Recently I’ve written a lot about what it means to be ‘male’ or ‘female’, ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’, and while I’ll argue gender ideologies until I’m blue in the face, I’ve come to realise it is also installed in me. Just the other day a friend of mine said she wants to get a boob job, to which I replied, ‘I would too. I think I look like a boy with no tits.’ But why do I think that? And am I a hypocrite for arguing these gender stereotypes while enforcing them when talking about my own body? Maybe. Probably. Or definitely you say.
You see, I was brought up with one brother and one sister so I had a mixture of toys to play around with. I did ballet at a young age and had any young girl’s dream bedroom. But there I go again, why is a pink bedroom immediately associated with females? And why can’t we just shake those conventions off? But as I grew up, I gave up on ballet to go skateboarding, play football and generally cause as much chaos with my friends as possible. I was never in trouble with the police, but I’d be sodding around in the park and hurting myself while trying to climb trees. I was that kid. Yet miraculously never broke a bone.
I would go out on boats with my Grandad and do gardening with him, I’d lay carpets and paint walls. Maybe I was just handy, maybe I just wanted to help. Of course I did. But that chucked me out the ‘girly’ category. As I may not have been wearing pink at the time to ensure everyone knew I was female.
“Nothing has really changed now apart from
she doesn’t get mistaken for the Marilyn Manson
version of Avril Lavigne any more and my brother doesn’t have a bowl cut.”
But looking back now, those gender differences were always there. My brother played football while I went off to ballet classes. My sister had a goth phase and I kinda went tomboy. Nothing has really changed now apart from she doesn’t get mistaken for the Marilyn Manson version of Avril Lavigne any more and my brother doesn’t have a bowl cut.
What I want to know is, where did those differences come from? I presume I wanted my bedroom pink at some point and I used to enjoy ballet. But was that because that’s what my friends did? Although I didn’t always follow the crowd. In school photos I was the kid with bright trainers in the front row while everyone else wore Matalan school shoes. Why? Because we were allowed and I wanted to. Yet everyone else’s parents insisted their kids wore ‘proper’ uniform. In my younger years, girls wore skirts and the boys wore trousers. Yet again, I was that kid that wanted to wear trousers. Why? Because if the boys could, why couldn’t I? And that sentiment still exists today.
In retail, men are often expected to wear the brand’s clothes from the ‘guy’s section’, while the women are also strictly kept to their defined gender. But why are we so afraid to realise that these lines are getting blurrier and blurrier? Just the other week a guy in a denim skirt and heels served me cocktails in a Soho bar, but did I even think twice about what he was wearing? No. Well, kinda. But only to validate my point here.
Sure there are brands out there that cater for consumers who don’t actually want to be defined by a shop’s gendered sections. That’s great. But why must unisex or genderless mean incredibly dull? Let’s bring some colour out guys and come to realise that the Dulux chart of grey and black isn’t the solution to targeting both men and women. And if we take away these labels and definitions of masculinity and femininity all together, then maybe, just maybe, everyone will stop being so fu**ing judgmental.