Engendering gender

by tamarjacobson


Quote of the day

Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives. Viktor Frankl (From CCIE)

Where do I begin to think about how I developed my identity as a woman? Well, I guess I have to think about it. For I have been contracted to edit a book about gender and early childhood, and the time has arrived for my contribution: an introduction and a chapter. Those of you who know my previous work will not be surprised to hear that my chapter will be an exploration of how one's feelings and experiences about becoming a woman (or a man, depending on who is reading it) affect teacher interactions with children in classrooms, specifically related to gender identity. Quite naturally, I have been thinking about this topic quite a bit of late. I have not written much about gender identity though – not in my private journal, nor on this blog. It is a subject that causes me not a small amount of discomfort. For, it is directly related to my own feelings of self-worth, self-perception, notions about my sexuality, and fears of intimacy. Indeed, it exposes me to my deepest shadows and vulnerabilities. For it is at the very core of my being. The foundation of who I am and how I interact with the world – personally and professionally. My gender identity affects my entire world view, and is directly related to feelings of empowerment or powerlessness. 

For example, most recently I have been participating in some very important meetings. Early on, I realized that surrounded by scholarly older-than-me type men, I immediately felt like an eight year old child, and became intimidated to the point of paralyzed silence. Indeed, I felt like an idiot, and was terrified to voice any opinion. After the first meeting, I shared these realizations with female colleagues, who, although expressed dissimilar feelings, were most understanding and accepting of mine. At the following meetings, with awareness of my emotional issues attuned and available, I was able to overcome my discomfort and, thus, participate, making contributions that were professional and productive.

I became a feminist late in my life. Only about sixteen years ago – the latter third of my life. In fact, I wrote about that back in April, 2007. The patriarchal system was deeply ingrained in me and I still have to work very hard at shedding those insidious and destructive beliefs. Lately, as I finally allow myself to open up to love, I notice all kinds of complicated and complex feelings. For example, how my self worth was always tied up in looking pretty, or being attractive or sexy – whatever all these things mean. In other words, a dominant male view was the one I sought out or felt was all important and meaningful. I tried to match my self worth against all of those preconceived notions, and always found myself lacking – never taking myself seriously. The belief that I must constantly sacrifice my Self for a "Him" was honorable and all consuming. 

Finding my voice and changing my understanding of reality is relatively new for me. Only in the last five to seven years actually. Most of the time I feel like a fledgling with shaky legs and flimsy, wet wings trembling and anxious to fly. There are moments when I do, indeed, fly accompanied by a song, which is strong, firm and real. And, I must admit it is exciting for me to realize that right after such flights, I fall much less often, into my ancient abyss of childhood shame and guilt.

Perhaps now I will have the courage to explore this topic further. It is strange how I always seem to consider giving up blogging right before I approach confronting the uncomfortable. I think some might call that: resistance?

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Good luck!