Societal / Personal
Society at large is rarely an indication of the views of an individual. This is true in pertinence to the I view gender. My belief is that society’s views on gender are changing, but by and large, gender is viewed as binary: two polar extremes dictated by your sex at birth. People who stray from these expectations are publicly ridiculed by those that adhere to their involuntary assignment as a tongue to a frozen flagpole.
I view gender as a spectrum marked incrementally by pronouns that can be best described as mile markers. Traditionally, a person’s conformity to these pronouns is based on sex. However, I view these mile markers as a social roadmap to describe the internal and personal identity that is gender. Everyone falls somewhere on this spectrum and the closest mile marker is picked accordingly in order to allow the people around you to address you in a quick manner.
I disagree with some of the views that fall closer to extremist liberal side that push such concepts of ditching the idea of gender, making up words for gender that aren’t in the english language (ze, zer, hir). Ideally, gender should not define anything about a person whether it be personality, preferences, or sexuality. Although we haven’t universally reached the point where this is the case, the more we create categories for people to conform to, the more likely it is that norms and stereotypes relating to these categories will become true. Rather, labels have already been laid out. If a more diverse crowd identifies with a certain label, it is harder to hold ‘she,’ ‘he’ or ‘they’ to a certain expectation.
Pronouns were created solely for ease of language, not as a conspiracy to control or confine people to a specific social role. It is only recently that pronouns have been attached with the meaning they bear today. Of course, it is only respectful to address someone by their preferred pronouns, but if we were able to tear down the expectations that we hold pronouns to, we would consequently tear down the gender based social infrastructure that they support.
She / He
At probably what was far too young an age, I first watched Pulp Fiction. I remember instantaneously falling in love with Uma Thurman’s depiction of Mia Wallace. She encapsulated this beautiful agglomerate of personality traits I had always viewed as isolate from one another. Mia Wallace is, in my eyes, a role model. She is the embodiment of a progressive definition of femininity. Her drug use, swearing, confidence, and sub par dancing helped to validate the unfeminine parts of me that I am still working to stop considering flaws.
On the daily, Mia Wallace is merely the trophy wife to a much more traditionally powerful and successful man. However, when her personality is allowed to shine in lieu of a night spent with her husband’s employee, she comes off as confident and self-reliant. Before this, I never had come to realize that a woman could be both. Part of privilege is having the choice to fall into a successive role or a dominant one and not being confined to either. A woman is allowed to have the desire to dress up, wear makeup, or please a man. After seeing Mia Wallace conduct herself in varying situations, I finally understood that adopting this role is empowering if a women is presented it as an option, not a given.
Most suburban Boulder kids don’t grow up idolizing fictional characters that overdose on heroin or marry a mob boss, but there is an undeniably empowering aspect to this caricature that shaped the way I view femininity from a young age. This was the first time growing up that I truly saw a confident woman in the media that I looked up to. There was no need for Mia Wallace to validate these unfeminine aspects of her personality, rather, she embraced them and flaunted them without shame. Everyday, I only hope that I can grow to share this mentality.
The first time I listened to Young Thug, I found the lyrics and delivery of them amusing yet catchy. Although I had heard some of his music, I was entirely unfamiliar with the bizzarity of Young Thugs compatibility with traditional gender roles. The content of his music is often raunchy and offensive to many. However, his outward appearance and mannerisms seem more offensive the heteronormality hidden behind his lilting vocals. It’s as if two people with two seperate normative gender identities are waging a war in Young Thug, each manifesting itself in different parts of his image and craft. However, no matter how fluid or non-conforming Thugger seems to be, all of this seems to be abridged on a surface level by the pronouns preferred by the artist: he, him, his.
Listening and viewing Thugger’s disposition as a female, I am more confused than shocked or upset. Although the content of his songs reflect a toxic view of masculinity, every other aspect of his personality contradicts this. It is easy for me to naively see men as falling into one of two categories: toxic and offensive, or overtly feminine and liberal. It isn’t everyday that you see a figure in the media display these two polarized traits simultaneously. Young Thug is a constant reminder that nothing gender related is black and white or binary.
Of course inseparable from this polarization of expression comes the socially hegemonic side of Young Thug that his lyrics display. I have found myself numb to the messages about women that rap music often sports and this case is no different. Deep down, I know that supporting and streaming this music is perpetuating a misogynistic view of females that we have tried so hard to shake, but I can’t help but take the bait of allowing Thugger’s garb to cloud the moral voice alerting me that something is off. It has become far too easy to desensitize myself to shocking lyrics and themes in Young Thug’s music because he comes off as ‘woke.’ If this method of fogging more sinister themes is adopted on a wider scale to appeal to a more liberal audience, much of the work that has been historically exerted to reverse traditional gender roles may be in danger.
by Dani Cooke
At My Most Feminine
I. Pretty Please
A man walks in, sweat and the residue of cooking grease settling where my mascara once was.
"What can I get you?" I ask, but he does not answer.
"How old are you girls?" He gestures toward the grill, where another high-school girl preps the steak. I know these things: always answer the customers' questions, politely, and always keep a smile on your pretty makeup-ed face, if you don't want a two-percent tip and a bad Yelp review.
"Seventeen," I answer. "Now, what can I get started for you?"
Again, he does not reply, but winks at my manager, a man more than twice my age, and says, "Seventeen's the age of consent in Colorado, you know."
This is not the most inappropriate thing we might hear as young women in food service, and so the shift ends in relief. At least he didn't try to stay, we think. At least he didn't try to cross the counter. At least those weren't our manager's words.
At least we weren't alone.
II. Mixed Signals
I’d been jumpy as I walked the four blocks from University Hill to the downtown bus station — any rustling or misplaced shadow as I passed the frat houses set my heart to rattling — but this was normal, even foolish, and dismissed as the product of my own anxious nature. I’m not used to walking alone this late — 10:00 pm — but the mid-July air cultivates a sense of security after an easy summer day.
A man in his late twenties approaches on a bicycle, skims his foot against the asphalt to come to a stop, and leans in toward where I'm sitting. It doesn't matter that I have my earbuds in, that I'm not looking in his direction, that I have somewhere else to be. "Hey, baby — where are you headed?"
I know that answering might be seen as an invitation, that not answering will be seen as a sign of frigidity. "To a friend's," I reply. (It doesn't feel safe to say home.)
"You're beautiful," he says as he looks me up and down, eyes lingering.
"Thank you," I say, though suddenly I don't feel beautiful. Instead, I hesitate at the tightness of my tank top, the tilt of my heels, and the fall of my skirt. "But I don't really feel like talking right now."
For a brief moment, he pushes his body forwards, and I think he might become aggressive. Then, he strikes his foot against the pavement and speeds into the dark.
I am a young woman alone at a bus stop. It is night, and (left alone) I consider myself lucky. At least he didn't try to touch me, I think. At least he left when he could've moved closer. At least the buses are still running and I know where I'm going next.
At least nobody was around to see my rudeness.
III. The Angry Feminist
"My body, my choice!" I shout, feel the punch of my voice and the weight of my step. Male voices echo back: "Her body, her choice!"
This march is not the most revolutionary possible act. (I could strike hungrily in jail, as the most powerful women before me have done. I could shelter refugees in my home or picket on the steps of government buildings. I could shout louder, walk further, stand taller.)
At least we're doing something, I think. At least we aren't silent. At least somebody's filling the space that's being made here.
At least mine is not the only voice that's shouting.
Poems on Gender & Self
by Allie Corradino
by Grace Kelly
To Be A Woman
To be a woman is to be sexual, to be revealing but still leave something for the imagination. To fold myself into an inverted and twisted reflection of whatever the male gaze sees fit. To carry myself with enough confidence to draw the attention of a man, but not enough to threaten a man's facade of being the one in control. I shove these thoughts away, telling myself I am strong in my stance as a new age woman who turns the mirror onto the men themselves. I tell myself these things like I am a wise woman who has seen behind the curtain of toxic masculinity, but it is a lie. I lean into the submissive role of being an object, of being a pool of water for people to look at and call to however they want. I am a woman.
I was twelve when I confidently walked down a dim street in November, feeling beautiful and feminine in my knee-high boots and tight sweater dress. They were uncomfortable and itchy, but I wanted to be a woman. I wanted to be like my mother, my sister, my aunt and cousin. I wanted to be a woman like them. Pretty and grown up. To giggle and blush and catch the attention of a man on the street. To receive a “compliment” from them. No one had told me it was wrong, that being cat-called was not a compliment. They never told me it was demeaning or dangerous. They never told me the difference between a compliment and harassment. Ignorance was supposed to be bliss, but all it brought was danger. From all these small things, I learned that I should seek this: recognition as a “real” woman, or what I was taught to see as a true woman.
Leaves blew down the street as a black car full of loud frat guys began to slow next to me. They whistled and yelled, calling me sexy and beautiful. I was twelve. I had always wanted to be beautiful, so I smiled. Basking in what my innocent mind had seen as a compliment. I remember being so happy to be seen, to be treated like a woman, to be a woman. This continued on for some time whenever a man noticed me in this way until I heard about sexual assault, rape, abuse, and everything else my parents wouldn’t be able to protect me from.
Sometimes I think about that first time I was viewed as something sexual. I wasn’t viewed as a girl, a teen, or even a woman. I was viewed as an object. It wasn’t a compliment like I had thought all those years ago.
The more I experienced and heard, the more I began to have fear in my heart. I anxiously take precautions against looking weak or becoming a victim. I fear what could happen if an encounter didn’t end with just the odd remarks and catcalls.
To be a woman is to fear dark streets, and carry keys between your fingers. To be a woman is to be strong and collected when you face the toxic dominance of a man who views you as nothing more than an object. To be a woman is to ignore uncomfortable comments in order to get a tip and do your job like you have to.
I try to be strong, to be confident, and everything a woman today should be. I have made strides in become more, but there is still more growth left. I learn and struggle and fall back into my old thoughts but I am no longer an object. I am a woman.
A single shriveled date.
Placed on the table to the left
of a shadow of jagged leaves,
cast by a small rose.
Contrasting in scale
to the excessive thorns that came to a razor-sharp point.
I felt his eyes dig deep into me at that point.
Just one date.
Cold eyes weighing me like a scale.
The night darkened as the moon and stars left.
My heartbeat rose
as all the luminous light leaves.
A bitter wind toys with the leaves.
A sharp point
collided with me as I rose,
reminding me of the date
with the man to the left.
Like the thorns to the rose, he was too large in scale.
Unbalanced was the scale,
but ignored like the dead dry leaves
that were pushed aside to be Left.
That wasn’t the Point
Of this one Date.
To him, a thorn was equal to a rose.
shifting the scale
by reaching for the long forgotten and withered date.
He turns and leaves,
but makes one final Point.
“You are the one who will always be left”.
The moon glowed towards the left,
illuminating the weakening rose
and each of its thorns that came to a minuscule point,
casting a shadow three times its scale.
The unaware jagged leaves
casted sharp and irregular shards of light onto the sole date.
All that was left was that lone date.
The rose had wilted and blown away just like the leaves,
finally understanding the point of the years spent balancing that unseen scale.