Let’s talk about gender presentation and be empowered
First off, I want to say sorry for being quiet for the last month. I’ve been very busy with a new project (info on that coming very soon! Exciting!) and then I’ve been in Malta working at the Comic Con (which I will tell you more about next week). Thank you for being patient with me, it means a lot.
Secondly I want to apologize for the fact that this is going to be a bit more of a serious topic, though hopefully carried off with some grace and aplomb. I want to talk about gender presentation. Well sort of. It starts there and moves on to a lot of other serious things, so probably ought to drive right in rather than waffling.
I’m also sorry if this is not that coherent. I’m saying sorry a lot. Sorry.
It starts like this; two weeks ago I bought a dress.
This dress was hanging in the window of a shop and I had to have it, a perfect 1930s style evening gown, silver grey velvet fading through to blue, draped neckline, and, God, I looked like an icicle. The reason I am describing this dress rather than posting a picture is because the moment I posted an image of me wearing this dress on my fashion group I felt sick, and I’m actually scared of showing it to anyone again.
I posted it asking for advice on how to style a look around this gorgeous dress. I don’t wear glamour dresses like this, I had no idea whether I should twin it with pearls or a vintage fox stole, but instead of advice I was inundated with men making at best inappropriate, at worst overtly sexual and explicit, remarks and comments about my body. It was utterly disgusting. I was genuinely surprised as well, after all I’ve asked for advice many times and never had this reaction, and then I realised. I was presenting as female. I don’t often do that online, I’m very clearly andro a lot of the time and that comes with its own special brand of hate and gross comments, but this was a whole different kettle of fish. I haven’t experienced these comments since I stopped presenting female. It made me want to crawl back into my little andro shell and never come out again. Being andro suddenly felt very safe. It was protecting me from these eyes that sort to objectify me and suddenly I wasn’t upset anymore, I was angry. Angry that these horrible comments were making me deny myself.
I had always thought that I had chosen to express myself in a certain way, that is was my want to express my nonbinary identity, but now it had me thinking, why did nonbinary mean “masculine” or “andro” why couldn’t NB be feminine as well? Was I trying to escape from these people who would comment and judge and leer over me? Nonbinary should be everything, it should be expressing yourself and your gender however you want, but men, male culture, had made me, and probably many others, scared of expressing any sort of femininity for fear of the repercussions. I’m flogging a dead horse here, we all know how these sorts of men act towards women (cis, trans, AFAB NB) but I think that it has had massive ripples across how we present gender. Whether that’s AFAB and AMAB nonbinary people having to “look” like a certain andro masculinity, and feeling scared of what might happen if they present femme; or women of all types having to deal with constant attacks on their appearance and their bodies, trans women being mocked and worse because “they’re a man in a dress”, all of this is because male culture is to see femininity as weak and to be objectified. It is lesser than masculinity. They force us to be scared because we have femininity.
But you know what? I want to be able to look feminine and wear my icicle dress and feel safe. I want every person, no matter their gender to feel safe. These men are stopping people from expressing themselves. I don’t want to be scared of who I am or how I want to dress. I want to be able to show up in a tux or dress and feel as powerful and in control of myself in either. I don’t want to reject my femininity anymore. I want to embrace it and I want to fight for it. So, sod that. This is the dress. It’s a damn good dress and I am going to wear the hell out of it.
I’m sorry, this was a bit of a rant. It probably doesn’t make much sense but I had to get it down and out of my head.
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If you want more please check out my last articles:
- The Doctor’s New Clothes
- Is That On The Record? (Or Some 80s Detective Realness)
- What’s in the Design
- An Ode to the Onesie
Written by Holly Rose Swinyard