YEP Crew Blog Post – Fatema Shalemie: Being in a Woman’s Heels

Growing up, I felt like a lanky, twelve-year-old boy. Flat chested, no hips and certainly not an attractive smile (not until I got my braces taken off, that is). I look very much the same, but I don’t feel that way. I try to convince myself that I am a woman but every aspect of my life defines a woman differently and I don’t fit the mould of any of them.

Despite having the genitalia associated with being a woman, I hardly fit the rest of the criteria. I’m talking about how I should behave, how I laugh, how I walk, what I wear, what I do with my life, when I get married, how many kids I have, how I cook, how much I clean, who I make friends with, how long I can be outside for and so on. It’s tedious and pointless. It took a long time to realise and to convince myself that it’s ok not to be what’s expected of me. It’s ok to be bad at walking in heels and it’s ok to be clumsy and uncoordinated and as frustrating as it is, I can’t change that about myself.

Looking back on what I used to tell myself, I was convinced that I would be less awkward and rigid when I grow up. I painted the perfect picture in my head and what it looked like was the women around me that I was jealous of. I assumed that I would pick up elegance and class like they were something you could buy at the supermarket. That has not happened.

There’s this expectation placed on women where they’re told they grow up faster than men. I don’t agree with that. It’s a vague statement which likely refers to the physical transition through puberty. I guess that’s where the saying, ‘boys will be boys’ stems from; though it seems it’s used as a green card to justify being disrespectful and immature. I’m not trying to say that boys are hostile creatures, merely that in a circumstance where they display socially unaccepted behaviour, they are not scrutinised the way that women are. Women are expected to know better, as though men don’t ‘know better’.

I didn’t see gender inequality as an issue and yet my very thoughts answered why it is one. It’s as simple as trying on a dress or a pair of jeans in the changing room. The way clothing fits addresses the issue of the ‘one size fits all’ approach. Even in my pre-pubescent days, I know, it’s hard to believe I transitioned past that. I couldn’t fit a pair of trousers because I had no waist. A child. With no waist. What a shocker! I go to the young women’s section in clothing stores and with every gorgeous dress I put on, there’s extra space in the area dedicated to my non-existent cleavage. Not being able to fit the clothing dedicated to one’s gender, contributes to the issue.

If there’s one thing I could tell my younger self, it would be that the shape of your body and your personal quirks do not take or add from what it means to be a woman. Only you decide who you are. Your femininity is not defined by what the world perceives it to be but with what makes you comfortable and happy. It took me years to realise something that seems so obvious now but no one was there to tell me that.

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Jesse Altham

Hey! My name is Jesse and I’m a 23 year old from Fremantle, WA. I’m finishing up my Diploma of Youth Work with North Metro TAFE, completing my last practical placement here with the YEP crew. I am extremely passionate about politics, advocacy and education and I’m so fortunate to be working with YEP in the space of peer education.

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