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feminization and the loss of respect

September 4, 2009

So, as anyone I went to high school with and many of my Antioch friends know, I’ve never been a very feminine person (at least not with my dress). I fact, post-Antioch I went through a only buying boy clothes phase, which I quite enjoyed, even though boys clothes are heavier and thus really hot in the summer time. Then, when I went to Goucher, I got a job at Forever 21 (it was a fluke, okay! I didn’t expect that to happen either!), and suddenly had to femme up so that I wasn’t violating any dress codes i.e. ‘you have to look cute.’

So I bought my first pair of skinnies, which were purple cords, and I still wear them all the time (even as I write this), and loved them so much, I bought the same pants in fusha. And from there, I stopped buying boys clothes all together, because, really, why buy clothes I can’t wear to work? Except I think I really stopped buying them because I started enjoying my femininity.

But wait a second: I enjoy my femininity, but when people treat me like a feminine person (one might say a ‘woman’ for the sake of easy communication), I get really pissy. Like when my roommate said that she didn’t think it was a good idea to go camping without any boys, in case we break down. I actually felt personally offended, even though she was in no way trying to attack me. But when people think I can’t do things or need help just because I’m female or feminine, I get so annoyed. But, according to this new, nearly exclusively feminine style I’ve been sporting, it looks like I’m inviting everything that goes along with femininity. Well, not everything, because of course there are other factors, like the fact that I wear glasses, which shows that I’m intellectual, looser fitting tops and long pants that show I’m not skanky, etc.

Thinking about the way that clothes project to the world who we are and the way we want to be treated. Yeah, yeah, this isn’t exactly the most original thought in the world, but it’s something that has really been bothering me in recent months. Like when I wear a dress, and someone says something about women that is, to me, offensive, I really wish I’d worn pants, because my rebuttal would make so much more sense, and have more weight. But that kind of sucks, right? That the only way that my statements about being a woman and being masculine in character (because, let’s face it, some characteristics that we admit women have are still masculinly identified) will not be taken seriously if I’m dressed like a girl. And I’ve been trying to just sort of ignore this and power through, because we have to make philosophical concessions in order to function in reality, but somehow I still feel like an inadequit feminist when I preform femininity in my clothing exclusively. I think that’s part of the reason I pretty much refuse to wear make-up now, even though I don’t think less of feminists who wear make-up. Some how, I’ve ended up guilting myself about my femininity to the point where I’m starting to avoid things that are feminine on weird, nonsensical principle, and feel slightly ashamed when I buy and wear pretty things.

Like yesterday, for instance, when I bought a nice black dress for going out. I liked it, and felt good in it, and think it looks good on me (which is a new development in my clothing purchases, as I usually just sort of settle, because I know I need clothes), but when I was handing over the cash, and carrying the bag with curly script around the Plaza, I felt so ashamed. Why? It’s just silly. I shouldn’t feel like I have to live up to this ideological standard that I’ve created, especially since I keep modifying.

I guess I’m looking for a way to be taken seriously as a person in regards to gender equality by members of mainstream, normative society without feeling guilty about trying to show some style (which brings us into a whole new issue of gender and style and standards and the mess that is my life’s ambition and all of the contradictions that exist within it).

Sorry for the rambling nature of this post, but this is a bit what the argument looks like in my head, so I guess I had to write it the same way.

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7 comments

  1. Read now. K thnx bai.

    http://deardiaspora.wordpress.com/category/gender/


  2. also- http://www.asofterworld.com/


  3. Hey Tasia — I hope you don’t mind that I’m commenting here; I clicked over from my blog stats (it showed up since Isabel linked me). I have about a zillion thoughts on this topic; first and foremost I just wanted to tell you that a lot of other feminists have dealt with this — including me, though on the butch side of the aisle — and… Jeez, so many things. Having a gender expression doesn’t make you less of a feminists: everyone has one, and most of the feminists who might try to make you feel like crap for being feminine actually move through the world as basically feminine women (that AOS comic Iz linked is right on). It’s funny what you say about worrying your critiques of sexism won’t make sense if you’re in a dress — I often hold off if there’s a feminine woman around to make a feminist point, because I think it will be powerful coming from her. If you haven’t, you should read Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano, as soon as is humanly possible. It’s severely awesome and it’s about just this.

    If you’re curious, I laid out my thoughts of the topic of gender presentation and feminist cred in this post. (For the record the stuff I say about my gender in the first paragraph is no longer current; I identify as butch and have since moved to a much more masculine presentation.)

    And I, for one, think queer femininity. is pretty much the best, hottest, most hardcore thing in the world. Good luck on your gender journey. I’m always around if you ever need another gender-expressing feminist to talk to.


    • Daisy, of course I don’t mind you commenting here. Getting letters in the mail and comments on my blog are the two things that make my day happier. Reading your post helped me to organize my thoughts much better, and further contemplation will, of course, be made. The definition of what is ‘unfeminist’ was particularly useful to me. And Whipping Girl has been recommended to me by our favorite penguin/koala roommate, so I’ll check my library for it tomorrow when I’m at uni.
      Thanks for the link!


  4. I’ve been trying to write a comment on this entry for five minutes now and the words just aren’t coming yet. I think I’ll write a blog post about it within the next few days instead.


    • Wrote the blog post, it’s at the top of the page now (Sept. 9 entry).


  5. tasia, I just found your blog and was playing around when i clicked on the feminism link and came across this blog. I FEEL THE SAME WAY. granted, I enjoy my femininity, and have for many years. But, what that femininity means to me changes on the daily. taking the plethora of gender studies classes that I am here at Rutgers, I have spent much of the semester pondering my gender identity and what it means to be female. I know that I do not conform to societal standards of femininity in many ways, and yet, in others, i fit right in. But I know that most of all, when someone assumes something about me because of my femininity, i get PISSED. Even if it’s something small, like, I must spend and extra 10 minutes getting ready in the morning, or I don’t know how to change a flat tire. I don’t know how to change a flat, but that has nothing to do with my being female bodied damn it. anyway, i could rant on this all day, let’s talk about it soon.
    LOVE YOU.
    Genna



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