By FAITH PONTI
Ever since my sophomore year of college – during which I took my first ever sociology class and realized that white, cis, male privilege is ruining the entire universe one yacht party at a time — an upwelling feeling of discontentment with how women are treated in society has been growing within me. As I enter my final year of college, I am now overflowing with the righteous anger that demands questions be answered and twisted societal standards burn in hell.
One such societal standard that makes my skin crawl and my jaw clench is the idea that people with vaginas should be – excuse me while I barf – ladylike. The mere fact that Microsoft Word lets me type the word “ladylike” without penalty is upsetting. From birth, an attitude of composure, politeness and modesty has been requested of me that was never requested of the little babies crawling around with penises, and this request has followed me into adulthood, every day, without fail. Though society is becoming slightly more “woke” in relation to issues surrounding gender roles, there are still countless institutions (like the media, our education system and the workplace) that insist to its core that women should naturally be gentler, sweeter, less sexual and more poised than their male counterparts. If you have a vagina, you should be feminine. What else is estrogen for other than to be able to walk well in stilettos and match your slip to your knee-length dress? Why have the ability to grow long hair if you’re just going to cut it short? Why not buy a 15 dollar bright pink razor and alter yourself until you are a perfectly hydrodynamic Barbie, or paint your face until you arrive at the moment in which you can’t leave your house without a contour? Where’s the harm in being a lady?
While none of these behaviors are inherently toxic (e.g., if you shave your legs, love Sephora, and live in dresses [even if you don’t have a vagina]: more power to you!), it becomes twisted when they are expected of you simply because of your anatomy. Why does my life come with a “how-to” manual? I’m a person, not an Ikea nightstand. I don’t need to figure out the correct way to present myself or conform to my gender to avoid making other people uncomfortable. Sure, males and females have hormonal differences that can be relatively generalized for each sex. We have different organs inside of our torsos. We’re hiding different goodies inside of our pants. These truths, however, should have absolutely no bearing on women’s presentations as human beings. Why does our body hair disgust society? It’s not a natural instinct; nearly every female mammal in the animal kingdom has body hair. We don’t come out of the womb despising the hair on our mother’s legs or armpits; nor do we expect our mothers to burp less than our fathers or have perfect hair or painted lips all the time. These gender expectations are learned. And this is really, really shitty for the majority of women who don’t have the energy to constantly check ourselves. It’s really frustrating for the majority of us who regularly feel anger, or lust, but are asked not to express it. It’s really limiting for those individuals who don’t feel like they identify with the gender that they were assigned at birth, and wish to live their lives as a different gender or without gender altogether.
And it’s all for what? To make sure everyone is comfortable? To maintain privilege hierarchies? To keep everyone in their place? Let’s stop coloring inside the lines, and start questioning why the lines even exist. You are not just a walking vagina. You are a human being. Live your life accordingly.