Feminity Through the Eyes of a Tomboy
The realities of womanhood, and my journey with feminity.
I saw a fallen tree in the park today. Its trunk was large and sturdy, moss covering the cracked bark. The old oak's roots shot out in all directions. Thousands of spiraled coils had previously anchored the tree to the earth. Like that tree once did, I'm still creating my roots. This chapter of womanhood, for me, is the beginning. I turned 22 in March, and I am just starting to solidify my foundation and identity.
I still feel like a kid who has nothing figured out. Only now, I'm wearing what I want and building a life for myself that reflects my aspirations. Before, I would have been happy to follow the path lined out for me. It's easier to live a lie and be praised than live your truth and be rejected. But just because it's easier doesn't mean it's the right choice.
What Makes a Woman Strong?
Women are born strong, not because of an extra X chromosome but because of what it means to be a girl in western society. Our path has already been laid out for us. Either by our career-driven foremothers or society's version of what feminity looks like. To deny what's been decided for you and create your own way takes courage.
I was bullied for dressing "like a boy," told I would grow out of it, and I believed them. In truth, I wanted to grow out of it; I didn't like being different. At that moment, I didn't have the strength to go my own way, but I had to be strong to live for others. When I was older and gained more confidence, I had to tell my religious family that I was gay. It required strength to lose some of them.
A strong woman smiles in the face of adversity and keeps showing up. She loves wholly; and values her education because it is the one thing that cannot be taken. But most of all, a strong woman is herself; she's herself in a world that doesn't want her to be.
When I first learned to read, before I knew anything about the extraordinary people of our past, I got my hands on a Harriet Tubman biography adapted for children. It was one of the first books I ever read by myself, and lines of it still flash through my memory.
Exploring her life gave me so much meaning. It taught me that stories happen in real life; heroes exist. She was human, she had problems, and still, she risked everything again and again to help others. She found a way to get past a life completely set out for her, with no history, without even knowing her birthday; she recognized her worth and carved her own path.
Being born into the Antebellum South is a life sentence on its own, but Harriet had more to overcome. She suffered a head injury that brought on sleeping spells, often falling unconscious with little warning. She used this aliment and the dreams it brought on to motivate her.
After securing freedom for herself, she continued to rescue slaves because she believed her visions to be messages from God. She rescued 300 people from slavery, and no one was ever captured. Even on her last run, during which the Ennals family had to drug their infant to avoid being discovered.
"I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say — I never ran my train off the track, and I never lost a passenger."
Harriet Tubman at a suffrage convention, NY, 1896.
Tubman was the first woman to lead an assault during the Civil War. She conducted the Combahee River Raid, which set free 700 slaves. She even underwent brain surgery to help her sleep and declined amnesia, instead opting to chew on a bullet, as she saw soldiers do when in pain on the battlefield.
Tubman died on March 10th, 1913. Eighty-Six years and one day before I was born, she was ninety-three. I keep her life and her relentless spirit in my mind as I navigate the world. I value the freedom her actions afford me, and I use her example to continue pushing for the world I want to see.
"I have heard their groans and sighs and seen their tears, and I would give every drop of blood in my veins to free them."
Harriet Tubman, Harriet, the Moses of her People by Sarah Hopkins Bradford.