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Journey to Unpacking Femininity: What was and what is now

This post is written by Fatou Sarr, a  22 year old Gambian pursuing a Bachelor of Law  at the University of the Gambia. When she is not being a student, she takes photography lessons at Cinatrix Media or  writes poetry. Fatou is very passionate about mental health and wishes to always play a part in breaking the stigma around it in the Gambian society.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with my gender. I grew up identifying as  what society and my aunt would call ‘garcon-mangue’ ( French for ‘tomboy’). Running away from everything typically associated with femininity, more substantially makeup, presumed “girly” clothes and domestic chores, my identity constantly had a different meaning to people around me. The difference was even more present than I was aware of. 

Anytime someone suggested that “you are not like other girls”, which happened very frequently because of the chalked up sexism and plain ignorance, a part of me welcomed that observation.. I have often questioned  why this is so. Is it that I see myself more as a man or is it just some pretty intense internalized misogyny of a young girl, in a patriarchal society that sees women as less humans? 

I have spent a major part of my life trying to deconstruct this stereotype within myself, an endeavor with its own bouts of anxiety and depressive episodes but one that was sort of my gateway towards self-acceptance. This disconstrue of what femininity means to me led to the realization that my problems with it stems  less from wanting to be a man and more from  wanting their freedom.  The relatively much better peace society affords them for just existing, for just being men. 

It is about a fight that was set out for me before I even started breathing. The fight for equality and the freedom of my gender to live, to just exist without the shackles that continue to exist as a result of society and the patriarchy. I wish I knew and understood most of these earlier on. That it’s not women that I have a problem with, just society and what it expects of them. That I am not less of a girl because I like my comfort and for me that means no make-up ever if I can get away with it. It also means that I get to dress for comfort and maintain a severe dislike for cleaning up after men. It means that as a girl I can be more than what society imposes on me and that is okay.


Published: February 5, 2020