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Section Editor Kayleigh Greig recounts overcoming the awkward phase of pigeon-holing one’s self into a pre-set identity.

Have you ever known or been a “tomboy”?

Until the age of five, I was an absolute diva. On the coldest of winter days, I would fight tooth and nail to wear a skirt instead of pants, occasionally having to compromise with wearing both (yes, it looked as tragic as you’re imagining). Everything that was girly was automatically mine, fairies, mermaids, and princesses were my muses and every photograph was an opportunity to strike a flamboyant pose for the camera.

However, as I grew up, I was exposed to more and more media. As is the plot of so many other book series, Lena Duchannes from Beautiful Creatures was the love interest only because she was “not like other girls” - she wore her uncle’s clothes and never put anything on her face but sunscreen, unlike like the snarky popular crowd who concerned themselves with fashion and makeup, which I began to recognise as symbols of vanity and stupidity. 

Obviously, I abhorred such vices, seeking instead the respect of my parents, peers, and teachers. Thus, I truly believed that I had to forgo my femininity, this thing that made me a weak and silly damsel in distress. I denounced dresses, cringed at the thought of pink, and banished cosmetics from my life.

Every day, I wore my brother’s hand-me-down clothes. For certain reasons, I loved it: I was able to cartwheel and climb and stuff my generous pockets with ease. But I did yearn for more experimentation… Every now and then I would guiltily try on a dress that my mother had bought me, but I never worked up the courage to wear it out of the house. I had branded myself as a tomboy, and even delighted when strangers mistook me for a boy, with my hair all tucked up under my hat. But as I grew up, I could no longer hide that I was a girl, and boy clothes ceased to fit. I felt sick as I was pushed into the women’s section out of necessity.

And then I discovered this thing called internalised misogyny. The societal undercurrents of sexism had progressively left their mark, and I had unwittingly absorbed these implications that I was inferior simply for being a girl, thus causing me to fight my own identity and gender. Why did I hate femininity so much? Did I truly believe that putting on lipstick could lower my IQ? That a piece of fabric on my body could weaken me? It was ridiculous, really, but that was what so many books, movies and tv shows had suggested. But it was not what real life had demonstrated. 

Did the fact that my Mom had long, lustrous blonde hair make her any less clever? No! But the blonde jokes had overshadowed that.

Was my Auntie any less of a snake-wrangling bad-ass because she enjoyed making cute birthday cards and drawings? Not at all.

Were my female teachers any less academic simply because they liked to experiment with interesting earrings? Of course not.

In fact, these were just idiosyncrasies that made each woman more likeable and unique.

Realising this, I began to gradually come out of my shell in uni, using the excuse that nobody knew me here to finally experiment with new looks and not fear judgement. Eyeshadows, brushes and all the beautiful, typically “feminine” things that could help me appreciate my own features and artistic skill were no longer forbidden. On a summer day, I could feel cooler in a skirt. And if I tucked a flower behind my ear, who was it hurting?

Without the restrictions that I had imposed on myself, I was free. I was neither a “girly girl” or a “tomboy” - I could enjoy soccer, self-expression, painting, parkour, and every other wonderful thing I took interest in without having to impose a gender on anything.

If there’s anything to take away from these musings of childhood, it’s to ask yourself if there are any beliefs of your own that are holding you back, perhaps something you’ve been taught but don’t necessarily agree with?  

No matter your gender, I don’t believe anyone should be restricted by what they wear or the activities that spark their fancy. If you’re trapped in the chrysalis of doubts and fears, it’s time to emerge. 


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