Can we think of femininity as a style? How do we define it? Who gets to be feminine?

I’ve just recently started actively taking an interest in feminist affairs, and the issue of sexism and the way it is ingrained in our culture and society, and, of course, this has lead me to question my own vague ideology on the matter. Feminists call for equal rights and treatment for both sexes, despite their slightly misleading name, and by definition equal rights and treatment means that it will be exactly the same.

This seems the tiniest bit…wrong, to me.

Don’t get me wrong, it is most certainly NOT that I think women and men aren’t equal to each other. I do. I mean, obviously there are some things that, for the most part, men might be better at – for instance, men are traditionally faster runners, if only because they have longer legs, whereas women are more known for their aesthetic sense and so we have less male flower arrangers. And of course there are exceptions to these ever-so-general rules, many women are much faster runners than men, and there are lots of guys who are really just fantastic at turning those roses and daisies into a visual masterpiece.

Considering this, there are two things I’m wondering about.

The first being, just how much is our concept of males’ strengths and weaknesses versus females’ strengths and weaknesses subject to representation in the media, and perhaps more importantly, in our society and everyday lives?

If it’s not clear what I’m talking about, allow to me explain a little better.

We automatically assume women are better with children – people make fun of ‘daddy daycares’. This is a widely accepted belief or idea. But how much of it is based on actual truth – scientific proof, genetics, the like – and how much is just our preconceived ideas taught to us by a life of always seeing the woman holding the baby, whether at the grocery store, the ice cream parlor, amusement park, doctor’s waiting room, on TV ads, in Hollywood, wherever?

I’m certainly not the first to wonder about this, and lots of people smarter and older than me have written far more factual, well-written articles on the matter and suggested theories and analysed the issue and everything else.

Anyway, thinking about that, about our preconceived ideas about the different genders and how hard they are to separate from genuine scientific differences (I won’t state it as absolute, but I’m fairly certain that women do actually have a slightly different emotional balance to men, due to having different hormones and such.) lead me to thinking about the ideas of femininity and masculinity. I’ve never discussed it with a ‘true feminist’ or researched their opinions on the matter, but it seems that feminists are all about women (and, for that matter, men with masculinity) not having to conform to typical gender stereotypes to be considered feminine. By which I mean, they want women to be thought of as feminine even if they have short hair, never wear a skirt and detest the colour pink.

I agree wholeheartedly – seriously, the idea that all girls must love pink is so ridiculous that you’d hardly believe it if it weren’t such a common element of our society in regards to treatment of girls and boys. However…I do wonder, if we’re not going to stick to stereotypes, how exactly we will define femininity. Is it something that all women have automatically simply because they are, in fact, female? That doesn’t seem right to me. Looking feminine is a particular style, a broad one encompassing both pretty pink laced-trimmed shirtwaisters and slinky red velvet evening gowns that cling to a woman’s curves, and lots more in between. What it doesn’t include, however, is jeans and a flannel shirt and boots. That is not to say that women can’t look just as great in that outfit, but it shouldn’t be considered feminine. Surely we can agree on that?

Perhaps what we should be doing instead of saying that women should be considered feminine without conforming to stereotypes is suggesting that women should be considered beautiful and in general fantastic (both physically and mentally or spiritually)…without having to bear any stigma for not being feminine, if they choose not to be.

(For all I know this is what all the in-the-know feminists are actually suggesting, I wouldn’t know. As I mentioned, I’ve only recently begun investigating this on a deeper level than ‘Dude, women are epic, and so are guys.’)

So – being feminine should be like being retro or hipster or vintage or whatever other styles are popular right now. Something you can do if you want, all the time or just sometimes if you wish, in your own way, without being attacked for being too girly, or too butch, or too anything.

Freedom of expression, isn’t that what it’s all about? Let women wear what they want and if they want to conform to stereotypes, that’s cool, but if they don’t, that’s cool too.

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