When You're Not a Real Woman

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Post by reboundstudent on Mon Jan 19, 2015 8:26 pm

I find I am still really struggling with this whole topic, and was wondering if anyone could offer advice or a way to just.... re-wire my thinking. It really should be a topic discussed with a therapist, but I do not have the money for personal therapy at the moment, sadly.

I feel like I am frequently reminded that I am not a "real" woman because I don't receive the same kind of attention that you're supposed to as a woman. I've never been sexually harassed. I've never been inappropriately propositioned. I've never been hit on, or worried that my guy friends had inappropriate motivations towards me. I don't worry about someone drugging my drink, or attacking me when I'm alone (unless it's to mug me.) I've never had scores of suitors lined up the block. Hell, I've had a single guy genuinely interested in me my entire life. If men acknowledge me at all, it's usually with measured respect/trust in my abilities, because I don't read as female to them. Most of the time, guys believe I'm a "real" nerd. I am, in the eyes of society, invisible when gender is concerned.

I know this invisibility is kind of a super power. When I was 17, I got lost in the French Quarter alone at night and the very worst that happened was a guy spilled some of his drink on me. I know many women who happily, gladly, switch places with me. But I feel so.... disconnected from other women. Like the #YesAllWomen movement. In a weird, twisted way, some parts of feminism make me feel even more alienated, because it's almost as if harassment is a hallmark of modern womanhood.

I also feel constantly reminded of how not a woman I am in dating conversations. Whenever I hear guys talk about how they'd love women to ask them out, or how women have it easy, or how women have "so many options," or how women can get sex/dates so easily, I fell myself falling down another rung of the ladder.

How are you supposed to believe you're a real woman when everything about being a woman seems to be bound up in physical attractiveness?
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Post by kleenestar on Mon Jan 19, 2015 9:21 pm

I don't want to downplay the messages that you're getting from culture that being a woman is measured by physical attractiveness, but it sounds like you're asking "How do I respond to those messages?" If I'm wrong and you just want to hear about how shitty these messages are, let me know, because they are indeed deeply shitty.

I often talk to my male friends about "artisanal masculinity," which is a metaphor they seem able to get behind for why it can be valuable to construct one's own gender identity. "Artisanal," to them, means personal, hand-made, beautifully crafted, as opposed to a sort of mass-market masculinity sold to them by popular culture. Doing the work of making their own masculinity becomes a positive good when it's framed this way, as opposed to something that means they're not a "real" man.

"Artisanal" might not be the right frame for you, but I wonder if there's a productive way for you to think about the work of constructing a meaningful feminine identity that doesn't just conform to popular tropes. I happen to think nearly all women have to do this to a greater or lesser degree, but some have a harder time with the experience than others. It sounds like for you it's a struggle, and that's totally normal. You aren't the only one who experiences this.

For me, some of the things I draw on for my feminine identity are my love of beauty, especially music; my embrace of organization and interior design; my active practice of empathy and compassion; and my willingness to sit with complex problems instead of immediately trying to solve them. (Admittedly, this last quality is hard-learned and hard-earned!) I also embrace a few specific feminine signifiers, like great earrings and red lipstick.

Notice that these are all practices that are about what I do - not how others see me or treat me. I'm sure there are lots of people who don't think I'm a "real" woman, either because I don't follow certain conventionally feminine tracks or because I have many strong conventionally masculine traits. But you know what? They don't get a vote on whether I'm a real woman, and anyone who wants to tell me I'm not needs to rethink the way they understand what being a woman means.

I don't know if that's helpful - let me know if I can offer you something else.
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Post by KMR on Mon Jan 19, 2015 9:32 pm

I've felt some of the same invisibility you describe. I also have never received the kind of negative attention many women experience, and I've only experienced a fraction of the kind of positive attention that women are supposed to receive and only in specific contexts (e.g. I get a fair number of messages in OLD but almost never get hit on IRL). In my case, I don't really question my identity as a real woman because of it, but I certainly understand how someone could feel that way, given the abundance of "all women are X" messages that are fed to us by society. All I can offer is to describe my own ways of thinking about this, and maybe they will be helpful to you.

First of all, when people define "woman" in ways like this, it inevitably forms nothing more than an archetype. In reality, individual women are so diverse in personalities and experiences that there's no way a singular description can define all of them. When I think about my own traits in relation to what is considered typical of women, I can think of dozens of ways in which I align with the mold and dozens of ways in which I deviate from it. The way I think of myself is as an individual first and a woman second. In other words, I think of the specific traits I have as being unique to me, then I see whether they happen to fit with what society considers to be typical of women (and it's equally okay whether they do or don't), instead of thinking of myself as a woman and then thinking about whether my traits happen to conform with what being a woman is "supposed" to mean.

Regarding the #YesAllWomen hashtag: I've also never been harassed or cat-called, so I also have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction of, "Hey, not ALL women have experienced this." But actually, whenever I read about a negative experience that a woman has, my first thought is, "Wow, that could easily be me." It doesn't matter whether I've ever actually been harassed in the past or will ever be harassed in the future. The possibility that such a thing could happen to me is always there, because it's something that can happen to ANY woman, even if it doesn't happen to ALL women. So that's the way I think about that movement: All women face this kind of risk just by virtue of being women, so even when it doesn't actually happen to every woman, it's still an issue that all women face.
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Post by OneTrueGuest on Tue Jan 20, 2015 12:27 am

See this is interesting because it's also all about our personal definitions.  For example you might never have been harassed on the street and I have been (yay me! Razz) but I cannot sew or create things with my hands in that soft feminine way that I categorise crafting to be.  When you do steampunk cosplay you dress up in beautiful gowns that you've made for yourself, I do pants and a vest I bought at H & M.  I know you don't love your shape, but from the pictures I've seen I always see soft and petite, very feminine and I feel hard and tall.  

To me there are so many ways in which you are feminine.  And since you and I share an outspoken quality and a wry sense of humour (two things not normally considered feminine I guess) I see you "winning" the femininity game.

But.  Obviously the issue has more to do for you with the universal things that feminism is striving for and feeling left out of that because you don't have those issues to contend with.  And in that I really don't know what to say.  I know what it feels like to be left out, yes I've experienced street harassment but I've never been approached in a bar for example (except for people to ask me about my friends). And this leads me to believe that just like there are generalisations of experience for nerd men and what they say about all women, so too do women have generalisations about ourselves.  And yes we need to fight what the group at large seems to be generally dealing with, but that doesn't mean as individuals we all have those issues.  And just because we don't have those issues it doesn't make us any less female.  The fact that I can have a conference call with a show runner, two other writers and a producer, all of whom are male and not worry at all about speaking up and sharing my thoughts and making them listen to me as the only woman doesn't make me any less female as compared with the more general issue of women having problems finding their voices in professional settings.  Just because you don't get harassed doesn't make you any less feminine because where you live and how you carry yourself is such that it isn't an issue for you.  Heck, I have experienced street harassment but nothing compared with what many of my female friends get and usually it in and of itself is pretty mild, never threatening (knock wood).  I don't feel less feminine than my friends.  I do feel much more lucky, however.

I totally understand why you are feeling how you are feeling.  For a very long time I assumed I wasn't worthy, wasn't sexy, wasn't pretty because no one wanted me either physically or to date.  I know that feeling of assuming because this therefore that.  But the fact is there is no one right way to woman.  To be feminine.  And if you consider yourself a woman you are a woman.  Hell, I have a friend who is a brilliant flirter, who is stunningly beautiful and skinny and dresses perfectly and is hilarious and all these things and she cannot for the life of her find a guy who is even interested let alone wants to date her (I'm not talking about her turning down guys who aren't right for her, I'm talking no one hits on her).  It makes her feel so unattractive and so unlovable.  You have a boyfriend.  You have that person to make you feel like an attractive being.  You're steps up from her.  Yet you'd be hard pressed to call my friend not feminine.

Ugh, I have no advice really, just I guess it's all perspective.  And we get in our little bubbles and see things our one way and make our definitions.  But maybe if you realised there is no one right way, and that definitions vary from person to person, and that generalisations don't negate the specific . . . I dunno, maybe that will help . . .Smile

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Post by reboundstudent on Tue Jan 20, 2015 3:17 pm

Hey guys, still trying to process through the comments internally, but found this super interesting and relevant: http://bitchmagazine.org/article/pretty-unnecessary-beauty-body-positivity

Today’s body positivity has gotten stuck trying to “fix” beauty from the inside rather than moving beyond it. Between the “real women have curves” memes and the furor over un-photoshopped cover girls, we’re fighting to push the margins of beauty an inch in any direction, while reifying the concept itself—struggling to revise the standard but never presuming to overthrow it entirely. In her essay “The Beauty Bridge,” Jia Tolentino, an editor at Jezebel and the Hairpin, says that such surface-level concepts of empowerment “push women around each other on the narrow, precarious beauty bridge rather than suggesting we just howl like animals and jump right off.”

This is what’s dangerous about making physical attractiveness synonymous with empowerment. The need for visibility often becomes entangled with the “need” for beauty, because media so seldom represents bodies and faces not considered beautiful that it becomes difficult to recognize ourselves if we are outside of the mainstream beauty standard.
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Post by caliseivy on Tue Jan 20, 2015 5:30 pm

The article makes a lot of good points. Me personally I've never been able to take part in the "[x] is beautiful" campaigns because of the associations I have with the word. It's like everything for women has to be associated with the word beauty.
I can definitely relate to feeling invisible (bonus points if you have sisters considered attractive) and I've spent periods of my life feeling not womanly or feminine, but not masculine either so I kind of float in a strange identity limbo.
I'm sorry, I don't have any suggestions for how you can feel more womanly other than what everyone else has suggested, but you said something interesting:

"How are you supposed to believe you're a real woman when everything about being a woman seems to be bound up in physical attractiveness?"

I don't think you're supposed to. The cultural message is that a woman's greatest asset (other than having babies) is her attractiveness, which goes hand-in-hand with the bombardment of messages from the beauty industry that they can make/keep you beautiful. Those who don't conform to the standard message then become invisible. I know this isn't particularly inspiring, but you wrote that and I felt a strong desire to respond. I certainly hope you find the answer that you need Smile
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Post by UristMcBunny on Wed Jan 21, 2015 2:12 pm

Very much this ^

Here is perfect womanhood as taught to us:


  • You must be flawlessly beautiful, as defined by current social trend.
  • You must not "try too hard" to be flawlessly beautiful.  Note that "trying too hard" is usually defined as either "has noticeably made an effort to the viewer" or "differs noticeably from the viewer's idealised norm".
  • You must not be aware of your own beauty.  To like yourself is to be vain. Remember that entire songs are devoted to the beauty and appeal of women who "don't know they are beautiful".
  • Despite not considering yourself beautiful, you should still have good self-esteem and should not be visibly attempting to make yourself more beautiful.
  • You should be no larger than what exists at the lower third of "normal" on the BMI scale, and no smaller than the upper third of "underweight".  
  • Note that intentionally dieting or starving yourself counts as "trying too hard".  Eat a hamburger.
  • You should have not one single hair on your body that is not on the top of your head or, perhaps, a slim line at the brows.
  • You should spend your discretionary income on beauty products and diet products and the constantly changing fashions in order to meet the physical ideal set for you.
  • If you spend "too much" or devote too much attention on said products, you are vain and stupid and wasting your life.  Note that what denotes "too much" is down to the observer, and may vary from spending a specific sum to simply ever openly mentioning that you spend money on such things in general.
  • You should not take too long to get ready when going out.
  • You should make an effort to be pleasing to the eye.  Including masking your tiredness, illness and emotional and mental state at all times.
  • You should be able to participate in conversations with men, in ways that they will find entertaining and amusing, and should therefore show an interest in the things they like.
  • You should not, ever, actually like the things men like.  It is well known that women who appear to like masculine-coded hobbies or interests are merely "faking it for attention".  Be sure not to appear to be seeking attention when you actively pursue knowledge and conversations on subjects that will be entertaining to men.
  • Remember always that you should not seek to spend too much time discussing your own more feminine interests, as those are laughably poor and ridiculous and of interest to no one with any real intellect.
  • You should be virginal, untouched, pure-of-heart and innocent of bearing.
  • You should be a wild animal in bed and enthusiastically pursue every interest your (male) partner has.
  • You should be open and willing to "give him a chance" and to make time and effort to be pleasant to a man when he decides to speak to you - note that all and any man may choose to do this at any point, but that failure to respond positively to even one makes you frigid, cold, a bitch and unfair, and you deserve everything you get.
  • At the same time, being too open and too responsive to the attentions of too many men makes you a slut, an attention-seeker and worthless, and you deserve everything you get.
  • You should be graceful and should move pleasingly.
  • You should be smart, but not too smart.


That confusion you're feeling, that sense of failing at something and not even knowing why it matters to you so much?  That's not a bug.  That's the intended end result of the system.  You're not "not a real woman".  Or rather, if you are, then there is not a single woman alive who IS.

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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Jan 21, 2015 2:43 pm

OMG Bunny!

When You're Not a Real Woman 45WW0wy

Thank you all so much for the responses in this thread. I've had a very, very rough time out there the last few days, and I feel like this is one of the few places I can come back to where people are sane and compassionate and actually get what I'm saying. It's a small comfort, but it's so deeply appreciated.

Also mother-fing exhausting:
Guy: <Makes very mean comment about women who look like me>
Me: *Sigh* Yeah I guess I am unattractive
Guy: Stop having such low self esteem!
Me: But... guys don't find me attractive...
Guy: Stop seeing men as so shallow!
Me: But... but you just said!..
Guy: God, it's like talking to a brick wall.

GAAAAAHHHHHH.
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Post by reboot on Wed Jan 21, 2015 3:50 pm

reboundstudent wrote:OMG Bunny!

When You're Not a Real Woman 45WW0wy

....

Cosigned, Bunny. Reading that list made me glad that I accepted my "non-womanhood" years ago after fighting it for so long and am now getting to the age where I am too old to be in the "womanhood" ranks even if I wanted to be. RBS is right. Trying to figure it out is exhausting.
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Post by OneTrueGuest on Wed Jan 21, 2015 4:22 pm

Bunny that's bloody brilliant. I love it! (and I hate it, because obviously that list is infuriating). And I'm with Reboot. I know as a woman I should hate getting older, but quite frankly I love it. I've never felt more "who gives a shit" about what people think than nowadays. And I used to think it was BS. That people who said that really did secretly give a shit and they were just pretending. And I'm not saying I'm invulnerable to criticism or anything. But you know what? When I walk down a street, when I am spending time about people I don't know and who I don't need to network with or whatever, man I just don't give a shit. I love being comfortable in this skin. Yay aging!!

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Post by UristMcBunny on Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:28 pm

When You're Not a Real Woman Giphy

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Post by celette482 on Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:35 pm

Bunny, you are not wrong and you are probably even right.

Perhaps the only sign of being a real woman? Having a list in your head of all the ways you aren't one... Gee, it's like people WANT us to be insecure or something.
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Post by OneTrueGuest on Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:48 pm

You know, since I can't stop thinking about this thread, I've realised that I never questioned whether I was a real woman. I have felt unloveable, I have felt ugly, I have felt not particularly girly, or too girly etc depending on who I was hanging out with. But I have always felt like a woman, because, well, I am one. I think maybe there's also an element to it that my goal since before I can remember was to be seen as a person first, woman second. And so I never really focused too hard on my woman-ness. And I in turn assumed people were just people first. I never believed gender norms and stereotypes growing up, I assumed they were all kind of jokes because people were just individuals after all. But as I grew up I realised how much stock certain segments of society place on fitting into some mould of MAN or WOMAN. It really confused me because I was raised by two people who broke gender rules all the time and also at times conformed to them. I guess I was lucky that way.

I think that's why the focus on what makes someone a "real" whatever doesn't make much sense to me. I'm not sure if looking at it that way at all helps or makes it more confusing, but that's my perspective.

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Post by UristMcBunny on Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:55 pm

I often feel the same way, Guest- in terms of feeling like a person first. But I've felt the pressure of expectations that others put on me because I'm a woman, and I guess that plays into things regardless of whether I, personally, think meeting the societal expectations of womanhood matters or not. Because the pressures are applied to me, and all women, no matter what we actually want or care about.

That said, I may take a little too much glee in happily telling my coworkers that I am "just putting on my Human Woman disguise" when I put my make-up on before the start of work. And in pumping my fists once it's all applied and saying "Yeah! I have achieved Girl!"

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Post by OneTrueGuest on Wed Jan 21, 2015 6:10 pm

I'm not saying the pressure isn't there.  I don't mean to deny that.  I'm an actress, I know from pressure.  What I guess I mean is, none of the pressures to look a certain way, act a certain way etc has ever made me feel like I was less of a woman.  It's a deeply pragmatic thing for me.  I realise that the question of womanhood becomes a lot more difficult when one is born into the wrong body etc, and I truly do not wish to minimize that struggle. But for someone like me who always felt like I was born into the right body, it's a question of biology.  I'm a woman.  I have the bits.  I always got annoyed at the term "penis envy".  Because I never wanted to have a penis.  I just wanted to have the benefits men got as a woman.  

However, the question of what makes me a good real woman has never really mattered to me because  my personality is all OneTrueGuest.  Who I really am?  I'm me.  I am a mixture of stereotypical feminine and masculine qualities. And I know the thing is these days to be genderless, and maybe if I was younger that might have interested me because I've never particularly associated with one gender's behaviour, but I guess I'm a bit old fashioned this way and for me I just think we are just all us.  And who we really are deep down is more than woman or man or something else.  It's us.  It's our thoughts, our sense of humour, our hopes, our fears, our tastes.  The combination of which that makes us unique compared with anyone else.  And the gender issue has more to do with my biological makeup.  Again, I realise this can be considered controversial by some, and I don't want to offend anyone by saying it.  But that's how I've always felt. (I should add, that what I mean by biological makeup is less science-y than it sounds. I think for those transitioning for example the key is they feel they are in the wrong body. So it's more about feeling like the body you are in is right for you, and if one is transitioning and doesn't technically have everything that that gender has biologically, that person is still the gender they are transitioning to because that's the body they feel is them. I'm not sure I'm being clear here . . .ugh)

Being told to look a certain way, act a certain way, well that's all deeply annoying and sometimes I conform sometimes I don't.  And being a woman in society can be rather frustrating (like why can't I just ask for something in a straightforward manner and have an immediate "Yup I'll do it" instead of the person thinking I'm being bitchy?), I'm not denying it.  But I am what I am.  As they say in La Cage Aux Folles.  I am my own special creation.  And to me that's always been way more important than whether I am woman enough.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lupNzpcpDRk

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Post by UristMcBunny on Wed Jan 21, 2015 6:26 pm

Oh no, I didn't mean to imply you were saying that! Ahaaaa I need to type more carefully when sleepy. No, I totally agree with you, there.

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Post by Caffeinated on Wed Jan 21, 2015 7:16 pm

Brilliant list. Brilliant. I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a friend once. I told her I was growing my hair out in part because it would make it easier to perform femininity. She looked at me with a very confused look. I tried to explain how putting on an adequate number of trappings of Proper Womanness generally felt like a performance to me. Not everyone feels that way, I guess. But I always felt like I had to check off a certain number of boxes on the list of girl-stuff or else people would give me crap about not doing Woman right.
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Post by Mel on Wed Jan 21, 2015 7:32 pm

I would like to offer to Bunny all the applause:

When You're Not a Real Woman Giphy

And I also want to say I totally get what you're saying, OTG. It's a difficult concept to articulate, but if I'm understanding you right, I've similarly always felt much more invested in my identity as just... me, than specifically me as a woman. Certain pressures and presumptions and all that definitely bother me, and I've definitely worried about people judging me badly for not following certain "standards," but for some reason, not sure why, I don't remember ever feeling worried about whether I was feminine/womanly/??? enough in general.

I wonder if it's partly because I haven't experienced much of people responding to me as a woman first? Relatively little street harassment, no random guys hitting on me, not much overt gender policing that I can recall being aimed specifically at me... I can see how that lacking some of that can make a person feel disconnected from the "woman" experience, as RBS talks about, but perhaps it also gave me the opportunity to define myself by other things more easily? Hmmm. Interesting to ponder, anyway.
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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Jan 21, 2015 8:23 pm

Mel wrote: And I also want to say I totally get what you're saying, OTG. It's a difficult concept to articulate, but if I'm understanding you right, I've similarly always felt much more invested in my identity as just... me, than specifically me as a woman. Certain pressures and presumptions and all that definitely bother me, and I've definitely worried about people judging me badly for not following certain "standards," but for some reason, not sure why, I don't remember ever feeling worried about whether I was feminine/womanly/??? enough in general.

I wonder if it's partly because I haven't experienced much of people responding to me as a woman first? Relatively little street harassment, no random guys hitting on me, not much overt gender policing that I can recall being aimed specifically at me... I can see how that lacking some of that can make a person feel disconnected from the "woman" experience, as RBS talks about, but perhaps it also gave me the opportunity to define myself by other things more easily?  Hmmm.  Interesting to ponder, anyway.

I've talked before about "Inner Me" (Mirror Self) and "Outer Me" (Photo Self.) Like, how I think I am very cute and funny and charming in the mirror, but take a photo/video of me interacting with other people, and I seem a total mess. It's how I can simultaneously think I am cute and ugly at the same time; I'm cute in the mirror/alone, I'm ugly in photos/in society.

My Mirror Self feels similar to what you and OneTrueGuest talk about. When I'm by myself or looking in the mirror, I don't feel that same sort of disconnect. I'm just me. I'm feminine, I'm masculine, I don't feel alienated from an identity as a woman.

When I'm Photo Self, though, is when I feel all the pressures and disconnect that I outlined in the first post. I think it's sort of a... metaphysical thing. Like, if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? If no one notices me, am I really here? If absolutely no one pays attention to me, I may not be physically invisible, but aren't I as good as being physically invisible? Similarly, if no one recognizes me as a woman in public, am I really a woman in public?

Part of this also may come from the fact that I've never been able to define myself as anything vis other people. Like I am so very average/milquetoast I can't build my Photo Self on other identities, either. I can't be the smart one, or the funny one, or the talented one, or anything. There's no other structures on which to build who other people recognize me as, so I feel the gap of not being recognized as a woman even more keenly.

Does any of that make sense?
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Post by Dan_Brodribb on Wed Jan 21, 2015 8:33 pm

I was reading a blog by an American Buddhist monk in Japan and her thoughts reminded me of this thread, especially this entry:

http://thatssozen.blogspot.ca/2014/11/three-robes-and-bra.html

The tradition she's ordained in emphasizes the loss of self and 'performing monk-ness.' That combined with her being a foreigner in Japan, being a woman in a relatively male-dominated tradition, and her social justice background makes it interesting reading  her grappling with a lot of the identity issues that come up.

From her introductory post:


"So my names are both equally "Claire" and "Gesshin." I like both of them and don't really care which one you use. Please feel free to think of me and call me by either names, depending on your mood and/or spiritual inclinations, EXCEPT in these non-negotiable situations:

   -Cocktail party in Manhattan when I am wearing some sort of dress/outfit that took energy, time and thought about what looks nice on the female body: my name is Claire.
   -Japanese Monastery: my name is Gesshin."

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Post by OneTrueGuest on Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:32 am

Marty - yes I do think it makes sense. You've talked about a lack of self identity before, and I unfortunately find it difficult offer solutions when it comes to that. You also have talked about a lack of outside validation, and again, I cannot even imagine what that would feel like. What I will say is if there is any way to hold onto your inner self even in the face of opposition to it, that might be something. I know you see outside reactions as confirmations of unbiased truth, but the fact is everyone is projecting onto us. It's like everyone sees our photo selves through their own particular Instagram filter. I've had people decide by my accent or manner that I'm a stuck up princess and nothing I could do could convince them otherwise. I've also had people think I was so sweet and innocent and pure and once again I could not convince them that wasn't the truth either. We are all different photographs to others.

But it's still difficult. And I honestly cannot put myself in your shoes because I have had a lot of positive reinforcement that my mirror self is who I truly am. Not by everyone. Not even by most people. But by my few best friends, my parents, my boyfriend. And I don't care that the majority don't get me. It makes sense that they wouldn't, I'm quite odd and, as we've been discussing here, don't fall easily into a stereotyped person (like most of us here don't I imagine). This doesn't make us better or worse, it just makes us harder to get sometimes. But it doesn't mean that the outside world is correct in not getting us. The mob isn't always right. The mob is more often than not extremely wrong (think of civil rights - I mean, if we were to assume the majority are correct by virtue of the fact that they are the majority then people should not have interracial marriages, nor should gays marry, and women really really should not have the right to vote. Heck I can Godwin this conversation if you'd like and point out Nazi Germany definitely had the majority on board for all that shit). What's more important is who you are with the people closest to you, and I know your mother has said some unkind things to you, and I know you say you don't have any close friends, but you have a boyfriend, and he seems to love your mirror self and that's a really big deal. Maybe try to look for those small but important examples of people liking you for you.

And like Bunny said according to that marvellous list, it seems you are woman-ing perfectly. You feel like there's no way you can win in the eyes of society? Well congrats! You're a woman! Yay . . . ?

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Post by caliseivy on Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:32 am

reboundstudent wrote:
I've talked before about "Inner Me" (Mirror Self) and "Outer Me" (Photo Self.) Like, how I think I am very cute and funny and charming in the mirror, but take a photo/video of me interacting with other people, and I seem a total mess. It's how I can simultaneously think I am cute and ugly at the same time; I'm cute in the mirror/alone, I'm ugly in photos/in society.

My Mirror Self feels similar to what you and OneTrueGuest talk about. When I'm by myself or looking in the mirror, I don't feel that same sort of disconnect. I'm just me. I'm feminine, I'm masculine, I don't feel alienated from an identity as a woman.

When I'm Photo Self, though, is when I feel all the pressures and disconnect that I outlined in the first post

I thought about what you outlined here, and it makes me think of body language and how people say that it speaks much louder than words. I suspect that when you're in the mirror, not worrying about the disconnect or having to think about not being a real woman and not having other people around you to inspire the dilemma then it's easier for you to see yourself and be okay with it, but when you're around people (for video or photos) that disconnect and feeling of alienation shows really well and why you see yourself as a mess when you see the video/photo.
I don't know, I'm doing pseudo-therapy here.
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Post by Mel on Thu Jan 22, 2015 12:04 pm

reboundstudent wrote:
Part of this also may come from the fact that I've never been able to define myself as anything vis other people. Like I am so very average/milquetoast I can't build my Photo Self on other identities, either. I can't be the smart one, or the funny one, or the talented one, or anything. There's no other structures on which to build who other people recognize me as, so I feel the gap of not being recognized as a woman even more keenly.

Does any of that make sense?  

That makes a lot of sense, and I've been thinking about it for a while since you posted. A few thoughts, not sure how useful they'll be:

I do think it's been easier for me because I had other aspects of my outward self identified and focused on by other people. For most of the time I was in grade school I was primarily "the smart one" and "the shy one". Though as OTG suggests, it's very easy for people to ID things in you that aren't really true--e.g., because I did well academically and was also reserved and quiet, some people assumed I fit the bookworm/nerd stereotype completely and that I was compliant and conventional (not actually true) and some other people assumed I was quiet because I didn't want to talk to most people and that I was stuck up (also not true). So having other elements to define yourself by doesn't guarantee you won't get negative and dissonant reactions.

Which I think means to have a secure sense of self you have to, to some extent, be able to define yourself by qualities that aren't dependent on other people agreeing with your self assessment. Things that are just facts about what you do and what you're interested in and how you relate to the world. For ex, when I think of "Marty" as a person I've interacted with online, your identity to me is made up of elements like a) you like to sew and create costumes, b) you've lived in Japan, c) when an idea doesn't make sense to you, you speak up and point out your issues with the idea rather than just accepting it, etc. These may not be the elements that are most important to you, but I say this mainly because you can totally be a sewing argumentative traveler whether anyone around you likes what you're sewing or cares that you've lived abroad or enjoys being argued with.  Wink  They can't take those things away from you. Those things do make you distinct from other people. And those things are within your control, based on your decisions. Stuff like whether people enjoy your company or think your jokes are funny or whatever, that isn't, so it's a pretty shaky foundation to try to build an identity on.

But I do totally get both how uncomfortable it can be to not feel you have valued place in your social circles, and to feel the things you are doing aren't valued as much as you'd hope. I know how that can wear at you. My point is mainly that I also know that doesn't have to completely define you. To be honest, I very often feel uncertain that anyone other than my husband likes me all that much, and that feels incredibly crappy. But I also realize that there isn't a hell of a lot I can do about it. I use the social energy and skills I have to the best of my ability, and even when I'm doing that I know I put my foot in my mouth sometimes or come off in ways I don't intend because as much as I try to practice I'm still struggling and I'm not a perfect person... and that's okay. I am doing my best. I know that, even if no one else does. I know the only way I could maybe do better is if I took away time and energy from other things that are important to me, and choosing those other things instead is part of what defines me. I could be trying to socialize with people I know in person right now, but instead I am choosing to write this post because being someone who tries to support other struggling people online is also important to me, and it's part of who I am even though very few people even know I do this. I don't know how a person adjusts their thinking that way or comes to peace with disappointment in some areas in their life--certainly I'm not totally at peace with it, and have times when it bothers me a lot--but it's a thing that can be aimed for.

On a somewhat different note, re: self as woman specifically, thinking back it occurs to me that I never really wanted to fit the most-approved feminine mold. I was kind of tomboyish as a kid--not so much into sports, but I'd be running around outside, climbing trees, catching bugs and salamanders, that sort of thing. Pink was my least favorite color because it was coded as only for girls; I never wanted to dress up as a princess. But I still had women archetypes that I appreciated and wanted to emulate. I didn't want to be the princess, but I also didn't want to be a boy. I wanted to be the witch. I wanted to be the woman warrior. *points to user pic* There weren't as many models for those roles and they weren't shown in anywhere near a positive light as the more princess-y roles, but they were there. They had power. They got stuff done. And they were still definitely women. I just focused on them by happenstance (probably because they were a much better fit for my developing identity Razz ) but I wonder if it might be possible to refocus on different female archetypes if the most standard one is making you feel like a failure.

Finally I want to note that there is a flip side to this, which is that because I for whatever reasons was never all that focused on the standard "woman" role... I have a lot of trouble with the elements of it I sometimes want to use. There are some aspects I quite enjoy--I like getting dressed up, I like striking make-up and hair styles, for example--but I don't feel comfortable when I try to apply those to myself. Whenever I wear anything that is even a little on the "sexy" side, I can't help fretting that I'm showing too much cleavage or leg or whatever. Whenever I wear a dress for anything other than an explicitly formal event, I can't help fretting that I'm going to look out of place and too "dressed up" for wherever I'm going to be. Whenever I'm wearing make-up that goes even a little beyond the natural look, I can't help fretting I've overdone it and look ridiculous. These are things that women are "supposed" to do, and even though I've been pushing myself since my teens (so, twenty some years) to experiment despite my nervousness, and never gotten any really negative feedback, I haven't gotten much more confident with it. And it's not about being afraid that someone else will think I'm "womaning" badly; it's about not being sure I can pull off that version of "woman" at all, that it's a thing I as an individual should even try to aspire toward. So, I guess it's difficult to find an identity "path" that isn't going to have some downsides, and not caring about being seen as a "good" woman can have a negative impact in some ways too.

Anyway. That got kind of long. Apologies if it got too rambley.  Razz
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Post by Caffeinated on Thu Jan 22, 2015 1:46 pm

reboundstudent wrote:
Part of this also may come from the fact that I've never been able to define myself as anything vis other people. Like I am so very average/milquetoast I can't build my Photo Self on other identities, either. I can't be the smart one, or the funny one, or the talented one, or anything. There's no other structures on which to build who other people recognize me as, so I feel the gap of not being recognized as a woman even more keenly.

Something I've noticed about the cultural messages about doing Girl or Woman the approved way is that there isn't really a place to be The Smart One or The Funny one or The Talented One. Those roles are supposed to be for the guys, who are the ones who are supposed to have actual personality characteristics. We're just supposed to be The Girl (Smurfette). Or if there's more than one girl, it means being The Blonde, The Brunette, The Redhead, etc (with the obvious caveat that we're all supposed to be pretty, so there's no role for The Pretty One either). Our variations are supposed to be as surface-level as the categories available on a mainstream porn site.

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Post by Chickpea Sarada on Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:16 pm

I grew up believing that there is no one way to be a girl or woman.  Even the most "tomboyish" girl is still a girl so long as she considers herself a girl (and now that I'm older and more aware of transgender people, that includes girls who were designated by others as boys).  Yes, there were certain traits that were more traditionally feminine, but those were things one chose to use to express what kind of girl/woman she was, rather than made her less or more of a girl/woman.  

Femininity came from the self rather than from how others treated you.  That said, though, how feminine...-ly(?) you chose to express yourself could be influenced by others.  As a personal example, I have times where I want to dress and act practically like my idea of the epitome of femininity (light flowy dresses, flowers, etc. Basically "everything nice").  But then hearing some certain people on the Internet "compliment" feminine women in their creepy/sexist way turns me off.  Better slap on a baseball cap backwards and hock a loogie for good measure!
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