Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Evolution of my Gender Role

As a kid, I loved playing with baby dolls and taking them out on goat herding outings and picnics.  I loved playing with boys racing and beating them as the fastest girl on the playground.  I found the physicality of boys rough housing and playing sports more appealing than the girls who would stand around the playground talking and putting on make-up.  I dreamed of being physically strong like males yearning for their privileges, and at the time didn't realize that I was already strong in other ways as a natural born leader in academics, extra-curricular activities, and sports.  When the high school commencement speech was given by a white male rather than the Asian female valedictorian, gender roles were re-emphasized teaching me that maybe men really did have a higher standing than women.
In my Alabama college with my first boyfriend, I fought gender stereotypes where the male gender role was of a chivalrous nature with the paying of meals, giving of gifts, opening of doors and carrying the weak female across a stream.  It was easy to fight these outwardly observable gender roles, but my personal challenge was the inward battle of trying to understand who I was as a female and how I interacted with and related to males.  As a people-pleaser I became a 1950's housewife following the male's lead, submitting to his will, ignoring my voice, and changing to try to fit what I perceived was his ideal woman.  My true self would remain hidden throughout the relationship until it rebelled so loudly that I would wake up and realize oh... a 1950's housewife isn't me and the relationship would end.
In Seattle a whole new world of gender stereotypes was introduced where not only were there the heterosexual models but also gender benders, androgynous people, femmes, butches, feminine masculinity and more...  I cut my hair short in protest of being seen and stereotyped as the exotic, feminine, submissive, Asian flower.  I didn't realize though that my body type and Asian features with short hair would lend itself to androgeny and being mistaken as male.  The next stage in my gender role evolution was struggling to understand how I may look male but my inner voice and mannerisms were female.  I struggled with society's expectation that because I looked male I would act male.
I think it is here living abroad for 6 years that has helped me evolve into a person more comfortable in her own skin, more comfortable with who I am in relation to gender roles.  Living amongst traditional cultures where the gender roles are even more defined than in the USA, I have had the privilege of living outside of these gender roles as the honorary foreigner with strange ways and mannerisms.  I have been able to define who I am without the influence of American male and female gender roles and because I am not African or Chinese there was little pressure to fit into those traditional roles. 
Rather than being defined because of female or male gender roles, it is liberating being able to hear my own voice and to define myself.  I can be logical, rational, non-emotional, strong, a leader, a giving caretaker, a listener, an introvert, and a loner without thinking in terms of whether or not these are feminine or masculine characteristics.  Even though the world may judge me according to gender roles, by living abroad for 6 years, I have managed to discover and define myself.

1 comment:

M said...

That's wonderful. Make sure to check you bring your whole self back in Meiguo, it might be the toughest part!
But I'm confident you can do it!