“It’s probably a woman driving that car.”
“Don’t be such a girl”.
I’m sure most of us are familiar with such remarks where referring to something or someone as female, automatically becomes an insult. I grew up listening to such remarks (from males and females) and while I did react to it growing, I never realized how much it in fact impacted me. It is astounding how easily we get desensitized and used to calling each other derogatory names by hearing it over and over day in and day out – until it becomes normal and ubiquitous to for example associate being female with something that is inherently negative.
I would like to make it absolutely clear that this is not about blaming males and it is also not about taking sides in a war between females and males saying, “we’re the victims and you are the bad guys”. See even here with the expression ‘bad guys’, there is (although it’s subtle) a slight reference to a judgment based on gender where males tend to be labeled as ‘bad’. So this goes to show that we’re all equally responsible for creating such derogatory labels and accordingly defining each other and ourselves in relation to them.
Growing up I wasn’t particularly exposed to sexist behavior from males and I didn’t experience myself as being excluded or demoted because I was a female, but for a couple of singular instances. But the verbal remarks where female references are used with a negative connotation certainly left its mark on me.
The reason why I realized this is because I’ve recently been investigating a pattern that I’ve had of automatically trying to ‘act cool’ whenever I’m around males. I noticed how for example, if there would be a male driver in the car next to me at a stoplight, I’d deliberately try to accelerate a bit faster or more aggressive than I normally would, to impress him – and because “I wouldn’t want him to think that I’m a girl”. I’ve often joked about how there exists this ‘teenage boy’ inside of me, especially when it comes to driving and other typical male activities. Because I like driving fast, perhaps a bit reckless – but I’ve also noticed that there is this subtle dimension within it (and this is not just with driving) of trying to be more like a man.
This then gets amplified when I am interacting with males, especially if they are stereotypical males who embrace the same/similar demeanor of ‘playing cool’. So I noticed how my entire experience of myself would change when I am interacting with them. I would talk differently, move differently and experience this little ‘giddy up’ inside of me from where I’d then try to act cooler and impress them. I can say without a doubt that this has seldom worked and this is probably because people respond more to the resonant expression one is presenting (in this case fear, anxiety, inferiority and desperation) than the attitude one is trying to come across with.
When I looked at and investigated for myself why it is I have accepted and allowed myself to create this automated pattern of trying to impress males by attempting to present myself as ‘one of the boys’ I realized that it has to do with how I’ve defined being female as something negative. Like I said previously, even though I am aware that I did react and took it personally when someone (male or female) used ‘girl’ as a derogatory term I never realized how extensively it actually affected me. You can almost say that I, do to how I reacted to these comments laid a thin coat of very thick judgment around myself where I basically were embarrassed and ashamed about being a female, thus creating the desire to disassociate myself with the negative aspects of being a female (being weak, whiney, ‘overly sensitive’ etc.) and a desire to instead try to present myself more as ‘one of the boys’. It is essentially a pattern that goes all the way back to my childhood and that has perpetually been affecting me ever since.
What I have realized is that I’ve taken something personally that was a part of a much larger cultural and even existential conflict, a conflict betwen males and females that is perpetuated so that we can remain separated, from ourselves and from each other. And by taking it personally, by ‘playing ball’ so to speak, I accepted the premise – I participating in its continued creation and existence. I realize that the point is not for us as females to now ‘prove’ that ‘we’re as strong as the men’ or try and be like them – but instead for each of us to become and live the utmost potential of who we are as individuals, without placing labels on it in comparison to anyone else.
In the next post I will share my self-forgiveness and self-corrective process on this pattern. If you are a female who have faced this pattern I suggest that you stay tuned so that we together can let go of this debiletating labeling and stand up in our own self-expression, not trying to impress anyone or suppress ourselves, but simply be and express who we are.
Here are the other blog-posts I’ve written in relation to this point:
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