When I was a doctoral student, my mentor gave a group of us this advice. We were about to give conference presentations at a predominantly masculinized event and felt the pressure of academic conformity looming. “Be who you are” she told us. Wherever you are. Be who you are. I’ve taken this advice to heart for the past 18 years. I tell it to my family. I tell it to my colleagues. I tell it to my students. I tell it to my audiences. I turn to my mentor’s words as a daily mantra. And, the healthier I become, the more feminist wisdom I interpret in her words.
To be one’s authentic self means that we must take the time to know what we value and how we want to live in this world. And, all of that requires loads of gender negotiation. Complying with gender norms often disrupts the process of seeking and embracing our authenticity. Societies set gender rules for certain humans, right? Sometimes those rules are spoken or written: boys don’t cry or good girls smile. Sometimes those rules are quietly and persistently reinforced through negative conditioning. Just think about what happens when boys DO cry or when girls are branded as “bad.” Want to be your authentic self? Take a look at the gender expectations in your life and determine whether they serve your goals.
“We don’t need to be pretty. We just need to be authentic.” I was talking with an awesome feminist photographer today after the photo shoot for my website and I made this comment about the editing process. What I meant was: we don’t need to follow misogynist beauty standards that detract from presenting as our authentic selves. In other words, I will continue learning what it means to be my authentic self while wading through the gender norms. I hope that you’ll join me as we chat about it here in this blog. Welcome!