This is for the March 2016 Carnival of Aces: Gender Norms.
I’ve previously talked about acting femme, but in this post I am going to focus on how I express femaleness in a general way, not when I consciously amplify the femme factor for a specific purpose.
Once upon a time, I took a sociology course, and one of the exercises was to give an example of how each of us was performing gender at that very moment. I went first, and pointed out my long hair as an example of how I was performing a female gender norm. It was fortunate that I went first, because I could not think of another example of how I was performing a female gender norm. All of the examples pointed out by other female students in that class were things I wasn’t doing.
However, the long hair thing is a passive choice. I suppose, if I really had to choose between long hair and short hair, I would choose long hair, if only because that is how I am used to seeing myself. But if my hair spontaneously cut itself in a way which was not hideous, I probably would not bother to do anything to make it grow long again. It’s not so much that I choose to have long hair to conform with a female gender norm (and in some cultures long hair is not associated with femaleness!) as that, by being female, it is culturally acceptable for me to grow my hair long without standing out.
I suspect that, if I started growing facial hair (technically, I already do, but it can only be noticed upon close inspection), I would be inclined to let it grow until it became physically uncomfortable and/or it caused social problems which motivated me to shave it.
Aside from situations where I have a specific purpose (discussed in those posts I linked to above), I generally conform to female norms passively, rather than actively. I do what I was going to do anyway, and sometimes what I want to do conforms with female gender norms.
Okay, so what does all of this have to do with my asexuality?
My gut feeling is that this is not tied to my asexuality – I was aware of my ‘tomboyish’ nature long before I suspected I was asexual – and I feel that, in the alternate universe where I am not asexual, I would still have similar feelings about my gender presentation.
Maybe if I were not asexual, or more accurately, if I wanted to pursue sexual relationships (yeah, I know asexuals can want to pursue sexual relationships too, but I strongly doubt it’s a coincidence that I am asexual AND I don’t want to pursue sexual relationships), I would take an active approach to conforming to feminine norms more often. And maybe I would do it so often that an active compliance with some set of female gender norms would start to feel like a part of my self-image, rather than something I put on for a particular purpose.
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I’m a sex repulsed asexual who does not pursue any kind of sexual relationships. Yet, I pretty much conform really actively to the feminine gender norms. I like looking typically “feminine”, I love having long hair and I wouldn’t feel pretty without it, I wear lots of makeup, I shave, I wear high heels and I like wearing short skirts and low necklines. But those things don’t affect my asexuality at all. I do them for myself and because I like to be aesthetically attractive, not because I’m pursuing sex.
That makes a lot of sense to me. The last paragraph is a hypothetical – my gut feeling is that my tomboyishness is also not tied to my asexuality.
And I also find pretty feminine people aesthetically appealing, which does not affect my asexuality. It just so happens that I am more interested in looking at others than making myself pretty.
Even if you feel neutral and consider your hairstyle neutral, most people would translate it as male or female to assign you a forced role and treat you accordingly. A gender implies a constant feedback between our honest self-expression and how others react to it. That’s the whole issue with “gender binarism” nowadays, conflict arises from the clash between the infinitely diverse individual realities that not conform and the ridiculously homogenisation of the poblation, which only helps to ideologically maintain unfair power structures. Tell that to your sociology teacher and get an A. Cheers.