Whew! That’s a mouthful of a title if I’ve ever written one. But it does capture my life right this minute, defining my own female identity, my own sense of womanhood in a literal world full of nearly all men- a men’s prison.

Men’s prisons thrive off of, and were created by, misogynism and toxic masculinization. Even the female staff of men’s prison perpetuate misogynism, which we wouldn’t think about typically. One way this happens is through unnecessary aggression. Another way is by expecting prisoners to behave in a certain way and rewarding such expected behavior through nonauthoritative communication (i.e. when an inmate calls another inmate a faggot, for whatever reason, an officer will not correct the inmate and instead will laugh with the individual). While not all practice this, all department of corrections employees consent to it by continuing to 1) work for a system that rewards, encourages, and practices misogynism and 2) remain silent and passive when they witness it from their peers. All are culpable.

Why does this matter? It matters because this is the environment that I chose to come out in because this is the environment that I was raised in as a child- misogynistic. My ideal woman began as an anti-type, or, the kind of woman I know I DO NOT want to be.

I know I don’t want to be the kind of woman who:

-believes that masculinity and authority means aggression.
-tacitly approves of various forms of violence and abuse by remaining silent when I see it or experience it.
-stays small so men can believe they’re big.
-fits anyone else’s stereotype but my own.
-does not take care of my body.
-does not have time for self-improvement or education.
-believes that women should be small, weak or passive.
-believes that some women are “more” woman than others.

I don’t want to be any of those things. Most women who work in corrections practice this. But so do the men. But so do the inmates. But so does much of society. I have the unique opportunity to develop my own sense of womanhood. I can choose what kind of woman I want to be. I like that.

While I began defining myself by what I DON’T want to be I have ended up definiting myself on what I DO want to be.

I want to be the kind of woman who:

-is strong
-believes that others have the right to define themselves in an image that suits them and not me
-believes that it is okay to be empathetic and vulnerable, even when men try to tell me I shouldn’t be.
-does NOT sit by and watch someone else get treated inhumanely or be flat out assaulted and do nothing.
-believes I can’t (insert ANYTHING you can think of here).
-works for a system that operates, practices, and requires the subjugation and abuse of another human being.
-makes anyone feel less than for any reason
-sacrifices her hopes and dreams so a man can feel superior and perpetuate an antiquated sense of masculine identity.

These are the kinds of things I have come to balance within my mind on what it means to be a woman.

I have learned these things from childhood, media, example and yes, prison. Some good, some not so good.

My question to you, more like a call to action, is what kind of woman do YOU want to be? Perhaps more importantly, are you that type of woman? Why or why not?

I would love to hear your thoughts, feel free to email me back or comment your replies!

With Love

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