Our society is starting to commonly use a wider variety of labels for sexual and gender identities. It is wonderful. Yet, sometimes we hear a new label, and we want to show we are cool and inclusive, so we assume someone uses a label without asking. Unfortunately, this can lead to stereotyping based on sexist, racist, or classist bias.
I will be speaking about my own life; my views don’t represent anyone else’s experience.
A fair number of people assume that I use the labels gender non conforming (GNC) and masc (masculine) to describe myself. When I ask why they call me those labels, their reasons are usually sexist. “Oh well, it’s because you… wear men’s suits… cut your hair like a boy… don’t shave your legs… are direct and confident… “. As if behaviors, clothing, personality, or hobbies have gender and make me more man-like.
I wholeheartedly support anyone who enjoys using GNC or masc. Use them freely and with enthusiasm. It isn’t the words masc or GNC that I dislike. It is the assumption that because I don’t fit the heteronormative mainstream view of femininity that I am gender non conforming. That instead of expanding the definition of what a woman can be that I should use an alternate label.
I see very little difference between the people who told me growing up that I should wear dresses or no one would know I was a girl and the people who now tell me I that because I don’t wear dresses, I am masc.
Society’s typical representation of femininity is white, cis, heterosexual, middle class, and urban femininity. It still regularly recalls 1950’s stereotypes as the ideal of female beauty and grace. Marilyn Monroe, we all love you, and it is time to retire you as The Goal.
There is more than enough room in femininity to include women who express their gender in every way possible. This principle translates to every other gender as well. Each gender is judged by society to an impossible and false standard.
We need to ask ourselves why we prefer to have more – but not less rigid – boxes and pigeon holes for identities instead of including more types of people in each label and giving people a wealth of labels to self describe.
Our society still likes to assume we can know a great deal about someone with a single glance when all we truly know about them is our bias.
Examining and confronting our bias, especially about gender, is vital. When we make decisions based on bias, we marginalize people. Marginalization affects who gets opportunities, who gets accepted, and who has access to rights and resources within our society.
It is normal to make assumptions – we all do it. Next time, I hope you take a second to think about why you make particular assumptions. Remember that just because we all have bias and make assumptions, it doesn’t mean we have to continue to act based on them.