Article by Mia Jaccarini
I consider myself a feminist, believing fully in gender equality. However, when identifying myself as a woman, it’s easy to get swept up in everything that I should be doing, should be saying, should be thinking. Being a woman comes with a perennial amount of embedded assumptions – stereotypes, clichés, connotations, many of which leave you with nothing but a bad taste in your mouth. With all these swarming shamelessly about the context of modern society, it can be tough to flight from conventional images.
Principally, we are presented with two major conflicting stereotypes of the female gender. On the one hand, there is the all-succumbing, lady-like, rosy-cheeked woman whose existence only serves to embellish her surroundings. This out-dated view has been somewhat toned down but has still very much wangled its way into our present. Some atrocities forgotten, others added. Conversely, there is the image propagated of the hysterical feminist who believes that the female does not have a place in her life for men, she should not allow anything to be done for her, and will fight without surrender to show that a woman is capable of all. These clashing extremes are obviously softened in day-to-day intricacies, however it would be a lie to say that these stereotypes, and others like them, don’t infiltrate almost every facet of a female’s course.
Of course, neither formula is an authentic depiction of what the female gender truly is, no woman truly fitting so plainly into either mould. However, one cannot dismiss the issue of stereotypes in gender discrimination, as they cling on relentlessly to the history, education and thinking of contemporary society. All it takes is a glimpse at real life to prove that they are largely fictitious, whilst also having a very tangible affect on people’s views. Women lug around the weight of these fixed assumptions their whole lives. Can I talk about my new haircut, because it’s something I have to look at everyday, without sounding like a bimbo? Can I let my husband change the car’s tyre, because I have far too many work emails to respond to, without looking incompetent? Can I insist on carrying my own shopping bags in the presence of my partner, because it’s of no inconvenience, without looking like a male-denying radical? Can I enjoy cooking my family dinner, because I find it therapeutic, without implying that the kitchen is my domain? These seem silly to have to list and justify like so, however we forget how often harmful stereotypes penetrate even the most trivial of actions.
Unfortunately, it is no anomaly for a female herself to add to the atmosphere of this derogatory image of our gender. To unwittingly stigmatise feminism and be passive to the warped ideas society suffocates us with. This makes it not only the fault of our society, predecessors, and males, but sometimes, the female community itself, making the whole subject even more harrowing. This causes me even more frustration, compiled with the simultaneous questioning of ‘how can someone be totally immune if this is the way things have been for time immemorial?’
The more I gain exposure and involvement in the world around me, the more I feel myself develop as a person. Not in the context of some presupposed mould associated with my gender, but in the context of myself, and what truly interests me. When I distance myself from the things which I feel I should be doing and should be saying and allow myself to realise that of which I want to do, the feeling of liberation is instantaneous. In order to annihilate that which doesn’t sit well, we need to be harsh critics and question the beliefs that throng the world around us. I undoubtedly hold strong views in relation to gender equality and concerns, which are gender specific. However, my gender should ultimately enhance me. It does not define me.