In her landmark essay on literature and gender, A Room Of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf believed the accomplished mind drew on both masculine and feminine qualities. In describing the ‘androgynous mind,’ she wrote it was ‘resonant and porous; that it transmits emotion without impediment; that it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.’ While Woolf was bounding way ahead of the curve when it came to disregarding gender norms, I think we are making headway into parking our life’s vehicles in the territory of androgynous freedom, with little or no regard to gender boundaries.
Don’t get me wrong- there’s still a lot of work to be done. For the unsensitized, uninitiated, intellectual have-nots and even, the intellectual have-s posing to be liberal! But as for the rest of us, it isn’t unusual to find Jaden Smith in an NYC bar, mega-butch and real easy in a skirt while designer Thom Browne might be correcting an errant lipstick mark off his martini glass in the corner.
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I don’t find this compulsory move to blur gender boundaries a sorry state of affairs. It is celebratory, to me. Like most things in society- marriages, career and more- gender is a construct. You either make it up or it was made for you. Then, why allow to be governed by something that holds you down, why follow rules you didn’t set in the first place?
If you are a boy, you don’t have to don blue, cut your hair, sport some washboard abs and remember not to stain your cheeks with salt water. If you are a girl, don’t do femme, don’t grab a gown or put your hair through rollers. Now, now, if you want exactly those things, go ahead and do them. But if you don’t, don’t hesitate to go against the grain. If you allow life to f*ck you, you shall forever be trapped in the compartments that history stuffed you in. It is time to break open the locks of conventional gender roles, move past the binary and set everything that makes for gender boundaries to fire. Let’s make a bonfire of all tradition that does not liberate and empower, and do a mad dance around it!
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We are already on our way- there is no binary distinction but a fluid spectrum to work in. So, it’s easier. Break out. Raise a hue and cry about how suffocated you were, inside. Spread the awareness about how wonderful this new-found freedom feels.
Tell everyone that being born of a certain biological sex may be one thing- but to feel obligated and bound to its social and cultural constraints quite another. Being fortunate to live in an age where the men sport sarongs as freely as women don suits and the kohl lines the eyes of men as much as they live in the windows to women’s souls, the *feel* of gender slipping through the fine, often indefinable mesh of definition with the elusive air of minnows is like a fresh whiff of fragrant wind, in a formerly dry, stifling and oppressive clime. So, go on- mix it up. More.
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Change the marital dance between men and women… pushing men out of their traditional waltz of breadwinning, protecting and providing to nurturing and care giving. Let women fold their big dishwasher hands around the stem of a flute of champagne instead of a wet flounder, come the end of a wonky work day- and tell their husbands they feel thankful. Sound doable?
Of course, it is. For centuries, interpellation has passed the ‘historical’ way of things as the ‘natural’ state of affairs- just the way it is- and people have nodded in agreement, without question or qualm. If men have forever been told that their women must be younger, less educated, and forever conscientious of her success in relation to his, any woman who’d aspire to overstep the ‘set mark’ would, by default, be branded ‘unwomanly.’ Let’s shake off the burden of the millennia. And if you already know this and are smiling in smug complacence, search your soul again. If you don’t believe me- think of the qualities you wish for your daughter to possess, and then, gauge why these would not make the cut in an ‘ideal mate’ for you. See the difference?
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That’s where we start.
In the mind. Not with disdain, rebellion or spite. But with playful freedom and invention- with mischief and magic. Charged with implosive wondering, let’s challenge the players to a game they don’t know the rules for. Let’s tell them that we make up the rules as we play on, let’s tell them that it, sure, might get messy, chaotic- even uncertain- but that’s the fun. The trick is to not purposefully craft the rules, not to appropriate them for effect but simply, do it as comes naturally. Like breathing. When we do it like breathing for our soul, and because we can and want to, it goes down like a storm. This is cause we’d be having a party – one that Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the ‘androgynous mind.’
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In that mind a man could run like he was on his period. If he wanted to. A woman could throw down two men in wrestling. If she wanted to. A boy could dress his dolls and make air-tea for her guests. If he wanted to. And a girl could play with monster trucks and pretend she was a zombie. If she wanted, that is. Or we could do it the way it is- if the individual wants it that way.
Let’s throw off the rules for love, life and everything else. Let’s celebrate freedom to be authentic to who’s breathing inside. Because that comes naturally.
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