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Growing Up Girl-y Girl

Updated: Feb 12, 2022

By Anastasia Volkoff

For as long as I could remember, growing up, I was a “girl-y girl”. I reveled in gender

normative toys and clothes, and I adored pink, dollies, dresses, etc. In short, I was a fairly easy

child to shop for. I wore my femininity like a badge of honor until it became my shield. My glitter-

embedded emblem of pride became an all-encompassing layer of protection. My femininity was

a performance, MY performance, specifically, and I was a master at the art of pretending. I found

self-worth in various aspects of my feminine appearance: makeup, skirts, and painted nails, but

my hair was, by far, the defining accessory to my self-identity. I meticulously maintained my long

hair. Extensive conditioning, shampooing, and de-tangling rituals regularly consumed hours of

my day. My hair became an extension of myself, so much so that, at one point, I was deemed

the “long hair girl” in elementary school. My identity rotated around my brown, stick-straight hair’s

orbit, until one day I cut it all off.

To me, something as trivial as cutting off my hair was a pivotal moment in my youth. For

one of the first times ever I felt completely naked, vulnerable, and most

importantly - "masculinized". At that point in my life, I started to embrace my newly-developed

sense of masculinity. Despite my former adoration for the delicacy of girlhood, I rejected

femininity completely. My short hair catalyzed my adaptation to boy’s clothes, male-centric

interests, and having mainly male friends. I thought I was the antithesis of all things girl, and

although I wore a sense of shame because of my quasi-boyhood, I admittedly felt self-pride as

well. In retrospect, I believe that my “tomboy phase” was just a euphemism for internalized

misogyny. The idea of a “tomboy” is rooted in the belief that proximity to femininity is weakness,

and nobody wants to be seen as weak. There’s pride within exercising the ability to be different,

in not conforming like the “other girls”.God forbid men see us as not strong, independent, or


Although as I grew up, I started to accept my femininity more, men always, somehow, have

played an insidious role in how I view myself. Womanhood does not exist in a vacuum, and no

matter what, the male gaze lives within all of us. Recently I’ve realized that most of my femininity

(or how I see my femininity) only exists with respect to someone else’s masculinity. The male

gaze acts as a metric for balancing being enough but not too much. Smart enough, but not

intimidatingly so, opinionated but not bossy. We need to unlearn the idea that our external

presentation defines our womanhood before we can come close to fully killing the MCP (Male

Chauvinist Pig) inside of us.

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