Dress, Please: The Feminism of Femininity

1950s-pin-up-girlI am girly as fuck.

If you need clarification, since saying something is “as fuck” doesn’t actually fall on a measurable scale, that’s understandable. I enjoy traditionally female attributes and activities. Sewing is my jam, I’d always rather wear a dress, and my Texas sheet cake could win awards. My favorite songs are showtunes and Jane Austen is my fairy godmother. A romantic comedy doesn’t hit theaters, without me buying a ticket. I am girly as fuck.

I am also a feminist.

If your mind didn’t just explode, well done. You’re a rational human being! All too often, this juxtaposition makes people on both sides of the political spectrum itchy. How can you be a true feminist, if you enjoy traditional domesticity? You’re too pretty and happy to be a feminist! Where is your man-hating pant suit? Their faces scrunch up in painful frustration, like racoons touching an electrified garbage can, as if a feminine feminist is the ultimate conundrum. People who have nothing in common politically are united in one truth: my existence is impossible. I am no longer their favorite client or friend from high school, but a contrarian unicorn. I need to be fixed, I need to realize I am wrong.

Well, that’s a load of glittery unicorn vomit. Feminists are people and people are different. Surprise! How many times do I have to say this, world? You can’t pigeonhole people into tidy little boxes, because of the causes they support or interests they develop. I am a feminist who sews frilly, ruffled dresses all the time. I believe wholeheartedly in gender equality and baking cakes from scratch. From a feminist standpoint, I understand the impulse to eschew the traditional. For so long, we were told our place was in the kitchen, so why hop right back into it, once we’re free? Well, because I like to. Demonizing the traditionally feminine seems just as wrong as insisting we adhere to it. There is nothing inherently oppressive about traditionally gendered activities, because gender is a social construct. We labeled sewing as a “chick thing;” we determined men hate romantic storylines. Surely, we can now unlabel them?

I grew up in a house that challenged gender definitions at every turn. My dad, a man perfectly secure in his “masculinity,” cries at the drop of a hat. His favorite flick is Notting Hill and he taught me how to bake chocolate chip cookies. Meanwhile, my mother has never met a grill she didn’t love and rolls her eyes at sentimentality. She’s perfectly happy to leave the vacuuming to my dad and, instead, drink a good beer after work. And you know what? Our house never imploded.

If we removed societal constructs from activities, we’d be amazed by what people chose to do with their lives. How many boys were destined for Broadway, but are instead accountants? Things are finally changing, when it comes to women doing traditionally male activities, so why are we still demonizing the feminine? We praise women for becoming sports announcers, but give them the side-eye when they want to be stay-at-home moms. What the hell? At the end of the day, people shouldn’t be judged by their gender. Jimmy should be able to bake, if he wants to, and so should I.

gil-elvgren-pin-up-pin-up-girls-5444093-668-792Dresses are comfortable and I love them. I also love being paid the same amount as male doctors and not mopping my floors. I am a feminist and I am a woman, whatever that means. It doesn’t make me a bad feminist to curl my hair, or a good one to not care about it. I am not that simple and neither is the equality movement.

Strictly speaking, I’m not girly as fuck at all. I’m Grace as fuck.

– Grace

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66 thoughts on “Dress, Please: The Feminism of Femininity

  1. Grace, all I can think of to say is this. You rock and this world is a much brighter place because you are in it. BTW do you like Tupperware? 🙂

      • Hehe I thought you might. I’m a self professed Tupperholic. In fact, I just gave up being a Tupperware demonstrator recently, but my cupboards are crammed full of plasticware.

        • Not going to lie, I’m even more of a Pyrex hoarder. I have so, so much of it – vintage, new, tiny, gigantic. I probably need to stop buying it, but Professor McGregor and I definitely just put some on our registry…

          • OMG – I just bought two of the most gorgeous Pyrex baking dishes at a garage sale the other day – one is a really big baking dish that is blue and the other is a smaller square one that is brown. So lovely! I’ve used them both already!

      • Awesome that is great 🙂 I hope you make it, and have a great career, my fiance is a housewife, well homemaker, and she is old fashioned, so i will repect her wishes, a dress, and heels girl, and so smart, and caring, i know i glow about her 🙂

  2. Amen my dear! Preach it! I have never understood why its ok for me to put out fires as my job but I am a candy ass for creating a four course meal from scratch while doing the laundry and cleaning the house! Don’t even get me started on gender only advertising! (Mom’s mop, mom makes snacks for kids, moms know the perfect laundry detergent, mom wipes up the spill, only mom can wipe little babies butt etc.) so while all the lines are being drawn to define who I am supposed to be a person. I will be over here placing the lattice work on another fabulous home made apple pie!

    • Oh heavens, the advertising! It’s like single dads and stay-at-home dads don’t even exist! My father does the bulk of cleaning at my family home, but you’d never ever see a big burly guy on a Dawn commercial – it’s all tiny, smiling moms with shiny hair. Ridiculous. You’re not a candy ass for doing anything you love, much less things that need to be done and are helpful to your family!

      Also, please send me some of that pie. Oh please!

      • Exactly! One of the many reasons I started my blog! I was sick and tired of being ignored! I mean I am not the traditional stay at home dad, but on a firefighters schedule I am definetly home more than most! And kudos to your mom and dad for showing you that a marriage consists of shared responsibilities! Oh and before I forget, drop by my blog I will have some pie there waiting for you! 🙂

  3. Perfection. Sticking your nose up at women who want to stay home as mothers in actually enforcing gender stereotypes. By doing so you are inherently hating against something deemed “feminine”. Isn’t that what we’re fighting against? You go girl, keep wearing those dresses.

  4. 100% with you on this. Feminism isn’t about defeating or devaluing the feminine domain, but about giving it equal value to the masculine domain, and giving both sexes access to either one, and respecting those choices. I think, anyway. Good post.

  5. I would love to be a stay at home mom and have my boyfriend bring home the bacon!!! Whatever a woman desires or decides for herself, it IS feminism because we have choice.

  6. So. very. true. As a rom-com-watching, cake-baking, dress-sewing, capital-F Feminist (and snobbity snob snob snob), I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s amazing how often the side eye comes from alleged fellow feminists. Even outside of feminism, I think we’re kind of forced into a binary where certain people are associated with one pool of interests, and others are shoehorned into another. I like cerebral foreign films, but will also watch the shit out of a romantic comedy. This blows minds.

    I’ve written a small book, but you’ve struck a nerve. (I’m someone whose major life goals alternate between academia/trade economics and becoming Linda Fargo—the raised eyebrows are digging me an early grave.) Thanks for this.

    • Thank you so much for the amazing comment! That’s it exactly – we should be able to inhabit any sphere we want, not be profiled as one type of person over another. Screw the raised eyebrows!

  7. This is great, I totally relate, I always thought that I was conflicted for feeling like this, but now I realise that if Feminism restricts us and our behaviours rather than giving us greater choices, then what’s the point. A while ago, on another blog, a…let’s say…more traditional Feminist, said “Femininity is a set of behaviours that reinforces men’s superiority over women” WTF?!

    • That’s absolutely ridiculous! Femininity is not inherently oppressive, just as men are not automatically sexist. Society has pigeon-holed us all and it’s time for it to stop. Feminism is about giving us more choices, not replacing some in favor of others. Thank you for the great comment!

  8. Bravo! You’ve expertly expressed the sentiments I’ve felt for a long time. Excellent post! It’s so true. Boys should be able to bake cookies and so should we. If girls want to be mechanics that’s great, but there’s also nothing wrong with women choosing to be teachers. It doesn’t have to be something you do because you ARE a woman or DESPITE being a woman. Thanks so much for this. I really enjoyed it 🙂

    • Thank you so much for this comment! That’s precisely how I feel. We should all be able to make our own choices, without worrying about the connotations society assigns to them. Bake on, everyone.

  9. This is brilliant!
    I love the line “If we removed societal constructs from activities, we’d be amazed by what people chose to do with their lives”.
    So very true! We’re not going to gain equality until we remove gender constructs from everything and just let both men and women do whatever they want to do without being grouped or stereotyped for it. What you described is a paradox so many women face everyday. Amazing post!

    • Thank you so much! I’m so glad it struck a chord with you. Gender constructs make me see red everyday, so it’s so reassuring to know I’m not alone in this.

  10. I think I agreed with just about everything you said. I like wearing dresses and making cakes. And shoes. I love shoes. And the first present my fiance bought me was a warhammer. Only a LARP one unfortunely. I consider myself to be both feminine and a feminist.

  11. OMG!!! Thank you for this post!! I wrote something similar a few days ago about how people think I’m a “failure” for choosing to be a stay at home mom. I completely agree with you. I hate being judged for my CHOICES as a woman. I’m not saying that EVERYONE has to be a stay at home mom, but dear God don’t tell me I HAVE to be a business woman to be successful and modern.

    • Thank you! I’m so glad that this resonated with you! We fought for equality so we could have choices, not so we could tell each other what to choose. Judgment of choice should have no part in feminism or feminist theory.

      • Exactly! That’s what I always thought feminism WAS until people started criticising my decisions. If you are fighting for the right to choose, you have no right to limit my choices for your cause. Society is getting very hard to understand these days.

  12. Love the last statement! We are all individuals, when will people stop to try and make sense of others by labelling them?! Yes, I am German, but I also happen to have a sense of humour. Yes, I am female, but I kick ass changing a lightbulb, wallpapering a wall or parallel-parking a car. And yes, my husband is male but I adore that I don’t have to cook (much) because he loves doing it. Your family sounds awesome, no wonder you came out as great as you are.

    • Thank you so much, Sandra! You are precisely right. If we all just stopped with the labels, it would be so much easier to get along. I’ve never understood prescribing motivations and attributes to people, based on things they can’t control. People are more complicated than their vital statistics and always have been.

  13. FEMININE FEMINIST UNITE! So many of the girls in the women’s studies department at my university look down on femininity, I tell them they’re being misogynist. 🙂 Girl Power!

  14. I completely agree with everything you’ve said. The idea of feminism or being a feminist has been so twisted that, instead of perceiving feminism as a legitimate stance favouring political equality, the word is connoted with radical, wild women who have as much hate for men as they have hair under their arms (ie- a lot. I mean, we all know feminists never shave). I go to a university where I often have to defend my stance as a feminist and I too have been questioned about wearing dresses and enjoying domestic activities. It’s getting old.

    Thanks for the post!
    -The Mad Hattler

  15. It’s all about choice and not stereotypes. Yes to everything you’ve said in your post. Not long ago, I never thought of myself as a feminist. But a friend pointed out a lot of the things I believe in and lo and behold, I sorta think I am one. Didn’t think I was because I wasn’t the stereotypical feminist!

  16. I share the same POV. As I have written in my blog “It ain’t easy being a woman. But I won’t choose to be born any other way – ever.”

    P.S. Where and how do you get the photos you use in your posts? They’re awesome! Are they commissioned or copyrighted? Thanks!

    • Thank you! We try to use mostly vintage images, because they have passed the copyright limitation. So, it’s a lot of images that are from movies or were mass produced art. These, for example, are two Elvgren pin-ups from the 1940s.

  17. Pingback: Dress, Please: The Feminism of Femininity | no kidding

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