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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Being a female, achievement, likeablity..

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Author Topic: Being a female, achievement, likeablity..
breath
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I am 23 years old. In my early twenties and teens, I rejected the conventional ideas about girls and just studied, worked hard in school and etc. I am reasonably good looking and friendly, yet have never had a long term relationship or even short term for that matter. However, I think that as I got older and now, I realized that maybe I have an insecurity of being 'different' etc and since I have not done as well as I wanted in my academics so far (and this will change definately), I feel even more insecure.


In some ways, I am wondering what it means to be a woman and maybe even a woman of color. In this day in age, when we have more freedom as woman to purse our careers, intellengence and no society or family telling us what to do ie get married or have kids is considered an option/not an necessity...I wonder what is the criteria for the quinessential woman and what should I aspire for?

I wonder and am afraid that if I unlash my inner self, and purse my educational/career goals, and ambitions and dreams to full extend, become orderly, in control and organized about my life (and careers and day to day things) more than I am now---to full extend, I may become "less likeable" to others and wouldn't fit in. How strange/wrong is this thinking, yet it is one thing / fear that is holding me back.

I realize that it's part of this problem of female oppression that I face today (and other girls, too I'm sure). I really think that it is good to be aware of the inequalities / double standards for gender, yet live our lives in a way that does not support these inherent ideas...


Please share thoughts, ideas and comments.

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coralee
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In my opinion, trying to define the quintessential woman/man is not only unnecessary, it can also perpetuate sexism and gender discrimination. In addition, when people attempt to define the quintessential woman/man people of genders other than just male or female are usually not considered. I think that you should feel free to do what you want to do, whether it lies closer to traditional expectations of "what women do" or doesn't.

You write that you are afraid of being less likable to others if you unleash your inner self, and I understand that concern, as it is one that I and many other people face. But, I would argue that no matter what you do, there will always be groups of people that find you unlikable as well as groups of people that find you likable.

[ 03-20-2011, 09:32 AM: Message edited by: coralee ]

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Heather
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It might be more helpful to think about what you want for yourself as a person, rather than making this about gender. There is no such thing as the "quintessential" anyone, because we aren't all the same people and don't all want the same things out of and in our lives.

It might also help to know that you're going to have a hard time finding anyone everyone likes, and plenty of us do just fine even though some people don't like us. [Smile] If we tried to live our lives with the aim of having everyone like us, not only would we always fail (because that simply isn't possible)l, we probably wouldn't like ourselves very much.

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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breath
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Thanks so much for your response.

As I get "older" and perhaps would like to define my worldviews more concertely, I tend to have a more feminist approach. I never thought of things in terms of gender, and still don't --yet I also think that it is important for me to acknowledge that I am female and may be use to or have some thing that associated with that, some of it is based on the history of women in general.

I guess maybe I am just trying to understand and figure out how to assert/acknowledge/be comfortable with the fact that there is something different about how the world preceives me due to the fact that I look / act/ am a "female"...vs. a male.

Sorry if this is all confusing.

I wonder what websites or books or etc I should read if I find myself leaning towards "feminism"--when it's really just about treating everyone well , equal rights etc. regardless of their 'gender'..

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Heather
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Basically, the feminist sensibility -- even though feminism is not monolithic, there are some common threads -- is that there is no "quintessential woman" and the idea that there is or should be comes from oppression and sexism.

And you're right: all of this IS confusing. [Smile]

If you want some good primers and places to start in terms of feminist reading, I think you might personally like Manifesta, by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, To Be Real by Rebecca Walker, Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century by
Rory Dicker and Alison Piepmeier or Sisterhood is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium by Robin Morgan

If I had to pick just one feminist writer to read, for me that would always be bell hooks, and beyond her brilliance, the extra bonus with bell is that she's a woman of color, so her feminism is really keyed in when it comes to intersecting oppressions and also isn't super-white, as some feminism can be. Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics is a good starter to read her.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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naplement
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if I can recommand you a book about what femininity means (in this society) and how can be embraced without reinforcing the hierarchies [if somebody wants to embrace it], it's Julia Serano's "whipping girl", a collection of essays from a transwoman's perspective, who is also a biologist, activist and at home in feminist and queer theory, among others. It's not autobiographical, but theoretic, and makes clear things that are important to everybody.

http://www.amazon.com/Whipping-Girl-Transsexual-Scapegoating-Femininity/dp/1580051545/sr=1-1/qid=1171236918/ref=sr_1_1/002-9653913-0811203?ie=UTF8&s=books

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Heather
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naplement: such an excellent addition to suggest! I love her, and I agree, hearing from trans women on these issues adds SUCH a vital, great perspective.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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celeste
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For me, at least, I never "felt like a woman". It was like it just never mattered. I can't think of anything in particular that I value about being a woman, that I wouldn't if I were a man.

I enjoy my female orgasm, I feel at home in my body - but I don't know what it feels like to have a man's body, maybe I'd be equally comfortable in that too? I like dressing up sometimes, or the stereotypical 'feminine' activities (in quotes because I see nothing wrong with men doing it too)... but I'll be just fine without it.

A friend of mine and I were once wondering if, us, the way we are today, were transplanted into a man's body, would we be any different, would we be viewed differently by society from other men? I don't think I'd be particularly different from what I am as a woman. At the most, I'd probably be predominantly homosexual (since I'm attracted to men), and that's about it.

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breath
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Thank you all for the suggestions It means a lot.

I feel that in order for me to achieve my full potential in career and life (ie make money be insanely good at what I do, make the great deals and be on the fore front of cutting edge work) I have to be a certain kind of a person. I can't be a cute, girly girl who'se all IDK, girly, submissive and etc and wants to be "like admired" by others. I grew up and come from a patriarchial oppressive society where growing up women were always oppressed in their lives. I live in US now and have all kind of freedom to be who I want to be and embrace my masculinity.

Unfortunately somehow I'm resisting being that masculine woman

Maybe it's because I think that I am going to become less likeable by men. On the other hand, I know that such "men" don't really pay attention to me nor ever did. I am 5'1, no huge busty boobs, nor big ***. Not tall and etc. I feel like since such men never paid attention to me, by being a masculine woman, I would become even less likable.

Maybe it is because unfortunately the women I saw growing up esp. mother was not masculine at all and could not stand up for herself in face of horrific abusive MEN and DIFFICULT situations. Maybe unfortunately in my deep mind, I have hung on to that and can't shed it.

May it's because deep down, I do not like myself currently and feel that by being masculine women, I would dislike myself ever more.

Maybe its because I have never had a relationship and think that this will put 'guys' off even more. Yet I have learned from experience that men who seem to objectify woman for their perfect looks and body are not secure men and aren' ready to have a healthy relationship with a human being.

Maybe it's social conditioning, yet I know that my chosen career/field means I am part of that narrow segement of society where your brains and your work matter not your body or the looks, unlike being a model at Cosmopolitan or Vogue.

Maybe I am part of a generation of women who are realizing that masualinity is trait just like having money or having a career and WOMEN are human being first just like MEN. And such things and personality traits being to both men and women, not just MEN only. That we need to see people as people first, and not woman and men.

Any thoughts on this 'crises'?

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breath
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I guess I have to realize that aside from horrific/bad social conditioning on what it means to be a woman since I was a young girl: masculinity and feminity are just traits and do not belong to be person just because they have certain level of hormones in their bodies (which shape their genitials, amount of body hair, and body types).

I have to shed some very wrongful ideas about gender that my society and people I was born into prepuated in me...

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breath
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In a way I should embrace this "masculine" side of me, knowing that the man who come into my life would do so because they accept me and this part of me....instead of being drawn to me as an outletto abuse, oppress or limit me or use me as a masterbatory tool....and put me in a place where I am trying to be more 'pretty and girly' so they can find me attractive, sexy and etc....

[ 04-10-2011, 05:33 PM: Message edited by: breath ]

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Heather
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You might also want to think about how arbitrary and personal ideas of what "feminine" and "masculine" even are. There are no universal definitions for those things, so it's not like someone can't have an idea/concept/experience of masculinity, for instance, that involves being pretty and femininity that involves being assertive.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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breath
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Thanks Heather for the feedback. My early years, I spend time in a partiarchial society where no one questioned anything and "how to be" for a girl/woman was pretty much set as it was for a guy. My family, mother etc has certain expectations based on their narrow view and I can't look to them to accept me or give me 'permission'/validation on how to be because they are too far in the deep end to think clearly about all this. Atleast they are not too dominating in their views and don't impose them ON me. However, it is still there. For example, my mother's idea of a 'perfect woman (someone who she envisions for me ) is someone who has a job/career but also keeps a home with kids and husband". I kind of let it slide, but know I see how this is just an extension of her thinking. How in the world is it fair to expect me to keep 2 jobs? NO, I wouldn't have any of this in my life.


However, I think that even if I had send my earlier years in US/Western world, I would have also received a certain amount of socialization based on my biological sex.
I guess I have found it helpful to lay out separate definations (although I know that it can be problematic for some people )

Biological Sex-your hormones, XY chromosomes, what influences how your genitals look, and development of your body: that's binary: male or female for majority (minus people with XXY or XYY chromosomes etc).

Gender: What you behave, think , believe, personality. That can "masculine" or "femiene". I use those words in quotation because unfortunately, we all have all been socialized enough that 'femine" evokes images of "women in heels, big breast, etc" and "masculine" = body builder etc.

In reality a "masculine" female is just as bit of an amazing person and completely representation of being her biological (if she is Ok with her biological sex) sex as a "feminine" man is a perfect representation of what it means to be a male.

This is why I think that all women who act like what is known as "Soft butch" don't have to be lesbians. They are just women who can be straight or LESBIAN.


I think that this conversation is really best seen from the lense of 'power' and 'powerless' as beneath all this, lies that fact: that by granting whole heartly accepting people for who they are - they become empowered/powerful, where as such labels/socialization/"expectations" tend to render them 'powerless' over them selves.

[ 04-11-2011, 01:38 PM: Message edited by: breath ]

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breath
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I have checked out 2 of the recommended books...they aren't so easy clear to read but I'm enjoying them!
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Heather
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I think it's safe to say there's NO culture without any kind of gender indoctrination, and that it can also be easier for it to look like it's very different here in the west. But I agree with you: it's really only so different.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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