Femininity is the bandage society enjoins us to wear to hide the wound it has made of our womanhood. Woman is what I am. In my woman’s body I find my strength and the expression of my creativity, my sexuality, my dreams and desires. To be a woman is good. It is NORMAL. A woman is not a damaged man, or a lesser form of man, or a creature designed to take second place to man or be a slave to man. Indeed, if “man” supposedly means “human,” then a woman IS a “man.”
But this sick, crazy culture tells me that as a woman, I am somehow much less than that. A woman is less than human. My vagina is defined as dark and dirty, my vulva as smelly and messy. My sexuality is either too much or too little, and always to be controlled by men and their definitions and desires. My body is not my own, to do with as I please. It belongs to others, to the hands and eyes of others, who define, defame, deride and detain me. My body is not supposed to be a source of pride or strength for me. Instead, my body becomes an object, not only to others but also to me. It is an animal to be tamed and imprisoned, an artifact to be carved up and operated upon. I’m not allowed to feel my own body. Nor am I allowed to know my own mind. A woman has no self.
Femininity is what I am issued to replace my woman-self, which has been found dangerous to men and declared non-existent. Femininity tells me what I can like and not like. Femininity tells me what to eat and drink. Femininity tells me what work to do, and how to do it. Femininity tells me how to speak, how to look, how to stand, how to walk, even how to lie down and sleep. Femininity is a muzzle that restricts my food intake. Femininity is a set of handcuffs that restrains me from picking up a gun, or a hammer. Femininity is shackles for my feet, making sure I walk in bondage even when I seem to be free. Femininity is an abuser who crawls into every crack of my body and mind and stalks me mercilessly even in my dreams, even on my deathbed. I can never relax for a moment, because I must maintain my femininity, like a mask that has to be maintained over the hideous scar that, in the minds of the patriarchy, constitutes naked womanhood.
If I ever stop being feminine for a moment, I will be revealed as nothing but a woman, and that would be so horrible to the patriarchy that they would no longer be able to tolerate me. Femininity makes the world safe for men. It turns a free-striding goddess into a simpering slave. Through femininity, we are forced to bow to the protection racket of the patriarchy. We agree to our own diminishment, hoping that if we don’t defy them, they will pity us and let us live. We agree to divert them and be pleasing to them, hoping to buy some time. We know that time will eventually run out–old women are despised, no matter how many years they’ve spent being feminine–but we don’t know when, so we live in this uneasy pretense of security.
I say “we,” but I shouldn’t, because I both reject femininity and am excluded from it. Femininity is that which declares me, as a woman, NOT to be a woman. Femininity makes it impossible for me, as a woman, to buy “women’s” clothing or “women’s” shoes. Because, as defined by femininity, no woman could be the shape or size I am. Femininity is that which declares my woman’s arms to be “man arms” and my woman’s walk to be “walking like a man.”
Conundrum: Q: What is the only force in the world that can un-woman a woman?
If femininity pertained to being a woman, or was relevant to being a woman, then how could it be that a man could conform to its standards better than a woman? My conclusion: Femininity is the anti-womanhood.
Hedonistic Pleasureseeker, a blogger I highly admire, stayed up late to do a marvelous riff on the comments.I love what she's done with images to illustrate her response.
"What is femininity" is also an integral question in the work of artists Teresa Kupin and Esme Rodriguez at Two-Faces Studio.
And just as a reminder of why this question elicits such highly charged responses, we can visit Chasingmoksha where she posts the latest example of corporate wrangling of women into woman-hating norms of femininity in which pornified negligee-clad people of the female persuasion are paid to act out a sneering "war" between blondes and brunettes in order to sell hair-damaging chemicals. Femininity, indeed.