Gazed At But Never Seen
From the time I was a young girl, like most little girls, I have been praised primarily for my looks. Growing up my mother raised me to be admired the same way her mother raised her to be admired in patriarchal 1960s Chile. It wasn't until I was in my early 20s that I realized I had to unlearn what society conditioned me to narrowly value in myself.
Growing up my mother raised me to be admired the same way her mother raised her in a patriarchal 1960s Chile.
Being attractive and praised for beauty is nothing new and not limited to one gender. But being predisposed to the male gaze at a young age and receiving positive reinforcement for appeasing it is part of the oppressive socialization that comes with performative femininity.
I have never felt traditionally feminine. When I was little I admired my dad and always wanted to play with the boys in my class. I wanted to get dirt on my pants when playing outside as a badge of honor and be seen as strong. Even as a child I had internalized a learned binary that feminine was weak and masculine was strong from the visual and social cues around me.
Now I am some mix of the two and am perceived and treated differently depending on how well I perform my feminine role. In my young adult life I have experienced enough misogyny and violence to at times dissociate or reject my body as it feels like like a lure I didn't agree to hosting. Something for them but not for me because it didn't attract the love and safety I yearned for. I've felt imprisoned by this feminine box that's shaped my defensive behavior and at times determined my worth by the opposite sex in this patriarchal, white supremacist, capitalist society.
The rent I've paid to live in this pink box is a fluctuating view of self and disillusion over believing someone authentically desires to understand my complexity. When your physical appeal and your alignment to the palatable shades of femme are what satiate gaze, you are never truly seen for who you are.