Do you remember playing dress-up when you were a kid?
What if you could have that same sense of freedom and playfulness when dressing now?
The truth is that you already do – all it takes is understanding that how we choose to express ourselves is a performance. It’s not too different from playing dress-up!
Wearing Clothes Is A Performance?
Think about when you go to a job interview.
You dress to impress. You are "performing" the role of an ideal worker. You may or may not actually be an ideal worker, but the clothes you wear express things like cleanliness and attention to detail.
The same is true for how masculine or feminine you choose to dress!
RuPaul is a drag queen (a performer who usually dresses up in a stereotypically hyper-feminine way) who coined the phrase "We're all born naked and the rest is drag."
Here is RuPaul, talking to Oprah about the phrase:
Gender Identity Versus Expression
We all have an inner sense of what our gender is. This is called our gender identity.
However, we also have a unique gender expression, which is separate from our identity.
The way we express ourselves does not impact the gender that we identify as.
Which of these is a possible way for Tommy (who identifies as a man) to express himself?
All of these
But Men Should Like Masculine Things And Women Should Like Feminine Things!
Maybe most men like their gender expression to be more masculine, and most women like their gender expression to be more feminine, but this isn't always the case!
Nope! We just have to keep in mind that culture changes over time, and stereotypical gender roles are socially created.
Plus, gender identity can exist outside of the gender binary. Some folks identify as:
agender (someone who does not identify with having a gender at all)
having multiple genders (either simultaneously or fluidly changing)
falling somewhere in between "male" and "female" genders
So do whatever you want! What your gender means and how you express it is totally up to you!
Which of the following is a socially created norm for gender expression?
Men not shaving their legs or armpits
Women wearing pantsuits or pencil skirts
Women having long hair
All of these
But I'm Not A Drag King Or Queen!
But drag is one really in-your-face way of seeing that gender is performative.
Even if our gender identity is something we know to be true in the deepest part of ourselves, we can still only express ourselves through constantly changing social norms and meanings.
Here is Judith Butler, a noted gender studies scholar, speaking about gender being performative:
Your Gender Is Still Meaningful
Saying that "we're all born naked and the rest is drag" is not meant to erase the idea of gender or the importance of gender identity in how we live our lives.
Instead, it stresses our personal freedom and ability to choose how to express ourselves in ways that make us happy.
With that growing confidence in our own choices, we can approach life with more confidence and authenticity, regardless of what other people might think.
Remember, the way you choose to express yourself:
is completely up to you
is not limited to what is considered typical for your gender
will not change your inner sense of gender identity
Do you have an outfit that makes you feel super confident?
Don't forget these wise words:
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This Byte has been authored by
higher education instructional designer