Life is full of the unexpected. This is how I felt when I came across a transgender woman randomly and started my short film project on how society constructs femininity. I was talking with a friend about my plan on the tube the other day and this woman came to say that she would like to share her opinions with me. In the film, I interviewed two transgender women who have not had full transformation operations and a cisgender woman. We mostly talked about makeup, but also discussed shaving and other topics.
In the interview, these transgender women said that they normally put on full makeup and dress up, so that some people will probably think that this person wants to be called ‘she’. Their experience reminds me that I am lucky to have the choices of whether I would like to wear makeup or be dressed up or not, as nobody will question my femininity just because I don’t do it. For them, it is a problem. This brings a whole lot of issues that I had not really considered before.
For example, when one of them arrived in a protected house for transgender females for the first time, she was wearing trousers and shirt. Other women stared at her sceptically as if she should not go there. The awkwardness did not change until she put a dress on, when they became friendly and nice to her. It is sad that sometimes transgender people need to express how they feel inside by emphasising their appearance, which also shows how importantly things like makeup and dresses signify different genders.
In the film, I also interviewed a cisgender woman, who said she does not want to compromise the pressure from the outside world to wear makeup. Once she tried not to shave for a while, but then she realised that she did not feel feminine and sexy enough. In fact, she was surprised by her own feeling because she considered herself a ‘tough’ woman who does not care for most of the standards and rules. I understand her feeling as I don’t think that shaving should be that important, but I still do it even though I know that I would not do it if other people do not expect it, which means it is a social definition of ‘being attractive’ instead of something I really want to do.
I can see why some females feel powered by wearing makeup or dressing up, because the binary rules in the society give you the power when you step into the role and anything in between them makes some people feel ‘uncomfortable’. We have learned these rules since we were kids and it is understandable that everybody wants to be ‘normal’ and fit in the circumstances around you. However, I do think that we could play around with genders a bit more without being questioned constantly.