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Real liberation

(11 Posts)
tawrag Tue 30-Aug-11 13:21:27

Other people have mentioned, in particular, heels and make-up as somehow being part of being feminine. I know it's not that simple but it's mentioned a lot on 'feminism' threads. The thing is, I've never worn make-up or high heels, or shown my cleavage (only had one when I was pregnant anyway), nor do I go for the 'butch' look that someone mentioned. Not big enough for that, even if it appealed. So, you get the idea, plain and ordinary. Reasonably fit and sporty (never been in a gym though). And, y'know what, my femininity has never been an issue either for me or anyone else, whatever I wear or whatever 'state' I'm in. I'm feminine by definition. I'm also a feminist who wonders why so many women seem to have something to prove with their looks. It's fine to want to do that but no-one has to follow any 'conventions', real or imaginary.

Do they?

Surely no-one is liberated until they've left all that behind?

Sorry for the ramble. Just voicing thoughts.

chibi Tue 30-Aug-11 13:33:25

i personally feel that femininity is a performance - i.e. whatever you choose to mean when you say femininity - like wearing makeup, depilation, being 'caring', whatever- it is not something which is intrinsic to being female

i also think as women in a patriarchal system we all of us perform femininity to varying degrees, and there is certainly an element of choice; no one puts a gun to my head to make me wear lipstick.

However, that choice is not a free one - it is made in a context where there are real disadvantages and even penalties for women who do not perform femininity successfully enough

the decision to liberate oneself by refusing to perform femininity or even to subject it to a feminist analysis isn't necessarily ultimately liberation. Like a person who says 'well, i am going to be colourblind and not care about people's skin colour', they will still continue to exist within a dominant cultural narrative which does care, and which both acts to reinforce patterns of dominance and provide a rationale for it.

Ultimately, individual action/analysis doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy mixed up patriarchal paradigm except and unless it serves to undermine, and overthrow said paradigm

<i am reading A LOT of academic bumf at the moment, so i hope what i wrote is not too incoherent, i am not trying to baffle anyone with bullshit, really, i promise>

tawrag Tue 30-Aug-11 14:20:32

So, by the same token, is masculinity something that has to be performed? I'm guessing it has.
I think I 'perform' less and less as I get older, but I'm pretty sure other people have me labelled in some fairly conventional ways. My not performing is not caring what other people think so long as I respect myself. Of course I do care because I'm a social animal. confused

garlicnutter Tue 30-Aug-11 22:34:28

I agree with your OP, tawrag. You are female, therefore you just are. No need to prove it, etc. Tbh, the 'femininity' of some male transvestites makes me jittery ... I had a really interesting talk about this with a woman who ran one of those courses for them. It's something to do with perceiving 'being a woman' as all about hair and shoes, kind of thing <confuses self>

Anyway, I digress. I enjoy the girly stuff, it's like playing for me. I don't do it very often nowadays, but painted my nails turquoise last night for fun. It's vanity - it's dressing up, like children do.

I'm aware of some other people's view that I should 'make the most of myself' but don't feel less respected or anything really.

There are conventions of dress and behaviour by gender, which we all know. In a large gathering, I think it helps to observe them because, like good manners, it just makes everybody's life easier. British conventions are quite weak compared to most other societies.

The pressure to 'perform' your assigned gender is much greater elsewhere, often to the point where the conventions severely restrict your choices. Breaking convention is an important political statement in those cultures. Not so sure it is here.

PrideOfChanur Wed 31-Aug-11 09:27:48

The thing is,though,garlicnutter,if you are thinking it helps to conform to gender typical behaviour and dress in large gatherings,where do you stop?
Do the good manners involved in not making someone else uncomfotable with the way you present yourself outweigh your right to present yourself how you want to?
What about other parts of your self that might make other people uncomfortable? (sexuality,perhaps?)

fedupandfifty Wed 31-Aug-11 11:04:15

If you enjoy dressing up, titivating yourself, wearing heels and so on then that's fine in my opinion as long as it's empowering YOU. If, however, you are doing it JUST to please a man or random men, or to conform to a stereotypical norm because you feel pressurised to do so then it's more of a problem, I think.

You sound pretty balanced to me.

garlicnutter Wed 31-Aug-11 11:22:53

Agree with fedup, it's a matter of whether you feel pressurised.

Chanur - My understanding of good manners is that it's reasonable to compromise for the sake of social easing. Manners work both ways; compromise doesn't mean subsuming your self - not in our culture, at least. It's very bad manners to interrogate someone's sexuality or any other personal aspect, so your last line needn't apply smile

garlicnutter Wed 31-Aug-11 11:28:55

Haha, this has reminded of last week's Corrie, where Mark came out as a transvestite grin About half the people in the pub behaved with decorum - tried to hide their shock and relate to "Marcia". The other half were shockingly rude. But Mark was in the wrong for coming out without warning.

PrideOfChanur Wed 31-Aug-11 12:52:46

Yes,I do think it is reasonable to compromise for the sake of social ease - sort of..but if you think people should not be under pressure to behave/dress in a certain way just because of their gender then that is at odds a bit with believing you should fit in with the crowd for the sake of good manners.Possibly more so in large gatherings because those are the situations where the pressure to perform gender in a particular way is often more pronounced - eg at a formal dressy occasion the pressure to be "feminine" is greater imo,and the discomfort felt by those people who wouldn't normally perform femininity like that will also be greater.
<waffles self into confusion..>

garlicnutter Wed 31-Aug-11 13:22:29

grin Chanur. I know that "waffling self into confusion" feeling!

Look, if a woman goes to a formal event in male-representative black tie, nobody minds as long as she looks fine in it. If she goes in her gardening clothes, they will mind because she's thumbing her nose at the nature of the occasion. The latter is the social manners part - in our culture, it's acceptable to rework the gender part without sticking the boot in on the manners.

Still at our formal celebration, a fellow guest may courteously comment on your interesting choice of outfit - to which the correct reply is "Thank you, that's a lovely dress too." Any direct criticism is rude and deserves a sarky reply and/or a turned back.

Am I overthinking this?? <joins Chanur in waffle bin>

garlicnutter Wed 31-Aug-11 13:36:09

Thinking (overthinking, heh) about it a bit more, I didn't discover clothes shopping "to purpose" until my mid-thirties. I'd been anxiousing over what made me look pretty, tarty, efficient, cheap, blah, blah ... it was all about clothes as an expression of my self, or rather, the aspect of my self that I wanted my clothes to express.

Then it suddenly dawned on me that I can express myself all by myself, regardless of what I'm wearing <obvious thunderbolt emoticon>
All I had to do was buy clothes that fit and are not inappropriate to the occasion. Thus began decades of identical stretchy trousers, assorted tops and one black dress for keeping older people happy. What a relief!

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