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Womanhood: How I Figured out My Femininity

There was a song in 2011 called “21st Century Girl” that I remember someone from my fifth-grade class dancing to for a talent show. I remember sitting in the audience, a wide-eyed ten-year-old with no comprehension of womanhood as I watched the dancer hip hop, pop and lock it across the stage. However, what I came to realize – in the time it has taken for my age to nearly double – is that I perhaps was already learning in those days what it meant to be a woman.

I grew up in a household of five: my parents, my older brother, my older sister and I. Most of my youthful days were spent with my sister, sitting on the thick shag carpet and playing with Barbie’s. We would make them go shopping, mess around in the kitchen and get married to mangled Ken dolls whose hair I had lopped off with scissors. Meanwhile, my brother played outside with a football or a baseball, kicking it across the yard or throwing catches with my dad.

Did I notice these subtly gendered stereotypes as a child? Of course not, I was sending my Bratz off to high school and having drama with the popular Barbie’s. (I was an imaginative kid.) Also, I didn’t like sports. I liked to read and stay up all night with a good book. I was a messy eater and a mud puddle splasher. My hair was tangled and my knees were always scuffed. I learned how to cuss from an early age, to the disappointment of my mother. In many ways, I was almost genderless. I was never expected to act a certain way to please strangers or forced to wear dresses (except for church, but I rejected dress-wearing to church as soon as I got to high school).

When I went to high school, I wasn’t so much concerned with how I looked, especially when the bus that took me to school got me at 5 A.M. However, I encountered a lot more girls who wore makeup and did their hair every morning. I encountered more girls who, like me, were intelligent and accomplished, but were much more likable, demure, soft at the edges, who smiled a lot and seemed to only giggle when their lives got hard. It was whiplash for sure. Even my sister, who is the most feminine person I know, will scream at the top of her lungs when she’s angry and isn’t afraid to speak her mind when necessary.

Around this same time, I was diving into the Internet for the first time as an independent. I had my own cell phone with Internet connection and I could sign up for this cool website my friend told me about: Tumblr. It was on this platform where I spent many of my formative years learning about people who were different than the ones I grew up with and around. There were people from other countries, people with different life experiences, even people who were gay, lesbian, pansexual and transgender, words I’d only heard whispered about. These same people (LGBTQ+ people, I’d come to call them. . .later I’d call them my people) argued about feminism, the gender binary and gender expression.

Gender expression, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the physical and behavioral manifestations of one’s gender identity.” I’ve never doubted for a moment that I am a woman, though I don’t always act like one “should.” However, I have chosen to express my womanhood in ways that are completely me. I might wear a pair of jeans with a man’s shirt, but my face will be beat to the gods with the perfect foundation and most lovely lipstick shade. I’ll take you in a round of SMASH or even wrestle with you in the grass, but I will be damned if the whole time my nails aren’t painted the perfect shade of black. And nothing about any of those things make me less of a woman.

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Although I'm born and bred in Florida, my heart and my feet take me wherever I feel. That's what gave me such wonderful experiences as my journeys to New York City, my summer spent at the Blue Ridge Summer Institute in Sweet Briar Virginia, and even across the pond to the Netherlands and France. A writer at heart, I also foray into other artistic pursuits such as drawing, playing music, and singing (mostly in the shower.) When I'm not busy with classes, I'm often watching a good show on Netflix, or playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons with some other fellow nerds.
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