Conforming

I have an ongoing joke with my partner that involves saying “I do not conform to society’s expectations” a LOT. I am very quick to call out stereotypes and assumptions which I admit can sometimes get a little repetitive.. But I think that it is important. It is interesting and in some ways a good thing that my sister will look at me immediately if someone makes a sexist comment as if to say “Are you hearing this?!”. My perseverance is causing other people to be critical and really think about the meaning behind what people and the media say.

Equality doesn’t deny women (or men) their expression of gender identity, even if it is ‘conforming’.

What I want to talk about today is conforming to stereotypes, assumptions and rules that have been laid out for us. If you wish to ‘conform’ to typical feminine or masculine behaviours, this can be absolutely fine. If you want to be a girl that is a “girly-girl” wearing pretty dresses, makeup and high heels that’s great. Feminism and equality doesn’t deny women (or men) their expression of gender identity, even if it is ‘conforming’. If you choose to express your gender identity in line with gender roles, that doesn’t mean you can’t support equality. It is crucial to really understand why you are choosing to express yourself in that way. Is it because you are being pressured by friends, family  and the media? Or is it just because that’s what you like?

The issue is making sure that individuals can express themselves as they please because it is what makes them happy. It is the freedom to choose and not feeling like you have to dress, behave or live a certain way simply because of your gender or sex. Often your identity is made up of lots of things, you don’t have to feel limited by society’s constraints.

Emma Watson recently spoke out about feminism and relationships. I understood her main message to be that it’s okay to enjoy typically ‘traditional’ elements of relationships and dating, but it is equally okay to challenge them. As long as you can have an open dialogue and respect for one another. I think that’s the point. It is still important to acknowledge the restrictions many people feel in our society and be able to speak openly about this. But this shouldn’t in itself make you feel like you can’t conform if that’s what you wish to do. You should also support those who choose the opposite path to you.

I have to admit I have had this post saved for a while. I was hesitant to publish it because I know there will be feminists out there that will absolutely disagree. Arguing the roots of typical ‘female’ and ‘male’ behaviours have been pressed on us by our patriarchal society and that by conforming you are supporting such oppression. It will also in turn make it more difficult for all ‘non conformers’. In many respects I understand this view point and maybe I am sometimes sceptical of those who choose to conform. But by doing this, we can isolate and begin to oppress individuals ourselves. In my opinion, this is not what feminism should be about.

Conforming because you want to is fine. Not conforming is equally fine. Be honest with yourself and be respectful of other’s choices. It’s a tough old world out there and we need to support each other. Be yourself and don’t be afraid to challenge assumptions. Just because you love to wear a full face of make-up and heals doesn’t mean you can’t be a talented athlete or engineer or radical feminist.

I like to think feminism means freedom. You should not be defined by the way you express your identity.

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8 thoughts on “Conforming

  1. The problem was never that making money was considered masculine and that taking care of the children was considered feminine. The problem was we even gendered things. If you tell women to do X instead of Y, you’re not undermining the premise of gender identity. You’re just reaching different conclusion.

    The only way to actually liberate women is to give them the choice to choose what they want to do. Thankfully, I actaully see “Dresses and make-up are anti-feminist! Don’t do it!” a lot less these days.

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    • Thank you so much for you comment! It’s really interesting hearing other opinions and view points! I agree that we should try to avoid gendering aspects of our lives. I don’t believe however, that you can tell anyone what they can or can’t do because of their gender. I definitely believe women can be liberated by being given freedom of choice, but there also needs to be a change in attitude. In theory, anyone can do anything. However, the way in which they are treated and the consequences of these choices often lay in the hands of society and those around us…

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      • You’re right. I find that misogyny is actually not institutional (There are no laws forcing women to stay home) but social. I don’t see any formal laws restricting women, but I see a lot of primitive ideas, such as women are better off at home than the man.

        (Personally, I think it’s best that one parent stays home. Who it is,though,doesn’t matter – the people running the household should decide).

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  2. Hi, I found this through the general Reader on WP. “Opinions” tag. Anyway, this a great post and its a pity more people didn’t think this way. People need to have the confidence to stand by their life decisions and not feel they have to justify it by self destructive behaviours. (ie Women drinking like men, or being fiercely competitive in the workplace because they don’t have a husband and kids back at home) For the record, i do appreciate equality, and wish there were more strong women out in the world – but I also like having the door held open for me, and being whistled at! 😀

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    • Thank you very much for your comment! Yes I totally agree. However, I don’t think we should encourage catcalling (a debate for another time..!) but things like holding doors open for others is more about having manners and there is nothing wrong with that!

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      • The only reason I mentioned the door opening thing, was because a woman yesterday actually refused to go through a door which was being held open by a (polite) man! “You think I can’t open a door by myself??!!” she snapped. Lol!

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