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.