Broadly Speaking: Gender Is a Drag
I gave myself a little pep talk recently, a reminder of a truth that for some reason I still struggle with: Let’s not conflate femininity with womanhood. In fact, they’re completely separate, and not at all mutually exclusive. Being a woman doesn’t necessitate feminine traits, and having those same feminine traits doesn’t make you by definition a woman. Duh.
That little blurb took me a while to write, and a much longer time to understand within the context of my own life. My articulation of my womanhood has never been wholly conventional, but I spent years trying to make it easier for other people to swallow. Should I wear heels and skirts to counterbalance my demanding (read: “bossy”) personality? Should I idolize the hair on my head while rejecting it wherever it appeared on the rest of my body? Should I equate softness with weakness and harshness with strength? These are questions that most girls grow up facing and many women still don’t feel able to reconcile with. I remember the first time I defied another person’s attempted policing of my body. I was in 4th grade, and a boy made fun of the leg hair poking out from under my green capris. The next day, I gave him a big symbolic fuck you and stomped past him in a pink cargo miniskirt, leg hair and all. It was the first time I gave someone the middle finger. It felt really fucking good.
Despite that moment of empowerment, the questions and uncertainty persisted for me—and unfortunately, they still do. I want something different for the girls of today. Something better. I want celebration of all the different definitions of womanhood; not just tolerance. I want empowerment instead of shame. I want resilience and expansiveness and moments of “girlhood” and “boyhood” for every person to experience. I want a celebration of our differences and an acknowledgement in our shared humanity. I want a lot of things and I’m just one woman of many. Let’s make our demands.
March is Women’s History Month, and today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. I’m celebrating alongside the rest of my gender, don’t get me wrong—but that’s just it: it’s no longer about a simple binary of female and male. As a society, we’re navigating the new space of the spectrum—a landscape that allows for shifting, malleable, ever-evolving self-defined human beings who can traverse and plant roots wherever they please. It makes me happy, it puts me at ease, and as a cis white woman I’m eager to pass on the baton to other women (whether they’re new to the fold or not) and have them, not me, put pen to paper on how they’re defining womanhood in 2018. This month, we’re speaking to exactly those kinds of women—the pioneers, the mold-breakers, the status-quo-disrupters. People like Marcela Ferri, who found community and empowerment in the shear fearlessness of West Hollywood drag queens, AMWIN, whose IDGAF attitude finds its home in a new music video called “Uber” about enjoying her sex life sans shame, Gabby Jones, a young documentarian whose work calls into question everything we once assumed to be true, and Mallory Merk, a FENTY model defining beauty on her own terms (plus many more). Over the course of the month, we’re also going on a Gender Diaries road trip, where we’ll be handing over the microphone to the nationwide Milk community in order to grasp what exactly gender means to them—all identifications, genders, and orientations welcome. I hope you’ll join us on this journey of discovery. We’ve by no means “arrived,” but with every new chapter brings yet another exciting opportunity to expand our understanding, our compassion, and our empathy. Every new voice is a gift, and every person is of infinite value. Never forget your worth.
Stay tuned to Milk for more on fourth-wave feminism.