Sunday 4 August 2013

Crisis - because I am a girl

So recently I have noticed that my attitude towards myself and the world around me has shifted. Years of working in pubs and clubs taught me that, maybe, to succeed in life I needed to act more masculine. To dress less like a woman and wear more suits. To be tough and hide my emotions. 

Clearly that wasn't working. So now, thanks to nearly a year's worth of counseling (not all because of working in pubs and clubs I might add) I have a new, different perspective on life. 

I have a new job, I've nearly finished a masters degree (which I have actually enjoyed, for the most part), I have friends who actually want to be my friend, and I seem to be doing ok at this life thing. I've even stopped wearing suits and started to feel human in a dress and heels. Not because that's what society expects of me as a woman but because it's what I want, as a woman. 

I've even found myself having opinions and thoughts of my own. Again, not because society tells me what I should think, but because it's actually what I think, as a woman. I've talked before about my views on feminism. I don't see myself as a feminist, but I'm not scared of the word any more. 

Which is probably good, because this week I've found myself in a number of situations where my inner female (yep, aware that sounds a bit odd) has screamed and shouted at me to do something. Let me tell you about them.


"You go first; you're a girl"

Heckles rise.  Clench my fists.  Grit my teeth.  Slide past him.  Don't say anything.  He doesn't know me.  Maybe he's just trying to be polite.

"You're a girl, you must like this music"

Heckles rise.  Grit my teeth.  Ignore him.  Carry on.  Maybe I heard him wrong.  Pretend it didn't happen.

"Awrite love!  I'd have a bit of tha'!  Aw, you're the quiet type?  Well, I'll see ya later, yeah?"

Heckles rise.  Clench my fists.  Grit my teeth.  Walk faster.  Don't say anything.  Dive into the nearest shop.  Find somewhere safe.


Right.  None of this is cool.

The first, and probably most innocent comment rattled me. It's so hard to know whether the guy saying this was just trying to be polite, not knowing me and my ability to over analyse and to over react, or whether there was more to it. Either way, it made me feel uncomfortable because I don't want to be treated any differently to anyone else, be it because I am a girl or for any other reason. I'm still just a person. Don't label me then give me 'special treatment' (it doesn't feel special and will just make me angry). By all means let me go first, just not because of my gender.

The second comment just irritated me. Just because I have boobs and hips and a different chromosomal structure to you does not mean I automatically like different music to you. Actually yes, I do like the singer in question, but I also like AC/DC and Rammstein and Chase & Status. I grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel and Joan Baez. Mumford and Sons are playing in my car. And when I'm stressed I like a bit of Handel or Vivaldi. So don't base my taste in music (or lack thereof) on the fact I am female. If you have to judge me at all, do it on the grounds that I have pretty cool parents who encouraged me (and my sister AND brother) to open our ears, to explore and to appreciate all forms of music. 

And the third comment. This is the most inexcusable of them all. I'm raging at myself for not telling this man how I felt. But I have learnt to pick my battles. Outside a pub in the middle of the afternoon when I am on my own, and he is not, is not a battle worth risking, even if I am raging.

I know a lot of my friends, mostly guys (not stereotyping, just saying), would happily dive in and introduce this man's face to their fist. I was pretty close. But that's not going to help. Guys, you'll probably just get hurt and I'll feel more useless that, as a girl, I needed a man to fight my battles for me. That's not cool.

This week, for the first time in a very long time, I have felt just a bit useless. I have all this anger that a handful (and it is just a few) men still have the attitude and the belief that its ok to treat women any differently, but I don't know what to do with it.

I don't want to go round complaining that 'all men are dicks', because they're not. Some men are dicks, as are some women, but I'm not going to change that by being angry and preaching at them. If anything I'll just make it worse.

So tell me, what do I do? Do I just sit here and just take it? Do I write about it and hope that the rage comes across strongly enough to make people just stop? Do I stop being feminine and start dressing in my “safe” jeans and hoodies again? Do I become a black belt in some complicated martial arts and beat their sorry asses?

I just don't know.  But I know I need to do something. 

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