maanantai 9. joulukuuta 2013

Day 366: Reconstructing femininity - softness as a strength


I've had issues with femininity for as long as I can remember. I have gathered from photographs that as a small child I enjoyed dressing up in princess costumes mainly under the influence of my sister, but this phase passed by the time I went to school. I wore very practical clothing, I valued intelligence, I resented girly pastimes like gossiping, I didn't like the way girls interacted with each other (mainly because I was bullied – I never saw the positive side of femininity).

This point comes down to my mother and her mother (and possibly all the women down the line). My mother's mother married man who – possibly under the influence of war – became violent, aggressive and unpredictable. This is seen in my mother, who has always been meek, compliant, vulnerable and emotional. Her emotionality has been introverted, collapsing inwards and occasionally exploding outwards, as if she has been afraid of letting her emotions show. She has trouble standing up to people (including herself) and looks for fault in herself. When my parents broke up a few years ago, she had immense trouble facing my father and discussing the matter. Looking at her life, she appears to have preferred men who show a clear male dominance which she can submit to. She has little belief in her own skills and talents and needs a lot of encouraging.

Now, keep in mind that my description of my mother is the way I perceive her. She might describe the same things completely differently. The point of me describing her is to map out who I am, who I have been, where I have grown up, what burden of the past I perceive myself to carry – and what points exactly I am working on and why. All of what I described of her above are the qualities I adopted from her while growing up under her influence; what happened as I see it.

My mother was also a prime example of the positive sides of femininity – caring, compassion, support, communication – but they were overshadowed by the negative, at least for me. My sister has told me she always appreciated our mother's example and she grew up to be prominently feminine, so we have experienced her and taken influence from her differently, probably because we were born 9 years apart. I am guessing her self-suppression had accumulated and developed by the time I was born.

So, many issues have spawned from this. I have been insecure, introverted and extremely fearful. I have developed a fear of men, which has had far-stemming consequences, such as a physical inability to have sex, which I have worked on consciously for some years now. (I recently realized that this manifestation in the flesh may come from really far: for all I know my mother herself could have been conceived as a result of violent sex, knowing the character of her father.) My fear of men has developed into hatred and bitterness. I have been very shy around people. I have been constantly concerned about being accepted by others, because I had no sense of self-worth without external validation. I have been largely unable to communicate because I have had a paralyzing fear of being exposed and judged. Paralysis, all in all, is what it has been: an all-encompassing state of tension.

The reason I am writing about this (again) is because I am getting closer to, well, how to call it, a “breakthrough” of sorts. Through practical application I have been able to approach and interact with men who trigger the fear of men in me through their somehow apparent “masculinity” - a profound “maleness” in some part of their presence and/or expression. I have previously had a panicky need to protect myself from masculine expression by becoming masculine myself, be it through speech, movement, behavior or tone of discussion, or simply by distancing myself or completely escaping from the person. I am starting to reach a point where I can locate my breathing in the middle of this reaction, thus stopping my defense mechanisms, and where I can begin to explore how to “take in” masculinity – how to be the feminine counterpart – how to let go, give in, submit. To use sex as a metaphor, I once read somewhere that whereas masculinity is about pushing in and penetrating, femininity is to wrap oneself around the penetrator. It is this duality between hardness and softness that I am fascinated by, because I have never learned how to be soft. To survive in a male-dominated world I have hardened myself, metaphorically and literally.

I am glad that I have now had opportunities to investigate this point in action – although it's not surprising at all, as we summon that which we are ready for. I am dancing around the edges of my comfort zone and it is exhilarating and nerve-wrecking a the same time, lol. I think self-forgiveness on the topic would support me with the practical application, so that's what I'll do next.

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