Frau Sally Benz of Jump Off the Bridge has a great post entitled “You’re SUCH a Guy!” It resonated with me because I do get called a “guy” on a fairly regular basis. I’ve been getting called a “guy” since I was 19, for the following reasons:
- I “eat” like a guy (meaning I don’t hold back if I want food, I can eat a lot in one sitting, I don’t restrict myself or diet)
- I don’t try to hide my burps when I’m around friends
- I’m not “territorial” about my relationships (being in an open marriage somehow makes me more of a guy)
- I don’t shave my legs, nor do I wear makeup on a regular basis
- I don’t want to have children
- I like whiskey
There are a couple of other reasons why I’m a “guy,” but these six are the most frequent I hear.
Frau Sally Benz says she used to take it as a compliment when someone called her a “guy.” In my experience, it never seemed that anyone was complimenting me when they said that. When directed at me, it was sort of in a tone of surprise: “Wow, you’re such a guy,” as if it’s impossible that any female could ever appropriate “masculine” characteristics. Or, there would be an almost mocking tone to it: “oh, you’re such a guy,” as if I should know better. Once, I had someone ask me: “Do you think you have more testosterone than usual? Because you act like a guy.” I doubt anyone did it to hurt my feelings overtly, but I never felt that I was being praised for acting like a guy, so I never thought to take it as a compliment.
But I also never saw it as a negative thing, the way Frau Sally Benz does. Not that I disagree with her. The practice of labeling people like that is harmful in the long run; she’s definitely right about that. But I alwys took a more netural stance on it. It made me realize how the littlest things, such as eating habits, can be seen as gender transgressions. And every time someone saw me eat a huge burger, or heard me burp, or heard me list the reasons why I don’t want children, on some level the were recognizing that not all women act feminine all the time. And maybe they mocked or teased me, but that never made me stop “acting like a guy.” So over time, I like to think I was reinforcing the notion that gender is not finite and mutable, and nor can “transgressions” be “corrected” through shaming. In a way, I liked when people paid attention to it, not because I saw it as a compliment, because it shows people that not all women want babies or feel the need to shave or enjoy putting on makeup every morning.
My “gender transgressions” are not anything major. But the fact that it bothers people that I don’t wear mascara and that I enjoy eating or having a shot of whiskey is an interesting statement about gender in and of itself. And all in all, I think it’s good that even such small instances of gender rebellion can draw attention and make people think. No, these things I do don’t really mean anything to me. I don’t do them overtly; I just like to burp if I know I won’t offend people. It’s who I am. And I think it’s good for people to see that who I am is someone who doesn’t try to embody every single stereotype that comes her way. When people tell me I act like a guy, I don’t take it as a compliment, but I do like the fact that even simple things like the lunch I pack can cause people to think. And maybe they don’t all really think about it deeply, and maybe I don’t inspire them to change their behavior, but at least for a few moments my gendered behaviors (or lack thereof) caught their attention.