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I know it has the word "masculinity," but don’t let that trick you like it has so many other people on the huge impact it has on women and girls. I grew up restricting my own self expression because I was afraid of being "too girly" and having my friends and classmates think differently of me, think less of me just because I was wearing pink. I never wore pink, save for a few extremely pale, almost white pieces that I hardly ever wore. Even if I liked some clothes, I told myself I didn’t because I didn’t like the colour when I really just didn’t want to be associated with it. When getting toys and other things with colour options, I always chose anything other than pink. Purple I could accept, as long as it wasn’t too bright or too girly. The same went for glitter—I avoided it like the plague and couldn’t bear to have anything with glittery writing, and even when I started wearing makeup, a very stereotypically girly thing, I still avoided any glitter in that. The thing is, I’m not special. There are so many other girls (probably almost every girl) that went through this too. My sister was so much worse. She hated anything pink and refused to be in any way associated with it. Both of us had the issue of “I don’t wanna be like other girls.” I don’t know if I ever thought that explicitly and directly, but that’s definitely how I was acting. I wanted to be different, to be a "tomboy" because I didn’t want to be associated with girly stereotypes and immediately written off by both boys and girls because of it.
In my early- to mid-teenage years I went through my "wear nothing but black" phase, and this is probably what’s to blame for that. Not because I was getting into all specific types of music and being a moody teenager, but at that point even colour was "girly" so I just dressed in whites, greys, and blacks instead because I thought I’d look "cooler" and, again, not get written off for being girly. Which is so unbelievably stupid, not only for me thinking that I had to dress a certain way and avoid certain ways of expressing myself in order to be respected, but also because there’s a lot of truth behind it. I’m scared to have a daughter because of this. I’m scared to raise her because what if I accidentally reinforce these stupid ideals and get her trapped into this cycle as well? Even raising a son, I want him to be able to express himself however he wants even if it means being on the "feminine" side, but I don’t know how to stop them getting into the same trap I did. That’s probably something that’ll constantly haunt me until I actually have kids and they become old enough for me to see that they’re freely expressing themselves without concern of femininity.
At least, for my kid's sake, I can see that the world is changing. It still sucks, and women and men are beaten down every day for feminine behaviour, but it’s changing and it’s getting better. I guess that’s partly the reason I can finally say I’ve (mostly) broken free of this toxicity. Sure, I still catch myself thinking things I don’t want to and stopping myself from acting in certain ways or expressing myself in certain ways, but I’m still so proud of myself for how far I’ve come. If I look in my wardrobe now, it’s full of colour and there’s hardly even a drop of black, and that includes pink, too. I even wore a pink dress to my prom. I also cannot get enough of glitter and use any moderately fancy occasion to coat every inch of my face in something sparkly. So, I guess it’s safe to say I’m slowly but surely recovering, and maybe hopefully one day this won’t be something that exists to recover from, and people will actually be able to express themselves exactly how they want.