Looking different

// 16 June 2016

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This month, our guest bloggers are several A level students, coordinated by their teacher. They tweet @msnotmrsormiss

The writer of this piece, NHL, is 16 and studies Theatre Studies, Spanish and English Lit.

A few months ago, I was shopping with my twin brother (big mistake) and a girl turned round and looked at what I was wearing. I didn’t notice but my brother did. He instantly told me what happened and asked me if I thought she was attracted to me. Now, I know my friends and I are constantly looking at other girls’ clothes and hair; however, it appears this ritual is absolutely unknown to boys. My brother just interpreted her checking out my clothes as her checking me out. It was not that she was interested in me but my clothes, yet he still didn’t really believe me and was unconvinced.

The interaction between masculinity and sexuality for boys is overwhelming. I have noticed this increasingly by noticing the things I will do with my friends and the things he does not with his. For instance, when sleeping over with friends, we just all end up sharing four mattresses between the eight of us and no one blinks an eye because it’s just fun. My brother wouldn’t dream of doing in fear of being called “gay”, which is outrageous and upsetting because it must create boundaries between your friends due to weird concerns relating to masculinity. Boys really have to always to be on guard with how they present themselves. After asking him a few questions (for which I had to be nice to him for whole day in order for him to answer without being pissed at me), I soon discovered that even showing a slight sign of individuality is then followed up by being called “gay”.

I have no clue if my brother enjoys fitting in with everyone else and finds comfort in this or if he is just going along with what he knows. In my town, most teenagers end up wearing the same thing, especially boys, and everyone appears extremely conformist. Sure, a lot of the girls also wear the same things, thanks to so-called fashion, however there are undoubtedly more girls that are wearing more unusual things, which they clearly like and want to wear because they make them feel more confident. These girls however are not called “gay”, but are even slightly admired because they aren’t afraid to wear a strange shaped hat. Where does this dislike of unusual things come from among boys my age?

I believe that to some point the media may be to partly blame. When I think of celebrities that wear what they want, only female ones come to mind: Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Charli XCX, Nicki Minaj and I am sure many more. These celebrities are idols of many and therefore encourage people to be themselves, complete individuals, weird and wonderful. Although there are male celebrities also who are willing to be out there, I don’t think they are as celebrated for this. This may be because boys don’t idolise people who aren’t afraid to be truly themselves; if this is true, I have no idea why. I would ask my brother but to ask that question I would have to be nice to him for a couple of weeks, like I did when I wanted him to unblock me from Instagram.

This is why boys need feminism as well. Feminism is for everyone that wants an equal world where stereotypes do not stop people from doing what they want or, more optimistically, where stereotypes do not exist. It is extremely sad that boys may choose not to explore what their fashion style is because they don’t want to be called “gay”, and that this can be seen as an insult at all.

The image is in the public domain. It shows lots of gummy bears in neat rows. All of them are the same translucent pale colour, apart from one red one.

Comments From You

Jackie Bather // Posted 16 June 2016 at 11:12 am

What an astute piece of writing. I am an older feminist (but I have not forgotten what I was thinking about when I was sixteen ) and I am most interested to read your views. As I never had a brother, I have no experience of the dynamics involved in such a relationship and the fact that you are one of a pair of twins is especially intriguing, with regard to these dynamics.

I did notice your comment ‘he still didn’t really believe me’ with reference to your shopping incident. It is a common experience for many women that they are not believed by boys/men, however qualified they may be, either academically or in life experiences. In some countries, women who have experienced sexual assault by a man, require four male witnesses, to validate their allegations. I recommend a book, namely ‘Men Explain Things To Me’ by Rebecca Solnit, which is a compilation of short essays, one of which discusses how the author herself, had experiences of men assuming that they knew everything and that women needed regular explanations, of all manner of issues, as they were believed to be uninformed people.

The other comment you made, which many girls and women will recognise, is ‘but to ask that question, I would have to be nice to him for a couple of weeks’. Again, I must emphasise that I do not have a brother and do not know what the relationship dynamics are like, so cannot share my experiences in that regard. However, this pattern of girls/women appeasing boys/men is known around the world. When I was in my early twenties, I decided to dump this approach and stop appeasing men in general. It was enormously liberating. Admittedly, many potential boyfriends ran away (!) but they would have been unsuitable and domineering, anyway.

Keep up with your writing – you have valid comments to make ! I wish I had been more aware of the behaviours you have observed, years ago.

sexierthanthou // Posted 21 June 2016 at 12:23 am

“I soon discovered that even showing a slight sign of individuality is then followed up by being called “gay”.”

Either that’s a bit of a stretch, or my own life experiences are not in line with the trend. I would’ve thought society almost enforces a certain lack of individuality on females and demands it (perhaps as a by-product of competitiveness) from males. Or perhaps you are specifically referring to fashion/clothing choices?

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