Disclaimer: Perspective is everything, so I recognize that my specific experiences that have shaped my view on this topic may not be relatable to others out there. Also, I am in no way an expert in any of these topics. The following is just a stream of consciousness about a topic that I’ve most likely discussed among my peers and close friends. So, consider this your disclaimer! On that note…let’s talk femininity! 😉
We live in a day and age where the concept of a spectrum is being applied to traditionally polar social constructs. For example: gender identity. Traditionally, the identifiers are boy or girl; male or female; and with that comes the traditional descriptions behind masculine and feminine.
I was raised in a fairly conservative/sheltered environment, so I am absolutely continuing to learn and understand the concept of identity on a spectrum. I agree with the quote that claims that you are a reflection of the company you keep, so it makes me feel a sense of comfort knowing I can explore these topics with people in my life without having to feel judged or shut down. So shout out to those that exist on the same wavelength of learning about and discussing these topics with me ❤
With that said, I’m about to delve into a few traditional concepts of femininity and how I’ve navigated or continue to navigate through them.
Feminine: having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.
The above definition is what comes up when the word “feminine” is Googled. I personally believe that femininity is on a spectrum and is not limited to adjectives such as “delicate” or “pretty.” I actually cringe at how limiting those descriptors are. No one ever fits into one adjective. People are intensely more complex than those two words. What makes an individual…well, an individual is a beautiful blend of a breadth of traits.
I spent years internally debating what defined me as a girl and now as a woman (LOL. Cue Britney Spears’ “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”). This may be the first time I’m ever writing about this subject, but the formulation of my femininity versus the patriarchal definition of femininity has been a reoccurring notion throughout my life. I just didn’t know it as a 9 year old questioning the rationale of a dress…go figure. In fact, I still have this debate with myself all the time and it always seems to be about the little things. Funnily enough, its these little things that end up mattering so much for some reason.
Here are three concepts that I’ve found to contribute in some fashion to the general idea of femininity and my thoughts on them:
I’m constantly questioning my need for eyeliner (or make up in general) at work because if I don’t I’m afraid that I’ll either look like a 10 year old boy or be barraged with comments pertaining to looking like I’m tired or “not myself.” Which if you think about it, what kind of messed up insecurity is that? Also, FYI to anyone that says those things to people, that’s #RUDE. LOL. I’ll have you know that I am for the most part an adequately-rested and/or well-caffeinated human being.
Anyways, I think what prompted me to write down these thoughts about femininity in the first place came from my reflection about my recent cabin trip with friends to Sequoia. A group of mostly guys and a handful of girls spending a weekend in a cabin in the middle of nature. No make up, no dress up, just pure comfy clothes all day. As we filed into the car, I remembering saying out loud how excited I was to not wear make up for a whole three days…and that externalization of my feelings about make up in that moment actually caught me off guard. It made me think of my dependence on beauty products to make me feel and look some type of way. But liberating myself from make up for at least a full 72 hours…was REFRESHING. My face could really breath. I remember looking in the mirror on Sunday morning, brushing my teeth and liking what I saw lol.
That’s something I’ve been working on for the past…I want to say, 2-3 years. Accepting my body as a whole for what it is….including my face. There was a point in my life where I never left the house without some sort of make up on. These days, I am slowly increasing the quality of make up I purchase and decreasing the amount of overall quantity of make up I use on a daily basis. I am also increasing the number of makeup-less days (mostly weekends. It’s a work-in-progress). Those past two sentences seriously sounds like the steps of breaking an addiction. And maybe I am. I mean, I’ve never really worn a lot of make up. I’m honestly just too lazy for all of it everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy the process of make up…It’s just so odd how a bit of concealer and powder can contribute to someone’s definition of femininity.
Oh, clothes. I didn’t know what fashion really was or even cared until I was forced into it when I started college. Remember when I said I grew up in a conservative/sheltered environment? A big chunk of that environment was going to private, Roman Catholic school from kindergarten through high school. This meant that I wore a school uniform from the age of 5 until about 17. It didn’t dawn on me that I needed to make clothing choices seven days a week until I started college.*insert shrugging emoji* Catholic school girl problems lol.
I always sensed a sort of pressure to be more girly than I personally felt I was…I can even say that some level of this pressure still exists for me to this day (but again, work-in-progress people). Outside of the uniforms, growing up I always found myself challenging the norm of what it meant to be “girly.” AKA I wasn’t a fan of dresses and dresses are the article of clothing traditionally associated with the idea of femininity. But to me, dresses didn’t seem practical. To the dismay of my poor mom, I specifically hated every dress I had to wear to my piano recitals. That forced smile in the picture below (left) just says it all…sorry mom. Lol. The crunchy, over-hair sprayed ‘do didn’t help my confidence either.
Going back to the spectrum thing. I felt like I’ve always existed in the middle somewhere. I definitely had a desire for toys that were traditionally marketed towards girls, but I also wondered why I never received those fake tool sets/belts as gifts for my birthday. I wanted to pretend to use a hammer and nails too! I also liked getting into the dirt outside, getting my nails dirty and digging for treasure because for a good while, I wanted to become an anthropologist and uncover fossils for a living (Don’t judge me).
It was only until college that I started to enjoy clothes and saw it as a tool to express myself. It was no longer something that helped define me as either a “girly girl” or a “tom boy.” I came to the realization that I could be all of the above! I rocked all kinds of accessories in college (including hair length feather earrings) and tried all kinds of combinations of clothes…obviously some I regret looking back at pictures now, but you live, you wait 5 years and then you laugh at it lol. College is also when I actually embraced dresses! I discovered how convenient they can actually be. Wearing dresses meant spending less time trying to coordinate multiple pieces of clothing together. Who knew dresses would save me so much time (peak fashion laziness achieved).
I’ve dabbled in a variety of hobbies growing up, but the only one that had longevity was piano lessons. I remember doing ballet as a little girl and always thinking I wasn’t “girly” (let alone graceful) enough for ballet slippers and the leotards. Not long after I started, I stopped going because I would cry every time.
In junior high, I went through this “tom boy” phase. Not a fan of that phrase, but that’s what my parents called it. Mind you, this was during the height of My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy and Paramore. Part of this phase was wanting to skateboard. My supportive parents (bless their hearts) even went as far as to bring me to the local skate shop to customize my very own skateboard. Then when it came to actually learning how to skateboard, it dawned on me how much I don’t like falling down. So…that was the end of that.
Another part of this phase was wanting to learn the drums. I wondered why I never saw a girl drummer in any of the bands I listened to, so I was determined to be the first one. Again, my supportive parents even got me a full drum set. They took me to lessons and I remembered enjoying it other than the fact that I was the only girl in class. But wasn’t that the point? I was supposed to be excited about that fact…but I let that intimidate me and I ended up quitting. Which is something I regret to this day.
I look back at these attempts to find what activities I was good at and realized that I let these weird constructs of what a “girl hobby” versus a “boy hobby” is dictate my life for a long time. Piano was the only extra curricular where I saw a good split between boys and girls, so that’s where I felt comfortable. When the activity I was participating in was on polarizing ends of the spectrum, I felt out of place. Interesting how that works…and how cool would it have been for me to be a ballet-dancing drummer extraordinaire!
I actually had a “world’s colliding” moment last year when I was in Joshua Tree for my cousin’s birthday. Part of the festivities included attending a music festival. It was there that I saw the Kolars, an indie alternative band from Los Angeles. One half of the band was a woman who sang and played the drums…WHILE tap dancing. Her individual definition of femininity was beaming through her grunge, quirk and grace. She is what I call GOALS my friends. That could’ve been me! Maybe…LOL.
Anyways, that concludes my mini-analysis of how the idea of femininity and my own personal definitions have developed over time. Thank you for indulging me. 🙂
Oh, and happy Women’s Equality Day! On this day, I am reminded that while I’ve had the privilege of making significant personal progress in regards to finding where I fit in this world as a woman, there are many women out there who still do not have that privilege. There are many women out there that live in parts of the world where the patriarchy is law and their voices are not heard. I can only hope that the other women out there that have the power and the privilege to make change, continue to bring other women up and expand this culture of supporting and liberating other women along the way. #GIRLGANG ❤