Everyday, as a woman* in this society, is a fight. A fight not to be put in a box, a box of shoulds telling me how to look and act. At 32, most days I win. Some days I don’t.
* I do want to acknowledge that gender identity and not conforming to the “shoulds” for all people, at various levels, whether acknowledged or not, is a challenge.
At a young age, it was clear to me what gender was valued more. I decided that on the outside, I would lean into my masculine side. But then I was questioned. Why won’t she wear a dress? Or wear her hair down? It was a confusing world, wanting to trap me. Eventually, this led to “She’s so skinny.”
I learned to be a chameleon in different social situation, with different men. I have lost boyfriends from feeling like I don’t fit in enough, and others for refusing to.
It actually wasn’t until I started running (or more specifically, running as my primary activity, for I’ve always run) that I started leaning into my feminine side. I switched my knee-length basketball shorts for much shorter running shorts, baggy t-shirts for ones more form-fitting. I still think either style is perfectly fine, but for me, this was a form of acceptance to another side of me. The powerful feminine.
I won’t say that I have always used running as a form of positive body image, but I will say it has allowed me to become free.
At present, my style can change day to day.
Often I wear tights that say some semblance of “I am an athlete” and “I like to be comfortable”
Other days I’ll wear flowing skirts, showing off my femininity and part of my hippie side.
Somedays I’ll wear my pants from Prana that say “I’m outdoorsy” and “I’m eco-friendly.”
Then, I’ll wear my ripped jeans that say “I am a badass. And I know it.”
But regardless of what I wear, I can be any version of me.
I can wear a skirt and be strong and vocal. I can wear my tights and tanks that show off my muscles, but still be soft.
Somedays I brush my hair, other days I don’t. Actually, I can’t remember the last time I had my hair cut. Usually, I forgo the hair straightener I once used almost daily.
On days where I go in to work, I might use a little bronzer and eye shadow in addition to my daily mascara. Sometimes I’ll go bare.
I may choose to say that I am a woman, but I am not definable. At least not by anyone’s measures except my own. I will not be boxed.
Once in awhile, this all wears me down. But more often than not, this is a fuel to my fire. A burning to be free, to set a path for others to do the same.
And so, I keep fighting the good fight*.
*I fully recognize the biblical meaning of this quote. I believe this is exactly what it means.