Remember Sk8r Boi by Avril Lavigne? (If you were a teenager in 2002, you feel me.) The gist is that a pretty girl who did ballet had the hots for the eponymous male, but she turned up her nose. She ends up at home feeding her baby. What an idiot, right? How dare she be pretty, like ballet, and have a kid? It’s not enough that she’s a snob; Avril has to make her uber-feminine. Avril even wears a tie in her videos, as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’m punk and aggro and have all these traits traditionally associated with dudes while simultaneously being nonthreatening and conventionally attractive and fuckable.”
For a while, that was my M.O. too. I thought being an empowered badass feminist meant taking a shit on everything girly. I hated blonde sorority girls, fake tanning, early education majors, and anything “prissy.” For some reason Legally Blonde and Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion were fine, great even (probably because they valued friendship over dudes). But I rejected all other aspects of femininity. (Fake nails? Are you a stupid vapid bimbo?) I thought an integral part of feminism was Daria and Angela Chase in My So-Called Life, wearing shapeless flannel and scowling and refusing to learn how to cook.
Turns out hating other women isn’t very feminist at all.
(Below: Regena Thomashauer and Marie Forleo on our culture devaluing femininity.)
There’s a difference between femininity and what I actually hated: sexism (and mindlessly adhering to gender stereotypes), insincerity, superficiality, backstabbing, beauty pageants, catering to the male gaze, and valuing your sexuality over your intellect. What is femininity, anyway? It’s a social construct! (According to the interwebs, “femininity” can include empathy, vulnerability, sensitivity, gentleness, sweetness, sensuality, beauty, compassion, and being nurturing. And eating a pint of ice cream in one sitting while watching a rom-com, natch.)
Wearing an apron and making cupcakes is NOT automatically a step backwards for all women. Feminism means you can “choose your choice,” even if other women don’t like it. (The tricky part is that no choices happen in a vacuum. Patriarchy unfortunately informs a lot of choices.)
Now, I still hate rigid gender roles. Men can be feminine. Women should NOT be reduced to docile creatures put on earth to help guys. (Who even says there are only two genders?) But hating femininity and associating it with weakness (what’s so bad about weakness, anyway? Might does not make right) and thinking that feminism means being manly is not cool. (See: “Sneering At Flavored Vodkas Is Just Thinly Veiled Misogyny.”) There’s a reason everyone shits on the Cathy cartoon, and it’s that her behavior is so stereotypically feminine (caring about her weight, eating chocolate, trying to find love).
If you WANT to be feminine, whether you’re male or female or neither, you should go for it. I don’t want to look down on femininity anymore. I don’t like saccharine shit like doilies or angel figurines, but that doesn’t mean that women who do automatically suck.
It’s OK to be girly. It’s OK to be weak. It’s OK to flounce around in a million layers of pink tulle or be a “crazy cat lady” (sexist term right thurr) or want to look like Dolores Umbridge. (In fact, it’s more than OK!) I personally think it would be more appealing to wear a black catsuit, know kung fu, and be a badass punk-rawk hacker–basically, be the love child of Black Widow, Trinity from The Matrix, and Lara Croft–but that’s just me. And that’s the point. People shouldn’t be mocked or punished for liking traits associated with fully half of the population.
Sure, America glorifies certain aspects of femininity: boobs of a certain shape and size. High heels and miniskirts (but not TOO short or you’re “asking for it”). Women who cook and have kids and don’t rock the boat. But other aspects of femininity–say, crying, or having your period–are disgusting and signs of inferiority. Well FUCK THAT!
I’m not here for that anymore. In fact, I think it’s time for a good ice cream ‘n’ cry. If you need me, I’ll be over here, cuing up Pitch Perfect for the millionth time. <3