As I’ve said before, gender roles are bullshit. And I feel as strongly as I do about that because I’m a woman who often behaves in ways traditionally designated as masculine and doesn’t behave in others traditionally designated as feminine.
Because I’m breaking those norms, my so-called masculine interests are what people notice first about me: short hair, suits and ties, hockey, sci-fi and fantasy, video games, math. Or else they notice that I don’t hold so-called feminine interests: weddings, photography, make-up, dresses, rom-coms, dance.
Sometimes, I have to work so hard to get people to believe that, yes, I actually (am/am not) interested in things they think I (shouldn’t/should) like that I start to buy into gender stereotypes all over again. I wind up trying to justify my identity by tying it to what’s traditionally masculine when instead, the real problem is that gender stereotypes are garbage.
Worse, I start to devalue even the traditionally feminine interests that I share. If I don’t have to fight to get them acknowledged, surely I must not care about them as much, right?
Wrong. I am not and probably never will be what other people call a “girly-girl”, but the girliest of girls have just as rad interests as the broiest of bros. And guess what? I like some of the same stuff. In the interests of not erasing femininity in the supposed name of gender non-conformity, here are some of them:
1. Female friends. I am not interested in being the kind of woman who is “different from other girls” and hangs out only “with the guys.” Other women are great! This fact seems so obvious that I’m at a loss to elaborate — I don’t want to cart out the laundry list of stereotypes of how women are no fun or bad friends or killjoys or, or, or… Ladies get up to lots of fun things! And are cool human beings!
2. Romances. I like stories where people fall in love. Like everybody else, I have my own tastes regarding what kind of romance I like in my stories — I like banter-y couples like Benedick/Beatrice, Higgins/Eliza, Mulder/Scully, I like romances that at least reject heteronormative assumptions if not fully embracing LGBTQ+ plotlines, and I like romances that tag-team with scifi/fantasy/mysteries/thrillers.
Sex scenes can be pretty awesome. So can scenes where characters dramatically admit their feelings for each other. So can soppy songs playing in the background while characters stare longingly into the middle distance and get wistful.
3. Clothes shopping. Buying things is fun, but looking at all the things you might want to buy if you had a billion trillion dollars and infinite space and no guilt/shame is even more fun. Planning new outfits is fun, and so is tracking down something I really want on when it’s on sale. I like finally finding and buying a key wardrobe piece that is going to change what I can wear to work and last me forever.
I’ve even started to like trying things on, because, duh, how else am I going to know if they fit properly?
4. Cooking/baking. I remember the first day I baked something all by myself. I must have been about 8 or 9, and I announced to my mom that I wanted to make peanut butter cookies without her help this time, except I needed her to open the oven because I wasn’t allowed.
I like making cakes and cookies and bread. I like cooking, not (just) fancy chef-type stuff but also everyday household-cooking stuff — I like figuring out the groceries for a week with minimal waste, re-working ingredients and making hearty lunches to take to work.
5. Sugary cocktails, and other “girly” drinks. Beer and wine are nice and all, but there’s also nothing wrong with a raspberry lobsterita or Singapore Sling. Sugar tastes good. Alcohol is… an acquired taste. Might as well kill two birds with one stone and have dessert at the same time as my “digestive.”
6. Getting a manicure/spa treatment. Some common practices in this industry make me uneasy, but not the actual activity. I still like getting transparent polish and neat-trimmed nails, or a massage, or even eyebrow shaping. Just easy things that make me relax and/or feel slightly better groomed.
I also like at-home spa-type activities. Sometimes, I just feel like a bubble bath. Or foot moisturizer. Even make-up — which is not usually my thing — can be fun sometimes, and, if I feel like it, I enjoy messing around with powders and creams and brushes.
7. Fashion. It took me a long time to realize that the way I like to dress has nothing to do with whether fashion interests me. I like rules and patterns, and, duh, the men’s fashion I wear is also fashion. I can be interested in how fashionable folks express themselves through clothes without wanting to follow everything they say or agreeing that their designs look wonderful.
I like knowing about the different kinds of men’s dress-shirt collars, or what five items belong in every dapper girl’s wardrobe, or what’s the trendy way to apply the eyeliner I don’t wear myself but like to see other people enjoying. I like knowing “the rules” and breaking them anyway because I want to.
8. Stationery. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. I may not have the patience for hours with gel pens, but I can and will start the same new story five times in five separate notebooks in the quest for the perfect, orderly title page.
And I like sending postal mail too, although I do it much less often these days. So I like matching stationery sets that make me feel like I’ve written so many more pages than I would have if I were using standard lined paper.
9. Musicals. Yes, I like the more universal musicals that “everyone” (read: also people whose masculinity is fragile) can enjoy, like Hamilton and Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon. But I also like the shameless pop shows like Cats and Phantom and The Sound of Music. Rent and Les Mis are still in my phone’s music library. I like A Chorus Line and even, god help me, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Besides: basically, The Muppet Show shaped my idea of what communities are like, and clearly, going on stage and singing/dancing/playing instruments is a major part of friendship.
10. Tea parties. What’s not to like about tea parties? You’ve got: friends (A+), tea (don’t worry, only about a bajillion kinds), fancy little sandwiches in flavours like “cucumber” and “watercress,” dainty mini-scones, clotted cream (if you’re lucky… or maybe wine, if you’re even luckier)… The list goes on. Feed me!