation for them — but because they aren’t exactly me. Petty as it may sound, I feel left out of my own gender.
My deepest insecurity about being female is our implicit and explicit vulnerability in comparison to men. It might be one of the reasons I have pursued some traditionally masculine activities such as a year’s soldier training in the Army Reserve, and more recently, becoming a police Special Constable. When I tell men about these achievements I can’t help but register their shock. Their first question is usually “What weapons do you carry?” or “Ohh you’re a PSCO, not an actual police officer” (No, that’s a different role, I’m actually a police officer). The first response implies I need something to protect myself because I’m inherently weaker; the second assumes I partake in a role somehow less dangerous, with less authority, like a good woman should.
The news channels reinforce this, offering nothing to make me feel strong, secure and safe. Reading about such atrocities as those in Cologne or even the articles on this blog about gender-based violence, make me feel sick to my stomach. Even the fleeting use of the R-word is enough to send me into an hour or so of despair.
Then I pick myself up and vow to do all I can to end gender oppression. I’d rather gender identity didn’t exist at all, but in the meantime I will fill this void with a vow to be a kickass feminist. Yes, I will complain to my boss when a supplier sends the men a notepad and the women a nail file for Christmas (true story). Yes, I will try to inspire young females to break free of gender roles like I believe I have almost done.
But some way, somehow, I’m not quite ready to declare myself as genderless.