A note: In this article I used the terms “feminine” and “masculine.” I’m using these terms as blanket terminology for the Western ideas of what constitutes “femininity” and “masculinity.” I do so with the awareness that this doesn’t represent the ideals of all cultures and doesn’t represent many who choose to reject these binary ideas of gender norms.
There seems to be this image of what a feminist looks like. Go ahead. Picture the stereotype of a feminist…
I’m sure they have short hair, fuzzy armpits, perhaps they’re wearing plaid and weilding an axe, that they presumably use to remove penises from wayward men.
This image isn’t an accident. It’s used to divide us. To make people who present more feminine feel as though feminism isn’t right for them.
To be fair, a lot of second wave feminist did reject more rituals that were deemed ‘classically feminine’ like makeup, high heels and dresses and it’s not difficult to see why. These were seen as ways to repress women and put importance on looking presentable for the benefit of men. Many feminists rejected classically feminine traits and roles as a way to rally against the patriarchy.
Feminism is now in it’s fourth wave. The fourth wave is defined as feminists with the power of internet tools available to them and fourth wave feminism looks very different to their predecessors. Fourth wave feminism is more intersectional and inclusive of the LGBTQ2+ community as well as advocating for the rights & equlaity of black women and sex workers.
But sometimes it can still feel like our feminine traits are not celebrated as feminist. So how do we embrace our femininity, while still crushing the patriarchy?
Let Go of the Idea That Feminine Means ‘Lesser’
We tend to see feminine traits as ‘weaker’ or ‘lesser’ and masculine traits as ‘powerful’ and ‘worthy.’ This idea feeds back into the patriarchy by celebrating the masculine and denigrating the feminine. For example, if someone enjoys pink frilly dresses, loves putting on makeup and regularly bakes cookies, it’s easy to write that person off as unintelligent and weak.
We often see women rejecting classically feminine ideals to appear stronger. I, myself, thought it was better not to have pink business cards, otherwise I wouldn’t be taken seriously.
Villanizing femininity further strengthens the idea that only masculinity can be strong, intelligent, serious and powerful. Being able to embrace the feminine things you do enjoy shows the world that there is more than one way to embody strength.
Accept All Feminists Regardless of Physical Appearance
Feminism is about equality and a person’s right to choose how they represent themselves. That means that all feminists are valid, whether they choose to dress in hiking boots or 8 inch stilettos.
We’ve evolved to a place where how we dress does not define how we relate to the patriarchy. Wearing revealing clothing is not necessarily pandering to cis heterosexual men. We can find power in modesty and we can find power in wearing something that shows a bit more skin.
Making assumptions as to who a person is, based on their outward appearance rarely works out and it certainly doesn’t do anything to further our cause.
Hold On to Your Femininity
If you enjoy being feminine, then do it.
It’s important to know where the traditions of our femininity come from. Wearing heels and makeup are definitely steeped in outdated ideas of patriarchy, but as long as we have an understanding of our history, we can reclaim these traditions for ourselves. We can use them to feel more empowered, more in control and more ready to take on the systematic oppression in our day to day lives. Who says you can’t dismantle the patriarchy and look fabulous at the same time?
Notice when you seem to reject something just because it comes across as more feminine. Take note when you find yourself making judgments about people because they enjoy more traditionally feminine things. Start associating the feminine with boldness, strength and courage. Afterall, in a world that readily rejects all things feminine, those who embrace femininity are the most courageous of all.
Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive. There’s room at the table for all of us, no matter what we choose to do in our spare time or how we choose to express ourselves outwardly. Fashion and hobbies do not represent feminism. The constant fight for the equality of all people represents feminism. So bake your damn cookies, wear your damn dress and destroy outdated ideas surrounding gender norms.
ARTICLE BY Jennifer Doan
Jennifer Doan is a sex educator, coach and the host of the podcast Taking Back Slut. Jennifer is committed to helping people connect to their sexual power in a way that feels safe and comfortable to them. Connect with her on Instagram @jenn_doan for sex rants and unapologetic nudes.
PHOTO BY @BILLIEBODYBRAND