Shoot the Gap: Bridging the Imaginary Divide Between Grit and Femininity
Do you ever see those lists?
You know the ones. They’re on your social media feed every other day with “How High Maintenance Are YOU?” scrawled across the top, giving instructions to award yourself one point for every “high maintenance” activity you participate in, i.e., wearing makeup, showering daily or dyeing your hair, then encourage you to compare your totals with other women in the comments.
The items vary slightly, but the comment section is, without fail, divericated - one half making fun of themselves with princess emojis and shrugs for their high digit totals, the other quietly (or loudly, depending on the composition of your friend’s list) expecting applause for being “low maintenance” or “one of the boys”, taught in quiet Pavlovian fashion to seek recognition from those who praise a woman who is, in black and white, “no fuss”.
These things are so funny to me because, through these lists itemizing our femininity and categorizing our levels of expectation, maintenance and “fuss”, myself and so many of the women I surround myself with are made to feel as though we exist in multiple planes.
Do you know how many women have deep farmer’s tans due to working outdoors in the dirt, on the ranch, in the trades, who still keep self tanner under their sink in the winter to call upon when their glow starts to fade? How many women I know who seal their eyelash extensions off behind shooting glasses or a welding hood? How many closets hold both ballgowns and blaze orange, six inch heels and steel toed boots, makeup bags and tackle boxes?
I remember being laughed at on early high school Sunday mornings, flinging open doors - late, always just a little bit late - into the church ladies’ room in a backwards ballcap and too-big underarmour camo with rolled sleeves and waistband, exiting moments later smoothing the hem of my Sunday best, the only trace of my alter ego a stubborn faint smudge of eye black on my cheek or dried blood stuck beneath pink fingernails.
Social media has become a gladiatorial arena for women in any sphere of the outdoor realm; participants and onlookers equally bloodthirsty for opportunity to tear into others for their personal care or styling choices, color preferences (God forbid you embrace pink!) or even verbiage (“huntress vs hunter”, for example, has become a laughably arbitrary point of contention) while entirely missing the point - we are all out there just trying to get it done in our lives, chasing meaning, accomplishment, achievement, fulfillment, life. Living, as complex people, who refuse to be just one thing. We are strong. We are gentle. Beautiful. Brave. Opinionated. Accomplished. Encouraging. Wise. Nurturing.
Ranchers. Hunters. Anglers. Craftsmen. Tradesmen. Artists. Athletes.
While they can, at first glance, seem in opposition, femininity is no more removed from grit than youth from inexperience, war from peace. While they may present in different forms, the two are themselves inextricable.
If we should so choose to usher them out, gone are the days of looping the fickle, neatly boxed categorizations and expectations of others around our ankles like cinderblocks. Gone are the days of believing you, your sisters, your daughters, your friends - can be sorted and classified by initial glances and shallow lists. Gone are the days of playing contortionist and forcing ourselves into boxes that are just too small to carry who we are.
Gone are the days of believing any one of us can only be one thing.