Our society is gendered, I don’t think there are many hairs to split there. I do, however, think that a lot of that gendering, regardless of origin, is being perpetuated by our own, internalized concept of female, male, and all that lies in between.
Women, specifically, are affected doubly by the way our society treats them and, in turn, by the way they internalize those concepts of what “women” are and perpetuate a version of that expectation within their own peer groups.
I’ve been made to feel ashamed of things I do because of my gender, but in such a way that it is assumed that I agree that what I am doing is not conforming to a societal norm in which there are many in your demographic who do what you do, and that I understand why everyone obviously feels this way (including myself once I get out of this “phase”). Men are shamed for being “girly” all the time, for being “bitches”, “pussies”, any number of other ways to demean the man and the strength of women all at the same time.
You know, when he just needs to take his balls out of his purse and sack up. In that way, we’ve all had the experience of being shamed about indulging a side of ourselves that is not typical for the popular construction of our respective gender. The way I experience it, as a woman, is different. With men, it is an overt attack on their masculinity, a jape, a no less hurtful act to their gender identity, but an obvious attack.
With women, the shaming for non-gender specific behavior is often subtle, and lifelong, and undercut with the implication that you couldn’t possibly actually be the way you are, instead we must be making a choice to “prove a point” against your own determinate biology. Like when people assume that I play roller derby because I must be “angry” about something, not because I enjoy the thrill of a contact sport or the physicality of training.
Or when people assume that I am a mechanic because “it’s fun” and that eventually I’ll “hopefully realize that I can do that in my spare time while focusing on a real job”. Sure, they assume that of many people with jobs that don’t make a lot of money, but unlike my male counterparts, my trade isn’t a trade…it’s a brief rebellion, if not an exercise in doing something different. Or when two to three times a day someone asks me how I “ended up” doing “this job”. Who asks that of anyone else doing their job? They don’t. Unless you are female, and the only female they’ve ever seen doing that job.
None of it is meant to harm, at least usually not, but all of it assumes that I couldn’t possibly WANT to do what I do; that something has happened to make me abnormal. It’s a pretty bizarre experience to be an exception to a number of perceived, imaginary rules.
And all it has left me with is a strong desire to smile in hopes that more women will realize that the limits they have taken on as their own are not real. I don’t do things just to prove a point. There is no point, and that is the point.