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Apr 30 2012

“Get your antifemininity out of my feminism”

This essay by s. e. smith is something I honestly wish I could have written myself (but see Comment 1 below), because it’s a point that is rarely raised in fighting against misogynist sentiment and the gender roles that enable it. That point is, eliminating those gender stereotypes does not entail actually eliminating the stereotyped behaviour. Making this society safe for manly and effeminate behaviours from both sexes is paramount, regardless of whether or not the specific behaviours conform with the proscribed gender roles.

I want to live in a world where little girls are not pinkified, but where little girls who like pink are not punished for it, either. We can certainly talk about the social pressures surrounding gender roles, and the concerns that people have when they see girls and young women who appear to be forced into performances of femininity by the society around them, but let’s stop acting like they have no agency and free will. Let’s stop acting like women who choose to be feminine are somehow colluders, betraying the movement, bamboozled into thinking that they want to be feminine. Let’s stop denying women their own autonomy by telling them that their expressions of femininity are bad and wrong.

Antifemininity is misogynist. What you are saying when you engage in this type of rhetoric is that you think things traditionally associated with women are wrong. Which is misogynist. By telling feminine women that they don’t belong in the feminist movement, you are reinforcing the idea that to be feminine and a woman is wrong, that women who want to be taken seriously need to be more masculine, because most people view gender presentation in binary ways. This rewards the ‘one of the boys’ type rhetoric I encounter all over the place from self-avowed feminists who seem to think that bashing on women is a good way to prove how serious they are when it comes to caring about women and bringing men into the feminist movement.

There’s much, much more right here. What do you folks think?

53 comments

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  1. 1
    Jason Thibeault

    Actually, on further contemplation, I don’t think I wish I’d written this after all. I mean, in a perfect world, it wouldn’t need to be written by anyone, but in a slightly more perfect world where the gender roles were already subverted, it might be easier for a reader to swallow this from a male. If I’d written it in THIS world, it would have come off as cynical — like I really just had a preference for girly women and didn’t want to do too much damage to the gender roles after all. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

  2. 2
    Cynthia

    This is perfect! So true and obvious, you wonder why more people don’t see it. Being female does not mean you have to conform to anything, anymore than a man must conform.

    Yes!

  3. 3
    'Tis Himself

    I’m glad you retracted your previous statement, Jason. Because I was getting ready to unload on you.

    smith’s comments reminded me of the women who justify genital mutilation or wearing burkas. “It was good enough for grandma and my mother and her sisters so it should be good enough for me. Besides, that what Allah wants.” Replace Allah with society and that’s what smith is writing.

  4. 4
    Jason Thibeault

    So I take it you disagree with smith, then, ‘Tis? Because I don’t see a justification of the pressured gender roles at all — just a completely naive wish for no proscribed gender roles and let every person choose how they dress or behave without societal reinforcement or dissuasion.

  5. 5
    'Tis Himself

    It all comes down to why some women act, dress and otherwise do feminine things.

    Some years ago, the wife and I were going to a formal bash. I was in a tux and she was in a formal dress*. We stopped by a friend’s house and she wanted the wife to wear heels and earrings. The wife flatly refused to do either because she didn’t want her feet or ears to hurt.** The friend got rather huffy about it, “but you should be as feminine as possible when you’re dressed like this.”

    So basically there were two mature, intelligent, sophisticated women whose views of femininity and the trappings of femininity were quite a bit different. I see smith lining up with the friend rather than the wife. Personally, I think the wife was right and the friend and smith were wrong.

    *I know there’s a genuine name for that kind of dress but I’m too lazy to exercise the google-foo to find what that name is.

    **The wife has never worn heels in the 40+ years I’ve known her. Nor does she have pierced ears.

  6. 6
    Jason Thibeault

    Okay. In isolation, I’d agree with both of them — though I’d question your friend’s reasoning, putting herself through discomfort for “looking as feminine as possible”, where I’d ask her where she’d gotten that impression and what her reasoning is for thinking so.

    But where your friend crossed the line is in suggesting that your wife, with no pierced ears and no experience in heels, should wear earrings and heels as though it’s something she’s been indoctrinated into as a matter of course. While I’d question your friend’s reasoning, I wouldn’t stop her from doing it under any circumstances. If she really likes how she looks, and it makes her feel empowered or whatever, or it attracts the type of attention she enjoys or what have you, then fine. If she’s doing it because someone a long time ago taught her that that’s what you do, then I’d be a horrible skeptic for not questioning that received wisdom.

  7. 7
    julian

    Why can’t someone dislike femininity? I’ve seen scorn on this blog heaped on masculinity, on piety, on faux intellectualism and much more. Why not pink, frills or high heels if we think they’re silly?

  8. 8
    aimee

    couldn’t agree more!

    i think gender roles at all should simply be scrapped – one’s sexuality and sex (in the biological sense) should have no effect on people’s expectation of one’s behaviour. people are people, and come with different external as well as internal fittings. that’s it. and people seem, generally, to be far happier if they can do their thang.

    regarding feminism: in fact, I remember being taught, in school (by an admittedly brilliant English teacher) that femininity means that women could _choose_ what they wanted to do with their lives, including being empire-building corporate moguls or, if they preferred, being stay at home mums. and that these choices were _equally_ valid (despite what one may personally feel either way).

    which is a damn good thing – up until that explanation, i had been very against ‘feminism’, as all i’d seen of it was the man-hating, bra-burning stuff, which i found extremely one-dimensional. and i still encounter this sort of attitude, although generally from women who’ve primarily encountered macho, bullshit-ridden misogynist men. still, i do my best to explain to them are men can be pretty orsum, too (and women raving misogynists).

    i might add, at the point, that i was a well nerdy, bookish kid, and a tomboy. so i was hardly being attacked for being feminine myself :P

    aimee, aka ‘misc.ience’, aka @teh_aimee

  9. 9
    Jason Thibeault

    julian: I think toxic masculinity (being “macho” despite the tangible damage it does in the proximate and long-term) is worthy of scorn, but it’s still a valid choice as long as nobody’s and nothing’s pressuring you into it. It’s hard to believe in our current society it’s possible to eliminate that pressure as a source for the meme’s existence. And, I’ll grant you, femininity has its own bullshit proximate and long-term, as ‘Tis Himself points out. We can scorn self-destructive femininity, while not refusing feminine women in the feminist movement.

    I’m pretty sure smith’s point was entirely that we shouldn’t engage in “purity tests”. You can heap scorn on femininity and masculinity in equal measure where they’re engaged in as received dogmas, so to speak, but you can’t say with any certainty that people who engage in them are actually doing so because of a received dogma.

    Part of the problem with trying to eliminate prescribed gender roles is that people who fit them become the “other”, falsely. It’s like when I rail about the societally prescribed standards for beauty — we can’t say “that’s unhealthy” without also meaning that people who happen to naturally fall within those standards are somehow bad! We have to be careful with how we delineate these things or we get blowback from people who would otherwise be our allies.

    And I’m not talking about those quisling people who pretend to be our allies while doing their damnedest to reinforce those roles. I’m not talking about the pseudo-skeptic MRA trolls that I give too much rope to. I’m talking about the real people who naturally fall into those categories.

    In a lot of ways, I’m very stereotypically male — I enjoy things that lots of males, in their gender roles, enjoy, like video games and action movies. I don’t want to have to change things about me that are stereotypically male just because I’m trying to eliminate prescribed gender roles. I don’t think anyone should have to drop those things that fit in the stereotypical roles, if those traits are come by honestly and those people do not enforce gender roles on the next generation.

    (Edit: what the hell is with me and prescribed/proscribed lately?)

  10. 10
    iknklast

    I have no problem with women who actually like pink (from my observation, they are actually few and far between – I rarely see grown women wearing pink, but see a lot of grown men wear it…). I have no problem at all with women who like frills and bows and dainty pretty things…but I do have a LOT OF problem with referring to this as “FEMININE”. It implies that somehow these women are more female…what are the rest of us, masculine? No. I’m a woman, I’m a female, and I object to the use of the word “feminine” to mean these stereotyped behaviors.

    I agree with the sentiment in general, as a woman who is sick of being asked why I took my husband’s last name – it’s my own goddamned business, OK, but if you want to know, I’m an alphabet nut, and I was sick of being at the end of the alphabet. Not good enough to meet standards of free choice? Too bad.

    But, in spite of agreeing with the sentiment, I will lodge my protest loud (and shrill, because of course, all feminists are shrill, right?) – I AM AS FEMININE AS YOU ARE…please find another word to describe pink-loving frilly women, because frankly, calling it “feminine” is an insult to all us other women, who are then registered, by default, as “masculine”, thus perpetuating the sterotype of what a woman is SUPPOSED to be.

    OK, off my soap box now…rant finished. You may proceed.

  11. 11
    Dana Hunter

    Anybody else getting a message saying the blog’s been suspended for a TOS violation?

  12. 12
    Ace of Sevens

    How is ERV going to turn this into evidence that you’re a femtheist?

  13. 13
    eNeMeE

    @11, yes, I am

  14. 14
    Jason Thibeault

    Wow. I guess my linking it brought attention to the fact that the linked blog was republishing the essay in whole, without permission, maybe? Found s.e. smith’s original essay and fixed the links.

  15. 15
    Samantha Vimes

    I think feminine behavior, likes etc are fine — BUT they must be no longer called feminine. That is, pink should be the color for people who like pink, not the color for feminine people. Eyeliner should be for people who want to draw attention to their eye, not for feminine people. Because feminine *means* “pertaining to a woman”– so if we label pink feminine, we label non-pink-loving women unwomanly. We also are implying the man who likes “feminine” things is somehow not a man. Likewise, I would like to not have my body language described as masculine because I take up space and gesture in large motions– I am theatrical.
    Whenever we put a gender label on something, we support gender norms and oppress people. Gender is a social construct, which also means society can deconstruct it.

  16. 16
    Derek

    Absolutely. My daughter is strong, athletic, and great at maths. Her favorite color is pink and she loves her American Girl dolls and wearing pretty dresses. That’s what it’s about — her making her own choices free from judgements based on her gender.

    And don’t get me started on her sword-wielding, leotard wearing, soccer and doll playing brother!

  17. 17
    kmk05

    I could not agree more.

    I’m a material scientist and a PhD candidate in metallurgy. I dress in jeans and combat boots, but I wear make-up daily, and not some barely-there make-up! I love dresses, I love heels, I love earrings. And frankly, people don’t know which box to put me in because it seems I’m either not girly enough because I don’t simper, or I should be made fun of because I like painting my face.

  18. 18
    StevoR

    “Antifemininity is misogynist. What you are saying when you engage in this type of rhetoric is that you think things traditionally associated with women are wrong. Which is misogynist. By telling feminine women that they don’t belong in the feminist movement, you are reinforcing the idea that to be feminine and a woman is wrong, that women who want to be taken seriously need to be more masculine, because most people view gender presentation in binary ways. This rewards the ‘one of the boys’ type rhetoric I encounter all over the place from self-avowed feminists who seem to think that bashing on women is a good way to prove how serious they are when it comes to caring about women and bringing men into the feminist movement.”

    There’s much, much more right here. What do you folks think?

    I think that’s durn well right and spot-on. Well said.

  19. 19
    Raging Bee

    So basically there were two mature, intelligent, sophisticated women whose views of femininity and the trappings of femininity were quite a bit different. I see smith lining up with the friend rather than the wife. Personally, I think the wife was right and the friend and smith were wrong.

    I agree: the wife — the one who opposed high heels — was right, because a) high heels are unhealthy for the feet and back, and we should at least get rid of the unhealthy trappings of femininity; and b) in this man’s opinion at least, a woman does not heed high heels to be either feminine, graceful, or sexy.

  20. 20
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Antifemininity is misogynist. What you are saying when you engage in this type of rhetoric is that you think things traditionally associated with women are wrong

    Antislavery is racist. What you are saying when you engage in this type of rhetoric is that you think things traditionally associated with black people are wrong. I mean, who doesn’t love fried chicken and watermelon, and happy singing dark faces with big-lipped white-toothed grins. And what’s so dreadful about having a fine sense of rhythm and being primitive and simple and close to nature and all that?

    Seriously, did you think about this for more than 5 seconds? Look at that nice little weasel passive about the “things traditionally associated with women” and ask yourself – associated by whom? For what purpose? To what effect? Which things, exactly? Getting paid less? Being required to groom oneself to a high standard at a high cost? Being airheaded and bad at maths? Being all nurturing and self-sacrificing and naturally good at the domestic work? Burkas? Footbinding? Anorexia? Those are things “traditionally associated with women”, so there would seem to be a pretty major logic fail in there somewhere.

  21. 21
    Eskeptrical Engineer

    The color pink gets a lot of scorn these days, not because there is something inherently displeasing about the particular wavelengths of light reflected by a pink object, but because it’s been framed as “the girly color.” When we allow things to be framed as bad simply because they are associated with women, it buys into misogynist rhetoric.

    It’s fine to not want these things that have traditionally been coded as feminine for oneself, and it’s certainly not good if anyone is trying to force them on someone as in ‘Tis Himself’s example. But it’s also bad when women think they can’t be feminists because they want to shave their legs and wear high heels and makeup. The presence of a little pigment on one’s face doesn’t mean that one can’t fight for equal pay, and no one should demand losing the makeup any more than someone should demand that someone else wear high heels.

  22. 22
    Rinz

    @20: Oh, so if I choose to wear a skirt or like to cook, I am a slave. Yes, that is an excellent comparison and not at all racist.

    I’m also nurturing and bad at math, both traits you seem to disdain (because they’re associated with women, ugh). Clearly I am a terrible woman and should be shamed for it, because forcing women into certain roles is what feminism is all about.

    /sarcasm!

  23. 23
    interrobang

    The presence of a little pigment on one’s face doesn’t mean that one can’t fight for equal pay, and no one should demand losing the makeup any more than someone should demand that someone else wear high heels.

    Honestly, nobody is saying that.

    Personally, I want gender to die in a fire. It needs to get out of the way and let people be people, so those of us who don’t or can’t fit neatly into the bullshit binary boxes stop paying heavy social penalties for it. I also disagree with the contention that getting rid of gender stereotypes (or gender at all) would automatically other anyone who does fit them, because there is no other if there is no standard.

    Every woman who performs extreme “femininity” makes it harder and more socially costly for women like me to exist. Every man who performs extreme masculinity makes it harder and more socially costly for “unmasculine” men to exist. I think that’s what a lot of people here are missing — the failure to perform femininity/masculinity acceptably carries real social consequenses. (Ask Natalie Reed about anti-trans violence, or anybody who’s ever been gay-bashed, or every woman who’s ever been told “You could be so pretty if you only tried,” or lost out on a job to a more “conventionally feminine” candidate on looks alone, et cetera et cetera.)

    The social penalties associated with noncompliant gender performance will cost you money, will cost you time, and might even cost you your life. Now can gender go away, please?

  24. 24
    Jason Thibeault

    Alethea: I think your analogy is broken, in that what s.e.smith is arguing is against this drive to call “femininity” itself bad. So what you’re saying is, “anti-black sentiment is racist”, not “anti-racist sentiment is racist”. We’re not talking about sexist stereotypes like “women are uniformly bad at math” and saying “if you’re a woman, you’d better be good at math or you’re a bad feminist”. Nor would we say “if you’re black, you’d better not like watermelon or fried chicken”. And the thing about disliking racist blackface cartoons is exactly identical, philosophically, to disliking oversexualized comics with anatomic impossibilities. The difference, of course, is that racism already carries a huge stigma while sexism still does not.

    Also, I cut that blockquote off where I did for a reason — that last sentence in there reminds me a good deal of a certain someone who is apparently antifeminist to seem like “one of the guys”. Can you guess who?

    interrobang: exactly. Every single point there is exactly right, without caveats. Society forcing the memes of “extreme femininity” is toxic to the environment, so that pressure needs to go away. The same pressure exists (to a lesser degree) pushing men to be toxicly masculine, and both would go away if we eliminated gender.

    The problem is, the fight for eliminating gender stigmatizes choosing to do things that are perceived as “un-feminist”. For instance, my wife took my last name, and quite a bit like iknklast, she often gets questions about why. In her case, she liked mine better. That’s “good enough” as far as I’m concerned, but I would have supported her keeping her own name, or even if she’d asked me to take hers.

    Though that last would have opened up a whole can of worms with the legal ramifications — it seems as though everything’s geared toward women changing their names but not men. Would have been a good exercise to show people in public, but that’s not how things went, so that’s not how things went.

  25. 25
    dianne

    Full disclosure: I’m wearing a pink and white shirt, though why anyone should consider me less feminine or feminist for wearing the colors traditionally associated with boys, I don’t know.

    I don’t agree with Tis Himself’s interpretation of smith’s essay. I see her as saying that the decision to wear heels or not wear heels (or makeup, earrings, whatever else) is equally valid as long as it is made by the person wearing the article in question. In short, Tis’s wife was correct to refuse to wear something she did not feel comfortable in and her friend was right to wear what she wanted.

    However, while I see both choices as valid, both come with baggage. The choice to wear heels implies willingness to put one’s comfort aside for the sake of looking “feminine” and acceptable to the general public male gaze. The choice to not wear heels implies a reaction to the above, but potentially sacrificing a chance to play dress up and act a bit silly to fear that one won’t be taken seriously afterwards because one has been seen as too feminine. It’s a double bind and I’m not sure how to get out of it except to be true to one’s own desires and judgement of the situation. Whether that means wearing makeup, heels, and a fancy dress, jeans and a sweatshirt, a burqa, or body paint.

  26. 26
    Jason Thibeault

    So the trend in the comments seems to be, “first get rid of gender stereotypes by abstaining from all actions associated with them, THEN once they’re gone, people can choose to do those things again.” Am I getting the general sense of the consensus here?

  27. 27
    dianne

    Hmm…I don’t shave my legs for the most unfeminist of reasons: my boyfriend doesn’t like it. What do you think, pass or fail feminism on this one?

  28. 28
    Jason Thibeault

    Sorry dianne, didn’t mean to cross you there. I was trying to post twice in a row. Which is terrible etiquette, especially from the host. :)

    I do things for my wife because she likes them. She does things for me because I like them. We don’t accede to one anothers’ every demand, though. I don’t see a problem with doing things for your partner, personally, as long as it’s give and take, not give and give.

  29. 29
    dianne

    @28: Dammit, it was supposed to be a trick question. No fair pulling the right answer out on the first try.

    As it happens, I humor him in this because I don’t have a particularly strong opinion on the issue and he does so why not go with his view. It’s not like I miss shaving or something.

    But it might have been otherwise. In a different relationship, my partner (using the word very loosely for the sort of relationship I’m using as an example here) might demand that I never put on a dress or wear pink or read romance novels or anything else ever vaguely associated with “feminine” behavior. He might enforce the ban with snide comments about being unfeminist or acting like a girl. If I understand some comments here correctly, the people commenting would side with him because of course I SHOULD never want to act “feminine” and any tendency to want to do so is only false consciousness which he is perfectly justified in trying to beat out of me.

    I disagree. There is nothing particularly wrong with wearing pink (it’s also not particularly feminine: the original designation of boys versus girls clothing was the opposite: pink was the lighter version of masculine war like red while blue was a nice feminine Virgin Mary thing). There’s nothing right about it either. Forcing women to wear or not wear pink is wrong. And social scorn is a form of force.

  30. 30
    Jason Thibeault

    dianne @29: oops, sorry! I’ll be quiet now. :)

  31. 31
    Eskeptrical Engineer

    interrobang, you’re absolutely right that no one here is saying that, and I’m bringing in baggage from past conversations on this topic. I will simply say that there are women whose perception is that they can’t be a feminist if they [insert feminine-coded action here], and I always hate seeing that, but it’s not fair to commenters here to imply that they are making those women feel that way.

    Raging Bee, do you realize what you did in this comment? “[I]n this man’s opinion at least, a woman does not heed high heels to be either feminine, graceful, or sexy.” The implication is that a woman only wears high heels in order to be attractive to a man. That’s probably not what you intended, but it’s how that’s reading to me. I wear high heels on occasion. I’m aware that my husband couldn’t care less whether I’m wearing heels, flats, or combat boots; he’ll still find me attractive. I just like the way certain shoes look with certain outfits, and I don’t really care whether a given man thinks I look better with or without them.

    Are they objectively bad for my feet? Sure. You know what else are? Flip-flops. Seriously, those things have no support whatsoever and they make you alter your gait to keep the damn things on. As someone with flat feet, I never wear them because they’re too painful. And yet, I have never in my life heard the kind of scorn that gets heaped on high heels ever applied to flip-flops.

  32. 32
    Dianne

    the wife — the one who opposed high heels — was right, because a) high heels are unhealthy for the feet and back, and we should at least get rid of the unhealthy trappings of femininity; and b) in this man’s opinion at least, a woman does not heed high heels to be either feminine, graceful, or sexy.

    IMHO, the wife was right because she didn’t want to wear high heels. Therefore she shouldn’t. However, I don’t agree with either of your explanations of why she was right.

    a) People do all sorts of things that aren’t especially good for them. As EE pointed out, flip flops aren’t good for your feet or general health either. Neither is running barefoot on a beach: you can get cut by everything from glass to sea urchins. For that matter, traditional shoes with the tapering at the toe don’t actually fit most people’s feet. Take a look at your foot. Take a look at your shoes. Are they shaped the same? Probably not, unless you’re a diabetic and wear specially made diabetic shoes. Yet someone the only footwear that comes under scrutiny is that worn almost exclusively by women.

    b) Sorry, but why should Tis’s wife or any other woman but your partner, friends, family, or close acquaintances care about your opinion of what looks feminine, graceful, or sexy?

  33. 33
    mas528

    Jason @26,
    If you are reading the comment consensus correctly, then the consensus is practically evil.

    I mean, it is OK to revile a woman who wears earrings, heels, dresses, and skirts until such time as stereotypes are gone?

    Yeech!

    Isn’t feminism about expanding choices to the full gamut of things, not telling women and men what choices can be made?

    Isn’t forcing choices just another implementation of the patriarchy?

  34. 34
    Jeanette

    I like what interrobang said. It’s easy to speak in abstracts about this, but if you’ve ever been on the “unfeminine” side of the spectrum and faced social consequences for it, you know these choices aren’t made in a vacuum. We’ll know we’ve won when liking pink doesn’t make you “feminine”, it just makes you a person who likes pink. I don’t want to be called less of a woman (and that is what “less feminine” means when someone says it to you) because I don’t wear makeup.

    On the other hand, I shave my legs because it’s easier for me if I do. I don’t have to face judgment for not doing so, and I don’t have to wonder if people are taking me less seriously because I don’t. But I am making it that much harder for women who reject that particular gender role. Everyone just negotiates how much they want to give up, and in some cases, stuff like being “nurturing” and artistic makeup are things that are positives so there’s no reason to give them up.

    However, there are things a lot more toxic than leg shaving like high heels and dumbing yourself down in the presence of boys that really do need to end. Now.

  35. 35
    No Light

    Just as an FYI, s.e. is not a ‘she’. I believe the pronoun of choice is ‘ou’.

  36. 36
    Forbidden Snowflake

    If she really likes how she looks, and it makes her feel empowered or whatever, or it attracts the type of attention she enjoys or what have you, then fine. If she’s doing it because someone a long time ago taught her that that’s what you do, then I’d be a horrible skeptic for not questioning that received wisdom.

    This distinction doesn’t jive with how human psychology works. People do act on indoctrination and peer pressure, but they form rationalizations for their choices and even adapt their preferences to align with their behavior.
    I don’t think you’ll find a woman who frequently chooses to wear high heels and who would tell you that she does it because she’s been conditioned to. But I also don’t think a tenth of the women who wear high heels now would be wearing them if they hadn’t grown up in a society where wearing high heels is a thing that women do (unfortunately, we don’t have a control group of people who haven’t been indoctrinated either in favor or against wearing heels, so the latter is an educated guess).
    So while I’m not about to go out there and scold women on high heels for being pawns of the patriarchy or some such, I will take the “empowerment” bullshit with a grain of salt.

  37. 37
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I think we really need to get over ourselves and say that some things are simply bullshit.
    On both sides of the gender stereotype.
    Beauty pageants are bullshit, toddler pageants are evil. There is no valid choice in making a four year old perform for the eyes and entertainment of other people alone.
    Pro-choice means that I fully support every woman’s right to do with her own body as she pleases, it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to heavily criticise her if she turns her uterus into a clown car and pops out more children than they can actually give the care they need and deserve.
    Princesses who serve only as pretexts for male heroes to do something suck, plain and simple.
    And don’t get me started on make-up for 6 year olds

    Let’s stop acting like women who choose to be feminine are somehow colluders, betraying the movement, bamboozled into thinking that they want to be feminine. Let’s stop denying women their own autonomy by telling them that their expressions of femininity are bad and wrong.

    And I’m really wondering how much about actual freedom from stereotypes women are who obviously think that certain things are feminine.
    I don’t diasagree with their choice to wear a skirt or pink.
    I can certainly find the items in my wardrobe to combine pink + skirt + heels + 1 hour hairdo + make-up.
    I disagree with labelling that as “feminine”, as if there’s some gold standard women can either conform to or not. Sure it’s totally Ok if you don’t want to, butch
    That’s the problem, not the eyeliner

  38. 38
    Jason Thibeault

    Giliell: right on. The “you shouldn’t be feminine” problem is problematic in that it accepts the framing of certain things as feminine to begin with. Then reinforces that framing by telling more women to be that way to be seen as a feminine entity, as opposed to masculine. It’s an ouroboros.

  39. 39
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    I am wildly busy at a conference and have almost no time to engage here, but this is the one key point:

    Femininity is not neutral.

    Masculinity and femininity are not handed down by the gods, nor are they random selections of traits and activities from a grab-bag of human possibilities, nor are they biological essentials. They are socially constructed and in such a way that benefits men at the expense of women. Both are damaging to humanity, whether it’s the arrogance and violence of masculinity or the passivity and weakness of femininity.

    You can’t just invert the value and say that feminine is good, not bad. Let’s not pretend that this idea of “valuing feminity” is something new. This is familiar old simple minded 80s feminism – the kind that led to all the horrible guff about valuing intuition over nasty cold male logic and science. It’s great to see a resurgence in feminism, but could we *please* try not to revisit the 80s mistakes as well?

    So it’s complicated. Some feminine things are bad. Some are good and devalued because of their feminine associations. Some are neutral but adopted as a symbolic representation of compliance. Pink is just a colour to wear, just like a yellow star of David is just a logo to put on your clothes. You might like to reclaim it, sure, go for it. But please do it with caution and consideration.

  40. 40
    Dianne

    Pink is just a colour to wear, just like a yellow star of David is just a logo to put on your clothes.

    Interesting Goodwin. Are gays who wear pink triangles as a protest against lack of research into HIV or gay bashing also in denial and secretly craving the acceptance of the mainstream? For that matter, should Israel change its flag? It’s got a star of David on it-not in yellow, but in white and blue, the colors of Bayern (one of the more…conservative…parts of Germany.)

  41. 41
    Dumnezero

    Sounds like doublespeak. What does “feminity” mean??? Seriously, I want to see the definition.

  42. 42
    Dianne

    What does “feminity” mean?

    It’s a good question, especially in the current context. There is absolutely nothing that makes pink, high heels, earrings, dresses, or any other particular clothing especially “feminine” or “masculine”. Indeed, at various times in history, men have worn what we would consider skirts or dresses, pink has been a stereotypically male color, etc. Earrings are certainly currently as fashionable for men as for women. There is nothing that makes any of these “masculine” or “feminine” except for social expectation.

  43. 43
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    There is nothing that makes any of these “masculine” or “feminine” except for social expectation.

    And that’s the problem I have with women complaining about how feminists can attack “femininity” (that word has too many “i”s anyway): They want to preserve certain aspects of gender-coding and gender expectations.
    You cannot be “feminine” without ascribing certain fixed values to that word, and that is hurting women.
    You can care as much about fashion, hairstyle and lipstick as a form of self-expression as you want. That’s why I certainly enjoy Greta Christina’s writings on these issues: She comes off as somebody who has a hobby/interest in something she derives a lot of pleasure from.
    Let’s discuss why women like her are called vain while men who spend the same amount of time and money on collecting matchbox cars are portrayed in a positive way.*

    *Women who collect matchbox cars certainly are not elegible for that.

  44. 44
    mas528

    First off:

    Definitions:
    Feminine: anything done by a woman.

    Masculine: anything done by a man.

    Now, my complaint:

    I see an awful lot of what seems to be authoritarianism here.

    It may not be, but if not, you are the some of the worst communicators that I know of.

    I understand the intention, but if some woman is a contemporary society is “a girly girl” she is a victim of the patriarchy.
    Do not shame her, and do not blame her!

    Or maybe she does act like that

    “she’s a fucking traitor!”, right? Shame her! Call her a man tool!

    If some guy cannot cry because that is how he. was socialized, do not blame him!

    Is all this stuff about not blaming the victim a load of hooey?

    “Well, you can blame the victim as long as it is not about rape”?

    Remember to tell people what colors they can wear and what toys they can play with!

    Girls, you can play with trucks and guns, guys… Dollhouses only!

    I love dollhouses! If I had the time, money, and artistry I would rent an apartment to make a doll neighborhood.

    I don’t, so I have to settle for seeing Colleen Moore’s fairy castle.

  45. 45
    Dumnezero

    @44 mas528

    “Feminine: anything done by a woman.

    Masculine: anything done by a man.”

    Let’s say there’s this Venn diagram with two circles. The circles are almost overlapping entirely. What would you say is outside the intersection of the two circles ?

    “I see an awful lot of what seems to be authoritarianism here.”

    I’m not sure you understand what authoritarianism is.

    “Do not shame her, and do not blame her!

    Or maybe she does act like that

    “she’s a fucking traitor!”, right? Shame her! Call her a man tool!

    If some guy cannot cry because that is how he. was socialized, do not blame him!

    So, to you, any dialogue can only be either shame/blame or the opposite: laud, agreement, dispelling of responsibility.

    What about the grey areas? What about having neutral tones? What about trying to be objective?

  46. 46
    Phil C

    Gender is a broken word. It obfuscates the difference between individual identity issues and social roles. We are in an amazing moment in history when people are questioning the strictures gender places on who they are and how they imagine themselves.
    As social creatures we evolved the ability to make snap judgments about others in a attempt to predict behavior. It is an innate, hardwired skill. It means interpersonally gender is more than just a construct. In that sense it is more related to biology than self-identify. It is an interesting contradiction that flexibility in gender roles is generally resisted by society at large while sought within individuals. Man, does that sound pompous or what?
    Antifemininity puts these two separate issues into conflict. What takes precedence, the political or personal expression? How is conforming to dominant societal expectations different from conforming to in-group expectations?
    I have seen the amazing transformative power of an individual coming to understand their own non-conventional gender identity. Anguish resolved: life saved. Once an individual comes to understand the conformational pressures they face, and pull a sense of identify out from under all that, aren’t others obligated to accept however the individual presents themselves? Isn’t that the whole point?

  47. 47
    Don

    Is this a problem in feminism? I’ve now read the original post (where the author angrily refused to explain who she was talking about in the comments), this article, and some number of the comments.

    I am still completely unaware of the target of this criticism. Who are these feminists that are ragging on “feminine” women?

    I have to say, this has the faint whiff of, “feminists hate stay at home moms,” or “feminists hate traditional marriage.”

    The things people have accused feminists of doing and believing are rather extraordinary. Who is criticizing feminine women?

  48. 48
    Pink Feminist

    For those of you anti-pink people here (such as Alethea H. Claw): What are your thoughts on *men* wearing pink? Is it okay for *them* to like pink – since, in their case, they’re defying gender norms. Also, may I remind you that chauvinistic misogynistic men *also* hate the colour pink? Liking pink does not preclude someone from supporting gender equality.

  49. 49
    Dumnezero

    My issue with this is that it promotes superficial behavior; shallowness, which leads to that rigid objectification. It’s just playing the same game with a different character.

    I find a similar problem with vegans, former animal-eaters, who are into imitation dairy products, imitation burgers, imitation eggs and so on. They’re trying to conserve a pleasureful habit which they interrupted intentionally for some higher purpose, but they keep looking for the an alternative version which is “safe”, thus constantly tricking the brain and stimulating the old mentality.

  50. 50
    Ace of Sevens

    @dumnezero: I’m not sure what you are referring to as “this,” but I am one of those vegans who eats imitation animal products. I’m not clear what your problem is. Most vegans don’t think there’s something aesthetically wrong with meat, dairy, eggs, etc. They just have a problem with how these are obtained. Do you gripe at people who consume fair trade coffee and chocolate because if they were really dedicated they would swear off chocolate and coffee entirely?

  51. 51
    Dumnezero

    Ah, well, you’ve caught on. The issue is aesthetic in nature.

  52. 52
    Pink Feminist

    Was this in response to my post?

    Quite frankly, I am so sick and tired of the pink hatred. For the record, that happens to be my favourite colour – and I can’t help but like that colour.

    Why can’t we just work to de-stigmatize the colour pink – so that both boys and girls can like pink without shame.

    If we get rid of pink, then what colour are we gonna ban next? Purple? Blue? Red? Green? Orange? Yellow? Whose to say that, if they stop making girls stuff in pink, they aren’t just gonna choose some other colour to market to girls?

    The problem is not with pink per se. The problem is with how how marketers use to market to girls? They could have picked *any* colour to do that with. It’s just so happens that pink was the colour of choice. So let’s place on blame on where it properly belongs, instead of blaming the colour itself.

    Besides, it only serves to reinforce the belief that misogynistic male chauvinists have that boys liking pink will “turn them gay” or “make them sissies”. Really, as a feminist, do you actually want to *agree* with the misogynistic male chauvinists that “pink signifies weakness”.

  53. 53
    sandradee

    I’m very feminine and I love it. I love wearing heals, showing off my curves, wearing make-up, and being graceful in my movements. I like to cook, paint, and play the piano. I like tastefully decorated homes, shopping, and I like a good cry every now and then. I am emotional and both want and seek out men who can support me.

    I am also very good at math, an excellent writer, founder of a start-up, and have employed and led mostly men on projects – projects that went on to succeed quite, admirably, if I might add. I am very ambitious and don’t let anything stand in the way of getting what I want. I know when to use my feminine charm, and and when to talk purely business and numbers.

    I don’t see any contradiction between the two. I am a woman. What should that preclude my ability to succeed in the business, or accomplish my biggest dreams? There are different genders. That does not mean one is more capable than the other. I resent being told I must be masculine and like man in order to succeed in my career.

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