I am a man, and men don’t often get into feminism, I know. 🙂 I do have a very strong feminine component to my being. My femininity is very precious to me–precious enough to blog about; there is too much confusion on the subject to keep quiet.
I had a talk with someone recently about femininity, and the perception that feminine people are “weak.” One of the things that defines femininity is delicateness and subtlety, as opposed to brawn and brusqueness; in a conventional sense, this is looked upon as weak. But then, is strength measured only in physical terms?
There is this difference between “girly femininity” and “high femininity,” where girly femininity represents the innocence of a young girl, while “high femininity” is that kind of femininity that comes with experience: it says, “I’m definitely feminine, and because of that I am stronger, not weaker; I know how I work, I know what I want, and I am very in touch with my weak points, and most of all, I’m beautiful.”
Most media tend to play up “girly femininity”–that what makes somebody feminine is their fragility, innocence, and girlishness. The little girl as helpless sex symbol is fetishized, and women everywhere find themselves being pushed to compete with it: be weaker, be younger, act more innocent of the facts of life, hold yourself back, adapt, etc. Go back to that girly state that we loved so much about you before you grew up, got wise, and became a bitch (i.e., a full-grown woman with desires in her own right, whom you cannot just take for granted).
Feminism, among other things, pushes to reclaim femininity away from the little girl image. “High” femininity is indeed beautiful and has all kinds of elements of weakness and vulnerability woven into it. But these are combined with a strength that is much broader than physical force. It’s the strength that allows you to show weakness, a strength of soul. Strength as boldness, as independence, as an ability to bear and take on burdens and bitter truths that many are tempted to fight against taking up, or shut out with walls, or run from in the other direction. And, very importantly, the strength that allows a person to simply say no when the answer is no. Not a no with fear attached, or an aggressive no, or a no “that really means yes”–just “no.”
High femininity is inclusive: it does not tell somebody that they are not feminine if they are “too old,” “fat,” “dykish,” “strapping,” “muscular,” “ambitious,” or any of the other things that a girl “shouldn’t be.” Fetishized “girly femininity” is exclusive and dances with inflexible, macho concepts of masculinity, which are also fetishized and straitjacket men into narrow thinking patterns (see my personal account of that here).
I think that this “high” feminism is what the feminist blogs out there are aiming for. A womanhood that, rather than boxing women in, lets them be themselves. There’s nothing wrong with being girly, I find it fun sometimes myself! But exclusive femininity that leads solely back to women being docile little girls can go take a hike as far as I’m concerned. What do you say?