Thursday, 10 January 2013

Project Girly: Decriminalizing Pink

I've never been 'girly'. As a child I had Barbies and dolls. I wasn't as interested in them as I was in my lego, GI Joes and Transformers. I didn't get excited about wearing a pretty dress on the first day of school. It was just clothing. I preferred exploring the neighbourhood, riding my bike, climbing trees and  building forts to playing dress up or thinking about my body image in a negative way. I don't remember caring much about it when I was a kid. It wasn't an issue. Mom and Dad didn't pressure me to girly in anyway if I didn't want to. I have to say — and will repeat often — I won the parents lottery, they got it mostly right.

Whether I was dressed only in pink as a baby is irrelevant. I don't remember and I don't care. At at that time I think my mother was more concerned that I was dressed appropriately for the climate. Colour was irrelevant. Still is. These days I go for dark rich colours because this is my preference. There was a time when I would go out of my way to turn my nose up at things that were pink. I perceived them as excessively girly and that was just not who I was. I didn't really understand why at the time, but I had this obsessive dislike for things that were pink.

A few of the going theories are: It's pink and I am female therefore I should like it and if I don't then there's something wrong with me. Am I not a proper or complete female? This mutated into: It's pink and marketed to my demographic specifically and I hate it, therefore I don't fit in that little demographic box which, as I got more comfortable with the Black Sheep label I'd affixed on myself, I wore that hatred of all things pink (and therefore *ugh* girly) with pride. I didn't need to be girly, I was a woman dammit and I didn't need a colour to prove that I had mammaries and a vagina.

It was more than a colour issue, it was being girly. I started to see this as such a weakness that I was so proud to not be afflicted with and my lack of anything pink at all only proved it. I was a strong woman who didn't need to have pink things and I could still be fantastically feminine without it. I resented the marketing ploy to my gender. I don't care what colour an item is, if it's something I want/need what I couldn't stand was there being a pink version of it just for women. Why is there an option? When the choice is black or pink, dude I will always pick black. I felt a tiny bit of shame on behalf of my gender when I saw women wearing pink, they fell for it. It never occurred to me that they might actually like things that are pink.

I can admit now, that I own one pink shirt. One. I bought it because I liked the red pattern on the front of it and it wasn't frilly or lacy so that made it okay. It wasn't too girly.

And there's the nugget of this post, the little gem. It's not just a colour I was opposed to, it was every thing it represents: being "girly". Wearing frilly clothes with puffy shoulders and lace or sequins and ribbons. I was too comfortable in my jeans and t-shirts and sneakers or boots. I skipped the notion of girly when I was actually still a girl. In high-school I wore baggy clothes, it was extremely rare that people saw that I had a figure. It wasn't an issue with my body image, I was just comfortable and I didn't want any one to look down on me for being girly like I was doing to everyone else that was "girly".

That's awful. I know it.

In the last four years or so I've had very short hair. A hair style widely criticized in the media for not being feminine enough (as if it was our duty or as if short hair was the domain of men only) or immediately equated with being a lesbian by people with fewer than three braincells to rub together. I often wondered if I was being mistaken for a male, I don't have very large breasts, but I don't wear the baggy clothes anymore so at least people can see my curves if there was any doubt. Because of this gender ambiguity, I started a personal quest a couple of years ago: Project Girly. I was going to prove that I could still be me and look like a woman once in a while. See what all the fuss was about.

Project girly meant making a conscious effort to see what I'd missed out on all these years I spent pretending I didn't like girly things. I made a personal rule that I was going to wear a dress or a skirt at least once a week. At first people asked me if there was some special occasion, I got tired of just saying "because I feel like it" and explained Project Girly to those who asked persistently. I slowly built a wardrobe of "not pants". I even acquired a pair of high heels. My only pair. I managed to keep this up for a whole year. It wasn't too bad. When I was younger and I wore a skirt I usually couldn't wait to get home and put on some damn pants, but I wasn't wearing comfortable dresses or skirts. I know better now. I have a good collection now of not pants, and when I see a dress in a store that I like, I want to wear it and try to think of an excuse if it's really fancy.

There are so many ways women put each other down and throw out value judgements like they were disposable. We all have an idea of what women should be like. Regardless of where or how we acquired those value judgements they have no right being affixed to anyone other than ourselves. Women are just as guilty of slut shaming based on appearance as men are. The opposite is also true, I don't want to say how often I've felt pressured to try to look more like a woman, for once. We can either be dammed if we do or dammed if we don't when it comes to "looking like women". Or, and this might be a tough one for some to do, we can just be happy and comfortable in our skins and our clothes and not put anyone else down for being comfortable in their own skin and clothes.

Radical... I know, but not impossible.

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