Mar 20 2007

Blamer Brain Trust Action Request

My homey Marcia — worthy artiste, rock star, former bandmate, and all-around good egg — needs your help to finish one of those esoteric art school projects. Here’s the official plea:

Hi everybody. I’m doing a project for my “Dress and Society” class, and I’m asking you to help me if you can. This time, I’m asking you to answer the question, “What is femininity?” There are no rules – your answer can be short, long, metaphorical, literal, poetic, sarcastic, whatever. I’ll cite your first name and city/state. If you’re not comfortable with that, give me an alias to use. If you’re interested in reading the final project, let me know and I’ll be happy to email it to you.

Thank you in advance!



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  1. ilyka

    Learned helplessness. Ilyka, NM

  2. Rainbow Girl

    I think femininity is something that can occur naturally in either males or females. I think of it as a word that encompasses a whole variety of traits such as patience, pleasantness, cooperation. Ideally, we would have words for masculinity and femininity that were not sex-specific, as those traits are not sex-specific any more than society dictates.

    It is unfortunate (no wait, hurricanes are unfortunate, stupidity is just outrageous) that masculinity and femininity have been polarized, and then categorized by sex, and then enforced by those who benefit.

  3. Rainbow Girl

    Oops forgot to put city: Calgary.

    State: Canada, “the 51st state” of the USA.

  4. thebewilderness

    Femininity, like masculinity, is what the patriarchy teaches us from our earliest days to prevent us noticing each others humanity.

  5. Fiona

    Femininity is pain.
    – Fiona, in Napier, New Zealand

  6. thebewilderness

    Rose, Gig Harbor WA

  7. Dr. Free-Ride

    Femininity is something that hardly seems worth the bother once you’re no longer sixteen and you’ve discovered you care more about who you really are than whether other people think you fit in.

    Ironically, if one has abandoned studied femininity relatively early, the universe will see fit to present you with a child who will wallow in femininity as if it were fingerpaint. I’m pretending not to notice it so much one way or another and hoping it will pass quickly.

    -Janet, San José, CA

  8. Adairdevil

    Short answer:
    Femininity is a boondoggle.

    Longer answer:
    Femininity is the barren tar strip (composed of ideas, images, fears, prejudices, aesthetics, and all-else) slicing right through the middle of a vast, infinitely varied landscape. They call it a road and tell biological not to step off of it (and biological males never ever to step onto it). Then, the steamroller comes.

    –Adair, Brooklyn

  9. Adairdevil

    I meant, “and tell biological females not to step off of it”. Sorry.

  10. justtesting

    Femininity is:

    a pack of lies that the world tells about women.

    jt from England

  11. Catherine Martell

    Femininity is a performance of weakness, helplessness and submission, a little like the mating dance of a bird of paradise, only in reverse.

    In its advanced stages, it becomes a condition similar to Stockholm syndrome. The feminine object becomes convinced that her (or, much more rarely, his) entire purpose consists in offering herself as a vassal and as a confection to other humans. The other humans in the equation are almost always men.

    In acute suffers, one may often observe that, the worse they are treated by their masculine masters, the more they love them.

    There is no known cure for femininity, though treatment with education, contraception and labour rights may relieve the symptoms in some cases.

    Catherine, London, UK.

  12. al

    Manifestation of contemporary decadence.

    And peacocks.

    -alyx, Perth, W.A. (Western Australia).

  13. Scurry

    IS this a perjorative-only femininity?

    For me femininity is a deep and powerful woman-ness that no amount of fashion can imitate.

    Scurry, Texas

  14. Sylvanite

    Femininity is the arbitrary designation of human traits deemed “weak”, such as compassion, sadness, and empathy, to the female half of the species. Like all psychological projections, it is done to place emotions deemed “unacceptable” to an external vessel to be hated without threatening the self. The strict gender-coding of fashion and behavior is meant to identify who is a veesel for these projections.

  15. Mar Iguana

    Feminity is a display of obedience to clearly signal the gray-matter challenged that a female is properly submissive.

  16. FemiMom

    Femininity is the power of birth.
    Femininity is strength that holds and perseveres.
    Femininity is sisterhood and honest friendship.
    Femininity is being a woman of one’s own definition.

    Diane, Novi, MI

  17. Nia

    “Femininity” is the set of qualities that a society considers the positive aspect of being a female, at a given historical moment. Femininity is explicitly defined. For example, the current Western definition of femininity doesn’t include being dependent and submissive, although it has done so in the past.

    What I would understand if someone here and now told me “be more feminine” I would understand “be cute, coy, sexy; dress fashionably, wear makeup; do not make any abrupt movements, talk mildly; be outwardly “soft”; look happy”.

    This is happening in Spain.

  18. Anna

    I feel so much less thoughtful than anyone else.

    Femininity is pink. It’s pretty lace and ribbons, it’s bows and pearls and diamonds.

    It’s tying things just so to make them fall in just such a way. It’s pretty. It’s feminine. It’s pink.

    I hate pink.

    – Anna, Perth, Western Australia.

  19. Pony

    Femininity is whatever some misogynistic gay fashion designer says it is, this season.

  20. Sylvanite

    Oops, I forgot to put that I’m in Philadelphia, PA.

  21. Ugly in Pink

    When I was thirteen in my social studies class, I was asked the same question, and blurted out “death” without thinking. I was attacked mercilessly for that view, but it has not changed. Femininity is shorthand for the pervasive (pink, sparkly) cloud that has colored my perception of the world almost since birth, whispering continuously in my ear: “you’re not supposed to be like this. You’re supposed to be different. You’re inadequate, you’re grossly flawed.” From the high school friends who jokingly called me an honorary man (and didn’t realize how much it hurt) to the music teacher who looked at my seven year old self pityingly and said I wasn’t really a girl if I didn’t want to wear skirts, femininity has always been, and always will be, an iron hand pressing down on my head, reminding me that who I am and how I was made is not, will never be, acceptable by society.

    Rachel, Boston

  22. the baboon

    Femininity represents half of the qualities applicable to objects and people, mostly the negative/weak/dark/duplicitous/nocturnal/horizontal/lower/leftward/soft/flexible/quiet/ cool/dirty/false/subordinate/cleft/cupulate/concave ones, existing in the dualistic worldview that popularly goes by the name “patriarchy”.

  23. Lucy Arin

    To me, femininity is POWER. The power to stand up, take ownership of the pink, and to not be afraid to be a strong, powerful, and yes, sexy woman. Essential femininity is about not being apologetic for who you are, the woman within that refuses to take a backseat to anyone simply because of her gender.
    Lucy, Ohio.

  24. GenderBlank

    Femininity is that set of actions which, if I hadn’t been improperly socialized to value myself as is, I would perform every day before leaving the house and all day long until I returned exhausted at the end of the day.

  25. Twisty

    Central to today’s fun’n’sassy Empowerful Woman narrative, femininity is that set of self-absorbed, self-defeating behaviors required of women by the dominant culture to ensure a ready-steady supply of submissive sexbot availability.

    Because there was never so hideous an abomination as a woman who can’t prove, through word, deed, and sportcorset, that she has successfully internalized the patriarchal message and is conversant in fulfilling male fantasy.

    Femininity is the antithesis of humanity.

  26. Hawise

    Femininity is the ability to use empathy to your benefit or detriment. It is the ability to throw yourself into the future with abandon and often with abandoning your self. Femininity is the good and bad of living in or as if in a female body and subject to its constraints. Femininity is living with the good and bad of how others view your choices in that living. It is overcoming the views of others.

    Cynthia, Montreal

  27. Nia

    I would like to make an addition to my first paragraph:

    dot dot dot in the past. This does not mean that a society does not demand of women many attributes and actions that are not part of the definition of femininity; femininity are only the actions and attributes considered explicitly positive and female. For example, nowadays obedience is not explicitly considered a positive trait, but it is more often than not demanded of women.

  28. yankee transplant

    Femininity is total subjugation to the patriarchal definition of what a woman should be: available for sex and mandatory breeding. Otherwise, you know, we’re bitches, dykes, or whores.

    Memphis, TN

  29. BubbasNightmare

    Femininity: an odd combination of weakness and strength, helplessness and empowered privilege.

    It runs the gamut from chestnuts like “the hand that rocks the cradle rocks the world” to the hopelessness of female Iraqi War soldiers and veterans to the mythological innocence of teenaged girls poring over the latest copy of Tiger Beat magazine to bedrooms decked out in pink pillows and posters of the latest idol.

    Mark, Minneapolis

  30. BubbasNightmare

    I’m a sucker for concise, elegantly precise answers that hit home hard.

    Twisty, yet once again, my hat’s off to you.

  31. Mar Iguana

    Sorry, forgot to mention I’m in Healdsburg, California.

  32. human

    Femininity is a bunch of bullshit.

    It’s having this argument with my father when he sees me sitting on the living room couch in shorts:

    Dad: You need to shave your legs!
    Me: (glaring) No! Mind your own business, Dad.
    Dad: Human, that’s /disgusting/! Go shave your legs!
    Me: NO. You’re not the one who gets to make decisions about my personal grooming.
    Dad: Well, /I/ don’t want to see all that hair on your legs.
    Me: (getting up from the couch and leaving the room)

    Fuck femininity.

  33. cypress

    Femininity is the strait jacket of patriarchy.
    cypress, Halfmoon Bay BC

  34. human

    Oh ya:

    Human, VA

  35. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    The manifestation of femininity is how other folks know it’s OK to treat a person as lesser-than.

  36. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Oops, I gorfot —

    Antoinette, Ohio

  37. Sylvanite

    I just noticed I typed “veesel” and not “vessel.” Stupid hands, type better!

  38. Jodie

    Femininity is a mask which hides our individuality and presents us as harmless instead of the powerful people we are.

    Some of us are so enraptured by the mask that it is stuck tight. Some of us are aware of the mask but use it as a blind before we stick the knife in the back. Some of us use it when we need it. Some of us hide behind it. Some of us have attempted to throw it away. But none of us have escaped it.

    Oklahoma City, OK

  39. Spinning Liz

    According to many unbiased observers, femininity is what happened to me when I was down for the count with stage IV cancer for eight months. I lost most of my muscle mass and became weak and helpless. I lost most of my body fat and became willowy and emaciated. My head hair fell out and the shortest wig I could find to replace my short greying spikes and keep my scalp warm was a soft, thick, curly, chestnut brown thing that made me look 15 years younger. I had no eyebrows or nose hairs. All my body hair fell off, a la total Brazilian. I lost all interest in sex. Because I was severely immunocompromised, I wasn’t allowed to work in the garden and my fingernails grew long for the first time ever. I grew wan and pale.

    And if I had a dollar for every idiot who told me I’d “never looked so beautiful and feminine in my entire life,” I’d be able to pay off all my medical expenses and have enough left over to spend the summer devouring wine and cheese and olives in the south of France. Well, either that or treat myself to a large latte. But still.

    So to sum it up: femininity = weak, willowy, hairless, helpless, sexless, dependent, useless. Lounging around on a fucking death bed all day. Lovely.

    -Liz in Louisiana

  40. julybirthday

    Femininity is a disguise that I wear, sometimes more willingly than others, that allows me to pass freely in this society, to get higher-paying jobs, to move unnoticed within certain groups, and to survive when I visit my mother in Houston.

    Libba, Austin TX

  41. hedonistic

    Femininity is everything men hate about themselves.

  42. Ann V

    Femininity is inhibition and control and it walks the earth checking to see if you’re dressed in female drag.

  43. Ann V

    oops, I’m Bellingham, WA

  44. Starfoxy

    Femininity is wasting time, money, and energy to prove how much you hate yourself.

  45. Bird

    Femininity is the box I keep trying to climb out of.

    Bridget, Edmonton, Canada

  46. TP

    Femininity is a male privilege, perhaps the most central privilege expected and demanded by men. Any assault on the fiction of femininity is rigorously attacked by even the most progressive man without hesitation or the slightest vestige of self doubt.

    Tony St. Louis

    PS Hi, Marcia! Heard you on the radio last night! Anyone who would like to hear Marcia’s rock star talents can stream the Suffragette City radio show of March 20 at KDHX.org

  47. hedonistic

    oops, I should have known better:

    Somewhere in NJ

  48. GenderBlank

    Count me among those forgetting to divulge top-secret locations.

    Upper Valley, NH

  49. Sara

    Femininity is the culturally defined yet individually rendered personal expression of willingness to submit. Its statement varies in degree from “I go along to get along” to “My highest goal is to be a cherished and coveted object and to have others who share my goal envy my success at achieving it.”

    Concord, MA

  50. Sara

    Oh, and under no circumstances is femininity to be confused with femaleness or womanhood. Femininity is the product of artifice. Femaleness and womanhood are biological determinations.

  51. LMYC

    Femininity IS sitting down to pee, lactating, and pushing humans out of your nether orifices.

    Femininity is SOLD as Stockholm Syndrome.

    Femininity for ME is a love of knives, mathematics, languages, cars, cats, knitting, and collectible knives. I’m a woman, so they are feminine hobbies. Period.

  52. magikmama

    Femininity is the drag that I must perform, so that like a gay man in most locales, I can pass as what my society deems a human being.

    A woman without her Feminine Costume passes from being a subspecies of human to something lesser than even the most reviled of people. On her shame and degradation, not to mention often bodily violence, will be heaped, and the existance of this torture will be invisible to all but those who share in her condition.

    Rape is the weapon used to feminize(tm)us, love is used to enslave us, children are used to distract us, our bodies are used to weaken us, our anger is used to paralyze us, even our faith is used to doubt us. A woman cannot be good or evil, she can only be feminine or unfeminine. Good and evil are things that only humans can be (remember the garden of eden?) and women are never truly human in the patriarchy.

    chicago, il

  53. cycles

    Femininity is a mythology that fetishizes artificial differences between two subsets of human beings.

    Two corollaries. One, humans are inadequately feminine in their natural state, so they must alter themselves in order to succeed as exemplars of their class. Two, when non-women exhibit human characteristics that the mythology has defined as feminine, they risk losing status as members of their class.

    One addendum. Humans use the implements of feminity to advance their personal goals. The degree to which they wield them, and their awareness of their nature as implements versus inherent characteristics, varies.

    Cycles, San Jose, CA

  54. Jessamyn

    I think femininity in our current time is vulnerability, kindness, empathy, sweetness, gentleness, softness, hospitality, grace, delicacy, elegance, deferring to others, calmness, cheerfulness at times, adapting moods to match the moods of others, showing some (but not too much) emotion, feeling sad about sad things, caring about aesthetics and the mood of a place, constructing an image and a feeling & listening to others. But it is also clean simple lines, pastel colors, bright colors, frilly clothes, bows, gloves, jewelry, china tea service, elegant furniture & strappy shoes. In sum, femininity defines things that are kinder and prettier than is necessary for utility. The standards of femininity are incredibly limiting when made to constrain personalities or actions or moods. But the world would be a less pleasant and a far less functional place if we lost our respect for femininity. It has been said many times, but I do hope that femininity and masculinity are soon separated from gender (both biological and adopted).
    Jessamyn, New York, NY

  55. ms_mutt

    I realized the meaning of femininity a few years ago when my mother asked to speak to me.

    “Madeline,” she told me, “I’m worried about you. You’re too strong and competent…men don’t like that. Men won’t ever like you, unless you learn to hold back and act vulnerable. No one wants to help Wonder Woman.”

    It’s a coerced performance in which women assume helplessness for other people’s benefit. For me, femininity is a visible sign that men and general society believe that women are things designed for their own consumption.

  56. ms_mutt

    Sorry, I forgot to add…

    Chapel Hill, NC

  57. 100 Words

    In a woman, it signifies confidence. In a man, it signifies a willingness to shun convention.

    Oh yes, it is also very attractive

  58. Come the Revolution

    Haven’t seen “Trappings” exhibition yet, but its PR made me think of IBTP and today’s post as well.


    And for my answer: Feminity is something that my mother does well, and which I have never excelled–except that brief hiatus into marriage. I have the pictures to prove it. Mom and I never got along better.


  59. Pony

    Pony is in Canada.

  60. brooke

    Femininity is a repeated set of learned behaviors, culturally specific but marketed as natural, and used to justify economic, social, political, cultural, and sexual dominance. It is the category through which women are intelligible (or not intelligible). It exceeds gender, as it serves to police racial, ethnic, sexual, and class identity as well. See, for example, Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” (1851) in which her blackness must reckon with her womanness.

    Long Beach, CA, USA

  61. greengirl

    My response to this question comes in the form of a poem that emerged angrily from my consciouness one liberating day:

    (before the time of power and self-loving)

    The fingers of age
    Perform a slow cakewalk
    Up and down her surface
    While the avaricious pater culture
    Having shaped and defined her life until now
    Withdraws the manufactured nourishment
    Of fickle praise
    For her fertile warmth and beauty
    And shifts its myopic adolescent gaze
    To younger versions of herself
    Beginning the cycle anew

    In the motions of her daily life
    To those who show an interest
    She relates selected exerpts
    From her book of knowledge
    And experiential wisdom
    Then endures the subtle pain
    Of quiet loathing and denial
    In the eyes of those who worship
    At the pedomorphic grotto
    Where she once offered sacrifice

    Meagre is her comfort in the sharing

    Winnipeg, Canada

  62. whyme63

    Femininity is prison.

    If you give in to the patriarchal repression, you are in prison. If you do not, you are a dangerous fugitive to be hunted down and forced into it.

    M. G., Wisconsin

  63. LouisaMayAlcott

    Femininity is the difference in behaviours and attitudes between human females and female mammals in the wild.

    i.e.: wild female minus human female = femininity

    LMA, Ontario, Canada

  64. Sandblaster

    Feminity is an endless list of chores.

  65. Sandblaster

    Kate in CO

  66. legallyblondeez

    Femininity, as opposed to femaleness, is a role all women are asked to play.

    When I was very young, I didn’t realize the role was meant for all women, because my mother rejected most of it before I was born.

    When I was 10, I decided the role was not for me, because femininity didn’t really fit in with playing major league baseball.

    When I was 16, I desperately wanted to try the part, but my mother wouldn’t let me put on the costume.

    When I was 19, I decided the role was evil and the best way to combat it was to reject it entirely. I was still living my life constrained by its contours, if only as an outsider.

    When I was 22, my psychologist suggested long-term counseling to deal with my “discomfort with my gender,” which she determined was the source of my depression. I told the psychologist that I was perfectly comfortable with myself, I just didn’t like what society had to say about my femininity, or lack thereof.

    When I was 24, I put on the costume of femininity and the manner of masculinity to get a job. It was quite successful.

    Now I am trying to live without reference to femininity. It is not actually possible. I accede to the demands of the role all too often, but on a rare day I can honestly say I didn’t do anything consciously in conformity or rebellion against femininity. I’ll work on the unconscious conformity next lifetime.

    Sara, Daly City, CA

  67. speedbudget

    Femininity is faking stupidity.

    Femininity is biting your tongue so you don’t upset the boat.

    Femininity is buying into the myth that having a man makes you complete.

    Speedbudget, MTown, DE

  68. smmo

    Femininity is an ingenious structure that coerces women into passivity, stupidity and weakness. Femininity is often women policing themselves. Femininity wants us to be small. I am big. Fuck femininity.

    Abigail, Seattle, WA

  69. Heart

    Femininity is tilting your head and smiling pretty, laughing at jokes that aren’t funny, pretending to be delighted over babies, human or animal, baby showers, wedding showers, weddings, hope chests, cheerleading when you’d rather play football, pretending the men you may encounter know more than you do about basketball, football, baseball, golf, changing tires, fixing cars, repairing computers, driving trucks, mowing the lawn, driving in the snow, or preparing the tax return. Femininity is letting men win. It is pretending you aren’t in physical pain when you are and that it doesn’t hurt when it does, and similarly, pretending that it does hurt when it doesn’t and that you are in physical pain when you aren’t, all depending on how an activity or event is gendered. Femininity is packing the food so the men and boys can go on a hunting trip and worrying about them until they get home. It is nursing your broken leg in the car so the rest of the family can finish their berry picking. It is allowing your children to determine the course of your cancer treatment, your retirement, your financial affairs and where you will live in your old age.

    Femininity is the thing that, when men do it, people call them names.

    Wauna, WA

  70. wiljago

    Femininity is a set of human characteristics, which are necessary to becoming a whole person, and which most men lack.

    oakland, ca

  71. Tracey

    Femininity is something that should be obsolte, already. It’s too damned hard to pronounce, anyway.

    (Columbus, Ohio)

  72. anuna

    Dear Twisty et alia,
    I’ve been a lurker here for some time, and this assignment inspired me to blame out loud for the first time. I love this place.

    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?
    A: Femininity.
    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.

    Anuna, Pennsylvania

  73. anuna

    I’m sorry about the funny characters! I know what caused that and will not do it again.

  74. FemiMom

    Mister Webster (a purveyor of patriarchy, I would say) defines feminity as having the characteristics of a woman. I would be cool with that, I like women & like being a woman.
    HOWEVER, Mister Webster lists these characteristics:
    you know, the usual shit.

    I Blaim the Patriarchy.

  75. Sylvanite

    anuna, that is brilliant.

  76. MM

    When I was a little tomboy about to become a woman, I sat and considered what was being asked of me: skirts and dresses didn’t go with my skinned knees and rubber-boot burned legs. High heels made it impossible to walk or do anything important (like searching for birds nests). My tongue was more acid than sweet and got me into lots of trouble. It was hopeless, and that made me sad, as if there was something wrong with me because I could not reconcile my experience of being female with what it meant to be feminine.

  77. smmo

    Anuna, you rock.

  78. J

    Femininity is the name Patriarchy gives to its own impotence.

    If you want to think about it psychoanalytically, femininity is the phallic body given to the always-already castrated phallus. When we call someone or something feminine, we are at once concealing and pointing out that which demonstrates a deeply troubling inconsistency in our life lived as fantasy. In other words, in naming the feminine, we are using the phallic signifier to try and hide the fact that it isn’t there. This is where Lacan is coming from when he says that “Woman does not exist.”

  79. Flamethorn

    Femininity, like centrifugal force, is an imaginary construct that is useful only in certain limited situations.

    Flamethorn; VA,US

  80. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    What smmo said!

  81. Eric in Quebec

    Femininity can be leveraged into all sorts of things. If the bearer is doing the leverage, this can be a good thing. It can be innate or chosen, constant or transient.

    Femininity needs reclaiming from white, male godbags pretending to be concerned women.

    Femininity can be frustrating or awesome, depending on the context and the particular facets of femininity in play.

    A little femininity is why some people can’t decide whether I’m gay or not, or even male or not in text media.

  82. greengirl

    Anuna, you nailed it!

  83. buggle

    Aruna, that was amazing. Made me tear up a bit. Damn woman!

  84. buggle

    I meant: Damn, woman! As in, you rule. Not like “damn you, you woman!”

  85. wiljago

    I would like to supplement my response. I apologize in advance for the length.

    Gentleness, delighting in decorating oneself, willingness to yield to others, nurturing, being affectionate, showing love, and all of the various and sundry characteristics associated with “femininity” are quite natural to humans, as they tend to be the characteristics associated with raising children. Noting that any anthropologist who claims to know precisely how humans lived in olden, “natural” times – as though we were no longer mammals which come from the natural world – is lying, let’s go ahead and say that, for whatever reason, women have traditionally been assigned the role of raising children. To steal a line from Ms. Steinem, it’s curious that men don’t tend to wonder how they can balance career and family.

    The reason that these integral parts of being a human in the company of other humans, these characteristics which enable us to get along with and look out for other humans, have been traditionally looked down upon, is merely because they have been associated with women. Is it not misogynistic to say that a thing is bad because it is associated with women? The accusation that feminists want to be men is a completely ridiculous one, of course, but I will tell you what the ugly, teeeeeeny-tiny, half-of-a-particle-of-truth it is based on is: jobs, characteristics, skill sets, and personalities which have been assigned to men for bizarre cultural reasons have been valued more highly than those assigned to women. Thus, some uneducated folks will look at the side of the feminist movement which advocates women’s access to male privileges, and will not even think that there would be a side to feminism which advocates men sharing the responsibilities of women.

    In this forum I shall assume that we can view that women have been enslaved without devoting quite a few more paragraphs to making a case for it. If you disagree, then bear with me for the time being, at least.

    Why do humans get enslaved? Because there is work that needs to be done that others do not want to do. The textiles industry not only historically has been reliant on slave labor, but still is, for instance. Women were enslaved because there was work that was needed to live, and have a society, that men did not want to do. Let us not devalue the work that these women have done for us, but demand that men contribute their fair share as well.

    What has women’s work been? Aside from producing textiles, women have been responsible for care-taking labor. Preparation of nurturing meals. Raising children. Calming husbands. You all know what other people think our job is already, I’m sure. Is an ability to do these things inherently bad? No. The problem lies in forcing human beings to be the caretakers of others. Imagine a world in which nurturing is a precious gift, and not a burden. Imagine a world in which men who have no nurturing capacity are seen as incomplete, as drooling half-wits who can’t function as adults.

    The fact is that women do need to continue to stand up for their right to be full humans, and to continue to state the fact that the privileges granted to white men tend to be human rights deserved by all. But embracing the half of the human puzzle which has been denied to us does not require that we shun and deny the other half.

    From the Daodejing:

    “He who knows the masculine but keeps to the feminine,
    Becomes the ravine of the world,
    Being the ravine of the world,
    He dwells in constant virtue,
    He returns to the state of the babe,”

    “The most yielding of things outruns the most unyielding.
    Having no substance, they enter into no-space.
    Hence I know the value of nonaction (wuwei). The instructiveness of
    silence, the value of nonaction – few in the world are up to this.”

    oakland, ca

  86. wiljago

    Laozi would’ve likely answered this post, incidentally, by stating that “Femininity is the Dao”.

    I swear I’ll stop now.

  87. mearl

    Femininity is different than being female. Femininity corralls strong things about a human being – such as empathy, care, understanding, sweetness, gentleness, openness, and connectedness – assigns them to one gender, and calls them BAD. Everything else about femininity is just drag.

    Femininity is an Iron Maiden that men are constantly stuffing perfectly healthy females into so that we can’t trash their quivering egos.

    Karen, Winnipeg, Canada

  88. LMYC

    I said it elsewhere, but it does belong here: femininity is the ability to step with two bare feet straight into a pile of dog shit, smile, take a deep breath, and say, “Wow! Just like roses!”

    Femininity is being forced to kid yourself until you can’t take it anymore. Then, you either end up on prozac or having a nervous breakdown.

  89. Frigga's Own

    Femininity is the shelter to which the stylist runs when you tell her you want a crew cut. “If we leave it like this, it will be softer, more feminine.”

    Femininity is the pink box. Some women and men will walk in willingly, and any woman who doesn’t will spend her life trying to escape.

    Femininity is appologizing to the world for your own existance. It’s pretending that you don’t have a right to take up space.

    Femininity is the mechanism by which the oppressed appease the oppressors. It’s the smile you put on to keep from being harrassed. It’s pretending to be harmless to avoid confrontation.

    Femininity is putting on a pair of high heeled shoes because your man finds them sexy. It is also having to endure a lecture from said man about how stupid women are for putting on high heeled shoes.

    Femininity is having to endure other people’s opinions on how you should look. The goal posts are mobile, those who enforce the rules will never allow you to win.

    Femininity is the greatest drag show on Earth. It’s all artifice and illusion.

    FO in Florida

  90. redwards

    Dr. Free-Ride:
    “Ironically, if one has abandoned studied femininity relatively early, the universe will see fit to present you with a child who will wallow in femininity as if it were fingerpaint. I’m pretending not to notice it so much one way or another and hoping it will pass quickly.”

    Thank you for reminding me I’m not the only one wrestling with this.
    As for femininity, it’s the bunkum I can’t be bothered with, because I value mightly those hours of sleep that would be lost for less than no good reason.

  91. Blamerella

    Femininity is freedom from want.

    I don’t get to eat what I want, say what I want, wear what I want, or fuck who I want.

    So fuck femininity.


    Phoenix, Arizona

  92. Joolya

    Femininity is:

    pleasant, pleasing, eager to please
    lighter than air
    always available
    tied with a bow
    soft as cornsilk
    the tinkling of silver bells
    coreographed, a minuet
    laced tightly
    strictly under control
    on display
    that which soothes and nurtures
    that which is performed
    that which rolls over on its back
    that which is quiet
    that which adorns
    gentle on the eyes
    ultimately unnecessary

    Julia, MA

  93. Antelope

    The most impressive thing about the persistence of femininity is that it makes no one happy. The women who put on the most consistent show of femininity are the same ones whose misery and rage lurks about 1 millimeter below the surface. They feel the need to police other women’s femininity because they can’t stand the thought of anyone being free.

    The women at least come across like they’ve got something inside that’s powerful and beautiful and takes a lot of effort to suppress. No matter what expression they wear on the outside, they seem like inside they must be gritting their teeth with the effort. The men who claim to be exclusively attracted to this type of woman come across as hollow shells.

    Vancouver, BC

  94. vera

    Femininity is a disease acquired from consuming patriarchal propaganda. In its early stage it convinces you to spend your allowance on nail polish. In its final, lethal stage it induces you to starve yourself till you are pencil-thin, and then pay thousands of dollars to have fake breasts inserted into your chest.

    Femininity is not large, loud, rude, old, or wrinkled. Femininity is petite, quiescent, polite, young, and smooth.

    People say that being feminine means being nurturing, compassionate, and kind. When people say these things about femininity, it’s often to excuse men for being cold, aggressive, and brutal.

    Vera, Palo Alto, California

  95. the first born fish

    Femininity is the jewelry box, lipstick, purfume, lace underware, and velvety tracksuit my mother gave me for Christmas when my brothers recieved books, DVDs, money, Old Spice, and trifold leather wallets.

    Acton, Massachusetts

  96. Octogalore

    Femininity is subjective. There’s no one-size-fits-all definition. For some, it’s a self-defeating prison where inmates adopt Stockholm-like patriarchal mantras. For others, it’s a tool to get out or stay out of that prison. And for another group, it’s not all bad or all good, just another way to live in whatever moment feels right at the time.

    Octo, USA

  97. katie

    Femininity is like water, and masculinity like salt. Both are everywhere, but can’t always be seen. They rarely appear in their purest forms, and most of us are just sweaty humans living somewhere between, within, or nebulously around the two. The cleverest of us won’t bother trying to ruin our flesh and our minds trying to emulate one idea or the other, knowing that we’re necessarily both, and neither. Have you ever seen a person trying to be water? Or salt? Ridiculous, no?

  98. Kayomi

    Lipstick. Stockings. Nurse. Mother. Home. Patent Leather Pumps. Botox. Manicure. Secretary. Cute. Sweet. Long Hair. Retail Clerk. Emotional. Thick Black Eyeliner. Slut. Teacher. Victim. Friend. Fuck Buddy. Cervical Cancer. Thin. Shy. Barbie. Pink. Bride. Victoria’s Secret. Giggle. Diet Coke. Virginia Slims. Sewing. Cleavage. Diamond Ring. Mary Kay. Object. Doll. Pet. Tight Jeans. Wonder Bra. Blush. Implants. Bitch. Prostitute. Hysterical. Agoraphobic. Sick. Me.

  99. Scratchy888

    Femininity is a female Christ on the cross, on whom is put all the sins of the world — especially the sins of religious folk.

  100. Alison

    stereotypes are stereotypes, and are only used to degrade the object of the stereotype. ‘feminine’ stereotypes (or any stereotypes) will also be reversed if it suits the speaker.

    my favorite example of reversed feminine stereotype:
    A female musician was accused of lack of emotion in her performance by a male coach. The reason he gave: women simply are not inclined to be emotional.

    So, be sure to include ‘unemotional’ in your definition of femininity.

  101. Sam

    “Feminity is a pile of shit”

  102. LMYC

    I think it’s interesting that all our complaints are based on the fact that femininity as it is promoted is a LIE. We hate being constrained to live in a LIE.

    when men hate femininity (as when they hate it in themselves), they hate what they think it really is, which is the lie. They buy into it, hook, line, and sinker.

  103. Andria

    A burden.

    Andria, Dallas TX

  104. Shiloruh

    Femininity kills.
    That’s what killed Anna Nicole Smith.

  105. Shiloruh

    oh my super secret location is:
    Sara, Albuquerque NM

  106. Sara

    I think I’m addicted to this thread. I have left it onscreen all day and kept hitting “reload” every time I’ve wandered by my computer just to see what fascinating, pedantic, provocative, lovely, humorous, or angry additions have been made. Thank you, everyone.

  107. phio gistic

    Femininity is whatever the dominant paradigm says it is at the moment. It’s pushed by the consumer-machine, the purpose of which is to make humans feel inadequate so that they will buy products and services.

    Currently in America, femininity includes:
    – removal of body hair on legs, arms, face, etc. (this is evolving to include pubic hair, a requirement fed by pornography)
    – wearing uncomfortable shoes that hobble movement and extend the calf
    – exposing as much skin as one can legally get away with, especially the abdomen, to signal availability, vulnerability, and subservience like a spaniel exposing its belly
    – Except at all times concealing nipples and constricting breasts with undergarments (never removing one’s shirt in public for any reason)
    – wearing products to color and cover the face, cheeks, lips, eyelids, eyelashes, finger- and toenails, etc
    – all manner of restrictions of movement such as the way of walking, running, speaking, carrying books, making eye contact
    – a refusal to age gracefully, including general self-hatred, plastic surgery on face, breasts, genitals, neck, arms, buttocks
    – restrictions on what academic or career fields may be chosen
    – restrictions on what toys to play with

    None of these things are, of course, in any way related to “nature”, that is, actual chromosomes or body parts. It’s all socially constructed, which is why some men can do it just as well as (or better than) most women can. See http://www.rupaul.com/weblog.shtml for an example. This is called “drag” when men do it, and can get them beaten up by other men. This is called “feminine” when women do it and not doing it can get them beaten up.

  108. mearl

    Sam: and a pile of shit has a thousand eyes.

  109. mearl

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  110. Mel

    I’m confused by what I’m seeing here. Femininity. What is it? It’s whatever I goddamn well say it is. I’ll make my own definitions. I don’t have to accept the patriarchy’s.

    Femininity is anything a woman does or is. If a woman has a cup of coffee, that’s femininity. If a woman mails a letter, that’s femininity. If a woman cries about injustices, that’s femininity. If a woman shares love, that’s femininity.

    Femininity is womanness. It’s the constant and yet ever-changing somethingness that women are.

    Melanie from Maine, USA

  111. kcb

    Femininity is the cheap, frilly door prize you get when you agree to pretend that you’re not fully human.

  112. kcb

    Duh —

    Casey, Austin, TX

  113. Val

    Femininity is without gender.

    It is soft, forgiving, welcoming, it is home. Femininity is power: the power to launch 1,000 ships, the power to defend a country. Femininity is strength, it is anxiety, it is generous.

    Femininity is my uncle Patty whom I haven’t seen in years, who looks better in a dress and heels than I do. Femininity is banding together for a common goal, with passion and determination.

    Femininity is fierce, it is hungry; it can be cruel, it may devour you. Femininity has no rules; it is long days in a hammock, it is a ten mile run up hill both ways, it is mint juleps under magnolia trees. Femininity is about perseverance, laughing in the face of everyone who ever told your physical condition would keep you from achieving your goals.

    Femininity is humanity, it is balance, it is in everything, too strong to be denied or ignored, and absolutely without a doubt within every person on this planet.

    Davis, CA

  114. edith

    Femininity is slavery, capitivity, and subjugation. Femininity is meaningless ritual. Femininity is a religion.

    San Francisco

  115. msxochitl

    “Femininity is the cheap, frilly door prize you get when you agree to pretend that you’re not fully human.”

    kcb, that’s it, exactly!

  116. Mildred Fierce

    Gosh, that’s not what John Gray says. And he’s a doctor!

    According to him, femininity (or “feminine radiance,” as he calls it) boils down to three distinct attributes: Self-assuredness, receptivity, and responsiveness.

    Self-assuredness, according to him, isn’t the same as confidence. “Confidence assumes that you can do what you set out to do, even if you have to do it all by yourself without any help.” Such hubris; can you imagine?! “Self-assuredness assumes that others are available and want to help and you don’t have to do it all by yourself… when the woman is self-assured, then the support comes her way.”

    Receptivity: “A receptive woman is able to receive what she gets and not resent getting less.” Expectations are a turn-off! “Her receptivity is her gift to him; he is grateful for the opportunity to know her (in the biblical sense?), connect with her, and bask in her radiance.”

    Responsiveness: “A man loves a woman with a smile… it is not so much what a woman does for a man that makes him happy, but the way she responds.”

    “As a woman learns to respond to men with each of these three attributes of femininity… she is able to be most attractive to men. Not only will a man find her more attractive, but by consciously making the choice to express herself in this manner, she will be happier as well.”

    And, you know, he’s right. He has quite competently distilled the patriarchy’s expectations of us (and was considerate enough to write it in a monosyllabic style even WE can understand.) As long as we keep ourselves helpless, spread-legged and prone to giggling fits, we’ll all get along just fine.

  117. Mildred Fierce

    Mill the Thrill, Corrales, NM.

  118. Mildred Fierce

    Mildred, Corrales, NM.

  119. kiki

    – Except at all times concealing nipples and constricting breasts with undergarments (never removing one’s shirt in public for any reason)

    Well, since we don’t crawl around on all fours displaying our bottoms for penetration and instead walk upright, we need to push our breasts into an upright buttocks display to get the attention of the male. ack.

    There have been some kick ass definitions.

    My very humble contribution is, Femininity is a set of inane distractions that divert our attention, drain our energy and squander our resources. Feminine is sacred but femininity is profane.

  120. kiki

    kiki NM

  121. kiki

    Hey! Two in a row from the Land of Entrapment.

  122. cassy

    Femininity is under-performing so the Men around you can shine.

    Anuna captured it.

    Charlotte, NC

  123. mearl

    “Femininity, in essence, is a romantic sentiment, a nostalgic tradition of imposed limitations…Invariably and necessarily, femininity is something that women had more of in the past…in the dewy cheek that is coarsened by age, in the ‘inherent nature’ that a woman seems to misplace so forgetfully whenever she steps out of bounds…clearly, biological femaleness is not enough.

    “Femininity always demands more. It must constantly reassure its audience by a willing demonstration of difference, even when one does not exist in nature, or it must seize and embrace a natural variation and compose a rhapsodic symphony upon the notes…To be insufficiently feminine is viewed as a failure in core sexual identity, or as a failure to care sufficiently about oneself, for a woman found waiting will be appraised (and will appraise herself) as mannish or neutered or simply unattractive, as men have defined these terms.

    “The world smiles favourably on the feminine woman: it extends little courtesies and minor privilege…one works at femininity by accepting restrictions, by limiting one’s sights, by choosing an indirect route, by scattering concentration and not giving one’s all as a man would to his own, certifiably masculine, interests. It does not require a great leap of imagination for a woman to understand the feminine principle as a grand collection of compromises, large and small, that she simply must make in order to render herself a successful woman. If she has difficulty in satisfying femininity’s demands, if its illusions go against her grain, or if she is criticized for her shortcomings and imperfections, the more she will see femininity as a desperate strategy of appeasement, a strategy she may not have the wish or the courage to abandon, for failure looms in either direction.

    “Femininity pleases men because it makes them appear more masculine by contrast; and, in truth, conferring an extra portion of unearned gender distinction on men, an unchallenged space in which to breathe freely and feel stronger, wiser, more competent, is femininity’s special gift. One could say that masculinity is often an effort to please women, but masculinity is known to please by displays of mastery and competence while femininity pleases by suggesting that these concerns, except in small matters, are beyond its intent. Whimsy, unpredictibility and patterns of thinking and behaviour that are dominated by emotion, such as tearful expressions of sentiment and fear, are thought to be feminine precisely because they lie outside the established route to success.

    “There is no reason to deny that indulgence in the art of feminine illusion can be reassuring to a woman, if she happens to be good at it…Is there anything destructive in this? Time and cost factors, a deflection of energy and an absorption in fakery spring quickly to mind, and they need to be balanced against the affirming advantage.

    “A powerful aesthetic that is built upon a recognition of powerlessness is a slippery subject to grapple with, for its contradictions are elusive, ephemeral and ultimately impressive…I offer this…as a step towards awareness, in the hope that one day the feminine ideal will no longer be used to perpetuate inequality between the sexes, and that exaggeration will not be required to rest secure in biological gender.”

    – from the prologue to Susan Brownmiller’s
    book entitled, “Femininity”

  124. Clio Bluestocking

    Femninity is a discipline of shaving, and make-up, and workouts, and hairstyles, taking up too much of my time.

    Feminity is softness, and kindness, and generosity, and beauty from the X-chromosome that is reviled in its natural form.

    Feminity is a tool of the trickster, the one disempowered who must pretend to be weak in order to survive.

    Feminity is a tool of the oppressor, the one in power who fears anyone who defies the oppressive “norm.”

  125. Miller

    Femininity is for bitches!

    Seattle, WA
    (Don’t you love it when society takes a blatantly anti-female slur and morphs it into an-all purpose insult used by all, even girls and women? Ah, youthful attempts at rebellion co-opted by The Man to fiercely defend the system founded on brutal injustice while the pawns’ submissive groupthink is rewarded with social approval: “coolness.” Goddamn tools!)

  126. meret

    Interesting to hear from Susan Brownmiller, mearl.

    Femininity is the state of being delicate, non-threatening and ultimately resentful.

  127. mearl

    My personal contribution is upthread, for any inquiring wiseacres.

  128. Brady Lord

    Femininity is eroticized submission. It is the embracing of the oppressor, through subconsiously reinforced behaviors. It is one of the most significant vestiges of popular female behavior and would have to be vanquished to push the patriarchy out of control. Something that I’m convinced, will never happen. We females have been bred like livestock to worship our oppression. Moooo, moooo, moooo!

  129. Anne

    Femininity is a social construction and varies historically, although similarities can be found among two or more cultures. Femininity is associated with females (sex being another construction) and in the US entails the enculturation of females to be everything a male is not or ought not to be. Femininity is a construct, but is taken by many as identity.

    Femininity is summed up thusly: Colored x-ray of woman’s foot in a high-heel shoe. Why the fuck would you wear this? Femininity.

    Anne, IN

  130. j

    I’m wondering whether the parenthetical comments on Miller’s comment at 9:11 pm are by Miller or by Twisty. I cannot tell.

    This is a wonderful thread.

  131. josquin

    Femininity is Yin energy mislabeled, appropriated and subverted by the Patriarchy for the purpose of confining, defining and refining naturally diverse womanhood.
    As for pink, dainty, frilly, flirty submissive glances, shaving, feigned weakness, high heels, exaggerated XX phenotype:
    all ruinous artifacts representative of neither Yin nor Yang.
    That stuff is just the shuffling yes-master survival technique adopted by slaves everywhere, throughout history.

    Northern California

  132. Emily Jane

    “What is femininity?”

    The reason I do things I’m far too smart to do. And, the hardest damn chains to break.

    Emily, Lincoln, NE

  133. al

    Hey, me again.

    Just stopping by to say I’m *loving* all the different answers, especially from anuna, LMYC, Hed, J and Kayomi.

    Strength or submission? We’re a diverse lot, but right now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. :-)

  134. edith

    Femininity is BDSM. Both are tools used to allow women to feel like they have choices about their pleasure and sexual expression. Lesbian sex is femininity. Oral sex is femininity. All sex is femininity. Having sex is femininity. Sex is a tool where at least one person must be objectified. If you have a preposition, you need an object. I had sex with her, to her, at her, in her, on her. Objectification is femininity. Whoever is the subject is masculine because the subject is not being objectified. And since in a typical two-some, one person’s inner dialogue will place her character as the subject, and the other person will see herself as the subject as WELL, we end up with two subjects, and two objects. So you see, there is no such thing as having non-objectification sex. And there’s no escaping being the object in sex, at least to the other person, and so there is no escaping the feminine role.

    This is just one example, the sex stuff. There are a bunch of others too. It’s important to think about, because femininity, while being, of course, lace and flowers and lipstick and “good hair days” and all else, it’s also the name given to the primary oppression of half the human population since some thousand years ago.

  135. Joanne

    Femininity is infantilising, fake, and generally a load of bullshit.

    -Joanne, Tianjin, China

  136. Miller

    Those comments are mine. I cannot take hearing another teen using “bitches” in place of good ol’ fashioned insults like: you fucked up piece of shit, goddamn fuck, worthless asshole, and the like. Call me traditional. Mind you, I’m still in my ’20s and I feel like there’s a chasm of a generation gap myself and someone even just 5 years younger than me. I’m in total shock at this whole “Isn’t violent hatred awesome?! Yeah, rape so rules!” era, yet if I say anything to combat this wave of extremism it’s taken as, “Geesh, kids today!” Apparently, I’m not “sophisticated” (read: dumb as shit) enough to “get it,” which strangely doesn’t seem to apply to that youthful (male) rebellion going on in Europe: radical Islam.
    Back to the thread: I am in complete agreement that femininity is purely behavioral, completely different from femaleness, which I consider to be the the biological expression of being female. However, even the latter has been used to demonize all females with the vulva and breasts proving to be the Great Evils. (Don’t you wish they were evil? Imagine the power! Let’s say you’re walking alone and a man attacks you, what do you do? Why, just point your breasts in his general direction and strike a Care-Bear-stare-type pose, releasing beams of estrogen-laced evil, and watch the mere mortal run and hide in absolute terror!)

  137. Laurelin Rain

    Femininity is submission to masculinity.
    It is the set of behaviours required by the powerful in the powerless, to prove that the powerless enjoy their submission.

    Laurelin, UK

  138. Claire

    Femininity is not a word I like very much because it makes me think of other people, usually women, telling me that I need to change — wear a skirt, buy perfume, use lipstick — to suit their idea of what feminine should be.

    Womanly is better word. It’s earthy and solid.

    Femininity is like pink tissue paper. It rips.

  139. Claire

    oops, I’m in Seoul.

  140. lawbitch

    Feminity is the role that women play before they howl under the cover of darkness. (TX)

  141. hattie

    Use as much black hair dye as possible to maintain your femininity. First sign of grey, bring out the dye. Not cover up, grey touch up stuff. Full on black dye job.

    My men friends say it makes me look terrific. I have never ever had this much attention paid to me before. I only wish I had started dyeing my hair to this lustrous black color earlier. I feel complete now.

  142. kcb

    It is the set of behaviours required by the powerful in the powerless, to prove that the powerless enjoy their submission.

    Word, Laurelin

  143. darlene

    Femininity is the ability to be strong despite the fact that I am small.
    It is the ability to do what no man can do – bear a child – while not being defined by that ability.
    It is appreciating those aspects of my character which so many people deem “weak” as a part of who I am, and a part of what makes me strong.
    It is the opportunity to surprise men with my physical and emotional strength, and so, teach them a lesson about women.
    It is the ability to be stubborn, perseverant and unwilling to fail…with class.

    Ottawa, ON

  144. Mar Iguana

    To wiljago for “Imagine a world in which men who have no nurturing capacity are seen as incomplete, as drooling half-wits who can’t function as adults.”

    And: greengirl’s “Awakening”

    And the other amazing Blamers above: HUZZA!!

  145. josquin

    I’m back to say how awesome this thread has become. (not “awesome” as in “hey, awesome, dude”, but actually awe-inspiring.
    I learn so much here. I am so grateful for the women and a coupla men (mostly TP, plus the odd MMM musings ) who open my mind and make me see things in a new way.
    I’m so gratified to find examples of young women’s shining intelligence as demonstrated by Miller’s smart exegesis of the bitch word.
    Anuna’s comments will stay with me for a long time. Honest, wise, heartrending in a way so many of us understand, courageous, and beautifully written.
    Thanks ever for the forum Twisty. You set a high standard.

  146. LL

    Femininity is living in a constant state of apology for daring to take up space, breathe air, make noise, consume food, have needs and talents and desires.

  147. Jane Awake

    Femininity is a performance. It involves displays of or movements toward smallness, meekness, childishness, accessibility, generosity, hairlessness, docility, domesticity, and submission, among other qualities and states.

    Femininity is goal created for women by the patriarchy. This goal is our inheritance, passed down by both men and women. In that we are defined by our relationship with it, it limits and confines us. Femininity is also defined by what is not-feminine, like displays of strength, noise and anger.

    Ideas about what is feminine change with time, however they are always linked to sexual attractiveness. The more feminine a woman is considered to be, the more sexually attractive she is according to patriarchal standards. After a consideration of the qualities and behaviors that make up “femininity,” it is clear that they are linked to sexual attractiveness because they makes a woman easier to dominate, literally easier to mount.

    Every person has behaviors that could be described as feminine, although they are not always described that way. There is a code within patriarchy that strongly discourages heterosexual men from describing their own, or another man’s, shyness, childishness and domesticity, for example, from being described as feminine. The reason for this is that describing the qualities as feminine would imply that the man is, to put it one way, good for mounting, and that makes most patriarchs uncomfortable.

    Within patriarchy, men must define themselves as not-women and not-feminine in order to define themselves as dominant.

  148. Jane Awake

    Oh and femininity is rephrasing one’s legitimate needs, desires or demands as questions.

  149. KC

    This is also my first time commenting, but not my first time blaming out loud, and it probably won’t be anywhere near as amazing as Anuna’s comment was, but here I go anyway.

    Femininity is fear. It’s the feeling of terror I get when I realize that something about how I look is not quite right. It’s what makes me dye my hair every couple months, get my eyebrows waxed, get manicures, wear lipstick, “cute” underwear, clothes that are often uncomfortable and clingy. It’s why I worry when I wake up in my boyfriend’s bed and my hair is a mess, and when anyone sees me without at least foundation on. It’s why I have way too many pairs of uncomfortable shoes un my closet, and why I nearly fall over in the shower some times trying to shave my legs. It’s why I used to burn myself and make myself throw up. It’s why I once stopped eating for so long that I got sick when I took my medicine and threw up only stomach acid and bits of the mucus that lines my stomach. It’s why I wake up at least an hour and a half before classes to get ready, and why some days I change my shirt many many times before I’ll leave. It’s stupid. It’s the wall that I run into all the time, since I know that so many of the things I do are totally reddiculous. I run into that wall hard and often, asking myself why I do some things, it’s why I fall asleep some nights trying to figure out if I’m a hypocrite for playing along out of habit and fear when I know I shouldn’t have to. It’s why my roomate plucks her eyebrows so thin she winds up having to fill them in with eyeliner pencil, and why one of my best friends wears super low cut shirts on exam days in her computer science classes (so the boys in the class, which is just about every one in the class except her, will get distracted). It’s why I’ve spent so much of my life being told that I shouldn’t leave the house without “looking nice” and why my father was so proud when I got sick of the constant stream of hoodies started wearing “more feminine” clothes. It’s why my father always tells me that I’m “too agressive” with people, and why I get called a bitch so much.

    Femininity is guilt when you’re happy being you for yourself and noone else. It is jealousy of women who either play the game better than you do – without any knowledge that they’re doing so – or who have the courage to actually not play the game. It’s being consumed by what you’re “supposed” to do. It’s becoming an object. It’s putting on a mask and sometimes forgetting who you are when you take it off.

    KC, Cleveland OH

  150. Artemis

    Femininity was the thing in my mother and sister that so horrified me as a young girl that I declined the gift of a female horse (from a family friend) because I assumed it would be weak.

    None of the trappings of being a socially-standardized female came naturally to me. As a young girl I observed all of that from the outside, fully disgusted at the simpering, fawning, helpless, mindless objects and servants that girls and women molded themselves and each other into.

    But the pressure to accept femininity as natural, normal, and right is both subtle and openly violent, virulently shaming, and unrelenting. Even for me, so aware of the artifice, so uninterested in making men and boys happy, there were still times as a teenager that I gave in to my mother’s exhortations to wear the trappings.

    It occurred to me in a flash one day – what she was asking me to do was just like my acting classes.

    So I’ve taken on the role and the costume when I thought I had to, very rarely, and the minimal amount I thought I could get away with, but still, there it is. Though still uninterested in what men think of me as a woman, or what certain women think of me as a woman, there have been times when it was just easier to pass as a socially-standardized female.

    To be feminine is to play a role. Femininity is something we wear and something we act out to get what we want or to get someone off our backs, to pass by unnoticed, or to make someone else happy that we have conformed and know our place.

    Ames, Colorado

  151. pisaqauri

    Femininity is telling me there are better uses for doilies than wiping my ass of patriarchal shit. Femininity, however, has still not revealed such better uses.
    Atlanta, Georgia

  152. KMTberry

    Femininity is a series of visual and social signals that women and girls are trained to give, in order to make male human beings aware that they, (the women and girls) are sufficiently submissive.

    The males are usually too stupid and brainwashed themselves to even KNOW they are responding to coded signals; instead, they find the females who are displaying Femininity to be “pretty” or “attractive”. The Signals cloud the preception of the males. They are not actually aware of whether the Feminine object is pretty or not. It is enough that she has painted her face, removed her body hair, grown out long fingernails that are decorated, and put on uncomfortable clothing that restricts her autonomy.

    In different cultures at different times, the signals of Femininity are different. At one time it may be bound feet, at another a tiny moustache. It does not matter of what the signals are comprised: all that matters as that the signals be considered “feminine” by that culture at that time.

  153. zofia

    Femininity is disease and disfigurement masquerading as health and beauty.

    Zofia, Cambridge, MA

  154. LMYC

    KMTberry, you are SPOT ON. High heels aern’t sexy to men because of what they look like. That shit’s always been arbitrary. They look at a woman and think, “There goes one who is willing to cripple and inconvenience herself for ME! Sexay!” It means he can get that one to knuckle under, and that’s all it means.

    That’s why I have to go o_O when I hear some empowerful chick talk about how high heels are empowering and feminist and Girl Powah and all that crap. Yeah honey, you can tell yourself your stilettos are empowering, you can pretend all you want — but that man you’re with thinks you’re sexy because of the lengths you’ll go to to knuckle under to him. Youc an kid yourself all you want, but that’s what he’s thinking, 100% lead-pipe cinch. Stick your fingers in your ears and go la-la-la all you want, but that’s what it boils down to.

  155. Q Grrl

    Femininity is everything that makes my skin crawl, from behavior to clothes. Anything that compromises the natural and unfettered movement of my body and mind.

    Sue, Durham, NC

  156. LMYC

    Here’s another one: femininity is what tells me that I have to layer paint on my face, soak my hair in bleach, pinch myself in half, rip out my pubes, and wear 4″ heeled shoes that distort my feet in order to look like what women look like “naturally.”

  157. Hattie

    Femininity is something that doesn’t mean a hell of a lot when you get to be my age.
    Hilo, Hawaii

  158. J

    I think that, running contrary to a popular sentiment around here, there is a way of conceiving of otherwise-identified feminine practices as empowering. It is a difficult idea to navigate, but we should consider what LMYC suggests about wearing high-heels:

    High heels aern’t sexy to men because of what they look like. That shit’s always been arbitrary. They look at a woman and think, “There goes one who is willing to cripple and inconvenience herself for ME! Sexay!” It means he can get that one to knuckle under, and that’s all it means.

    What this means is that high heels don’t mean anything. So, wearing them really doesn’t mean anything either, to the one wearing them or to those who are aware of someone wearing them. This is not as simple as it seems, because there is a troublesome, two-fold inscription of patriarchy at work in, say, a woman wearing high-heels that is not easy to erase.

    First of all, the woman probably comes to wearing high heels with the thought in mind that it will make her attractive. We spent enough time in another thread to understand the pit-falls of attractiveness, but this spell is easy enough; some women just might actually find them comfortable, or otherwise enjoy the shoes in themselves.

    Secondly, and this is the much harder inscription to erase, the woman who wears high-heels is probably going to be received as attractive, with all the sub-texts that LMYC pointed out. She can either rebuff this reception, or she can take it in. If she re-buffs it, she may be treated awkwardly or plain badly, but if she takes in, accepts the Other’s approval of her performance, whether she set out for such approval or not, then wearing the high-heels serves the patriarchy.

    A woman can, in theory, wear high-heels or do or say anything for herself, however absurd that may seem to us, and rebuff any attitudes from others that make it seem like she’s doing it for them. This is femininity as empowerment, not because it wins her a better place in society, since she may treated awkwardly or badly, even harmed or killed, for ignoring the desire of the Other. It is empowering strictly in the sense that it is authentic; it is what she really wants, whether it is liked or disliked.

    I think Twisty’s entry on Attractiveness is precisely expressing this sentiment, except that for Twisty otherwise feminine-identified practices seem to not be her thing. This obviously has to do with more than femininity and what women can or cannot do. It has to do with all of us acting for ourselves, and not for the sake of patriarchy, which doesn’t simply mean acting contrary to patriarchy’s mandates, but acting truly apart from patriarchy. I think this is Hélène Cixous’ point in developing a écriture féminine, or “feminine writing.”

  159. sloopin

    A dress and heels; trying to do whatever you can to please men.

  160. J

    I hate to write too much, but I think I should have expanded it more or face confusion:

    “What this means is that high heels don’t mean anything. So, wearing them really doesn’t mean anything either, to the one wearing them or to those who are aware of someone wearing them. This is not as simple as it seems, because there is a troublesome, two-fold inscription of patriarchy at work in, say, a woman wearing high-heels that is not easy to erase”

    When I say wearing the high-heels doesn’t mean anything, I mean that there is no intrinsic meaning to wearing them that is identifiable by wearer and those looking at her. Obviously it means something, or many things, to all involved, but not by virtue of the concrete fact of someone wearing silly shoes. If the meaning of wearing heels was in the concrete fact of doing it, then men really would find the sight of women in high heels pleasing for the pure look of it. Many of them find them appealing, but not because they necessarily look good, but because of what they signal about the woman accepting her sub-ordinate role. So, what that means is wearing high-heels is meaningful, but this sub-ordinating or attractive meaning exists only by virtue of a kind of patriarchal semiotic code.

  161. LMYC

    It is
    empowering strictly in the sense that it is authentic; it is what
    she really wants, whether it is liked or disliked.

    Uh, okay. So it’s like The Onion said: Everything a woman does is empowering simply because a woman does it. We all live in a constant state of empowerment because we can choose apple versus cranberry granola bars. If I choose blue gel versus paste toothpaste, that’s empowering.


    And you need to go back and reread Twisty’s entries on this. Her conclusion (although I know damned well she’ll speak for herself on this, I might as well reply since it was my words you pulled out) is that this shit has nothing at all to do with empowerment, and wearing bullshit shoes and then ideologically jerrymandering them into feminism is a crock. You wear them to get along, you wear them because you want to, you wear them becaose of whatever. But they are not a feminist choice. They are women drawing the lines where they feel they must in order to make it in the world. And I distinctly remember her addressing something along the lines of “but how can I make my bikini and corset a politically neutral statement of personal preference?” Her reply, and it was a brilliant one was: “Surprise! You can’t.”

  162. Calabama

    The evil of femininity hit home for me on my older daughter’s second day of kindergarten.
    Up to then, she’d spent most of her time grubbing around in the stream and on the mountain behind our cabin, usually naked, or she’d toss on whatever duds were at hand when it was cold or we had to drive down to town.

    She had a great time on her first day of school. But the next morning, she pushed away the jeans I handed her and said in a pitying tone, “I ONLY wear DRESSES now, mommy.”

    Like a lot of poisons, femininity worked fast: It took just one day to squish an explorer into a display object — but she spent years recovering.

    I’m an atheist, but to me, femininity is the Original Sin.

  163. Calabama


    Calabama = Rural northern California.

  164. J


    Your response is the patriarchal response par excellance, because in saying that women cannot chose for themselves, even seemingly absurd choices like wearing heels or pink dresses, without it being an expression of patriarchy, you mean that there can be no choice for women.

    I understand what Twisty means when she says that women’s choices are really men’s choices. I think that where you think I’m trying to say that isn’t so. I’m not. What I am saying is that if we want talk about something other than patriarchy, we have to be able to concieve of women (and men) doing things for something other than patriarchy.

    This does not mean that everything that women do is already empowering. Practically everything that women do is done for the patriarchy, not because this is intrinsic to, say, cleaning up the house or wearing lip-stick, that is patriarchal, but because that is the only meaning these things are allowed to have in our patriarchal society. If we refuse that these things can be thought of in a non-patriarchal fashion, that anything women do now can be thought of as not patriarchy, then we refuse that there is anything possible but patriarchy.

    I hate to make it seem so simple, but it’s not what women do that makes it patriarchal, but why. If you think that there is simply no way you could justify wearing heels besides patriarchy, that’s finel don’t do it. If you think that it is impossible for women (or men) to wear heels, or do anything, without justifying it with patriarchy, then you are only enforcing patriarchy.

  165. J

    “And I distinctly remember her addressing something along the lines of ‘but how can I make my bikini and corset a politically neutral statement of personal preference?’ Her reply, and it was a brilliant one was: ‘Surprise! You can’t.'”

    Of course you can’t appeal to patriarchy except by speaking in, speaking as one of its terms. The mistake in wearing the bikini as a politically neutral statement is that to state anything politically, at this time anyway, you must state it patriarchally. This is not the same as saying that wearing a bikini or corset is intrinsically patriarchal, because the thought that anything is intrically patriarchal is itself patriarchal hubris.

  166. Kyso K

    You should totally ask this question again at different types of sites – like an anti-feminist blog or a more mainstream women’s blog and compare the types of answers you get. Or if that’s not in the scope of your project, you should totally suggest it to someone else in need of a project.

  167. Calabama


    I don’t see that LMYC is implying that women can’t choose for themselves at all. While of course an object has no intrinsic political significance, that object used as a tool of oppression acquires over the years a pervasive and noxious resonance.

    We can talk about reclaiming such objects for our “empowerment” or “enjoyment,” much as we may reclaim insulting terms used to denigrate us as women, but I think reality intrudes a bit here. In our culture, high heels are indelible code for all the crippling effects of the patriarchy, and men read this code and enjoy it avidly as such (however unconsciously) whether the damn shoes are worn in lockstep subjection or independence or irony or whatever.

    No, I’m not blaming the women who wear the, and I’m not recommending we retreat into our burkas because the dudes can’t stop slavering at the sight of female flesh. And, yeah, we need to imagine new meanings for all the stuff patriarchy has poisoned. But if a well is tainted, you dig a new one. And I can’t see much intrinisic value in a shoe designed to hinder ambulation.

    LMYC, not trying to put words in your mouth; just sayin’.

  168. anuna

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m so grateful to those of you who found some value in my words. I know I did in all of yours. What a wealth of insight and companionship is here! I’ve been wanting to say just that, which seems simple enough, but found myself strangely unable to just sign on and type.

    When I open my mouth and someone actually listens, I just get scared. I think I should quickly hide and not say anything ever again, or they’ll find out that I’m really quite stupid! I’m told that when I was a little girl, I had no trouble speaking my mind. In fact, I can remember yelling furiously at my father after he’d spanked me, “That didn’t hurt, and you can’t make me say I’m sorry!” Yet somehow, in the intervening years, I learned to keep my thoughts to myself, out of fear. You are so right, KC–“femininity is fear.” I feel like crying right now because I’m so mad that at my age, I’ve still done this to myself.

    I blame the patriarchy! I don’t want any more loud-mouthed little girls to learn to be quiet. And that’s why I don’t like famininity. I want truth and freedom. After we get those things, if someone still wants to wear heels and bikinis, more power to him or her. But not until it’s their own truth, chosen in freedom.

  169. anuna

    Oops, that was supposed to be “femininity,” dagnabbit.

  170. Calabama

    Mortified by two spelling errors above — but when I tried to edit it, WordPress didn’t recognize me.

    Thus: “I’m not blaming the women who wear THEM,” and of course, “intrinsic” doesn’t have that extra i in the middle.

  171. Mollie

    Femininity is constant worry.

  172. TP

    J is going off in a very thought provoking way and I dig it.

    It’s not patriarchal hubris to acknowledge that the male gaze ruins everything it touches by interpreting everything through privilege. But I like the idea of liberating yourself from the tyranny of oppression by refusing to acknowledge it. This is just the kind of wishful thinking I’m a sucker for.

    In practice, though, I have found that reinventing things is more satisfying than reinterpreting them as I would wish they were. So I’m more about avoiding the signs of sexual submission whenever possible.

    High heels for example, are not always sexay. Sometimes they can be far more neutral, and that goes a lot farther towards eliminating the patriarchal mandate that they be worn to arouse male lust than simply strapping on something sexy and then walking around declaring yourself free of patriarchal pressures.

    Cowboy boots have high heels.

  173. Niki

    Kyso K, barring all of the ‘totally’s, everyone here knows what ‘anti-feminists’ think of feminism. That’s why we’re here, so we can discuss feminism without some choad putting in his 2 cent stereotype.

  174. J


    I understand your point, that rejecting the patriarchal meaning of certain kinds of practices is difficult, but at the heart of rejecting patriarchy at all is this difficulty. I think there is much potential in rejecting patriarchy in those practices it designates as feminine, but it isn’t as simple as changing your own attitude. It is sub-verting the patriarchal meaning of the practice as such.

    By refusing any practices as re-claimable, we validate patriarchy’s claim to those things. A woman should be able to walk to the grocery store on a hot summer day in a bikini without being viewed as a sex=thing. This is the difficulty of over-throwing patriarchy. I think Twisty has said something to the effect of: in a truly post-patriarchal society, prostitution would not exist, not because we’ve banned it, made it off-limits, but because no one wants to buy or sell sex. It’s the fact that it isn’t banned that’s crucial to my point: women should be able to do ANYTHING, including so-called feminine things, they want without being treated or viewed as feminine.

    Like I said in my first response to LMYC, it’s a two-fold inscription we’re dealing with: first, the women who do things (to themselve) are inscribing patriarchy when they look for approval, or at the bare-minimum not to get hurt; and secondly, the things that people see women (and men) do are viewed in patriarchy’s terms. Erasing these inscriptions does not mean erasing the practice. That’s the truly revolutionary, subversive stance.

  175. Monika

    I do not really know what femininity is (I find it easier to be in denial about the impact of such notions on my life; and I am generally confused). Most of the time I remember it as a reason for not/doing things given by someone else – I cannot cut your hair too short (said my hairdresser); femininity is maybe me not complainig and letting him leave it long; it is maybe smiling when the guy in the meeting says I look cute (and then I imagine how he would feel if I said that to him); my friend K called me feminine because I blush and giggle and knit and sew and bake cakes and really like children and I worry a lot about my friends (apparently that’s feminine too); and being shy; feminine is not, so I am told in a way that means ‘that’s a bad thing’ (or ‘you could be so pretty if you tried’) shaving your head, growing your body hair; swearing, going out for a drink by yourself; fixing your own house/computer/…; walking on the street side of the pavement(!); refusing to make the coffee for meetings; refusing to take the notes at meetings; not getting a tan in the summer (my boss told me to go to a studio so I would fit the image of the company); liking action movies; and maybe even more than that arguing. arguing loudly. arguing loudly with older men…

  176. Monika

    and another one forgot her place; Aberdeen, UK

  177. ChapstickAddict

    I’m a little late to the party, but since there were no rules for our definitions of femininity, I decided to paste together a quick collage.

    Here it is.

    Femininity is that little voice that nags at me for showing unshaven legs in public. Femininity is the doctor that think it’s a compliment to address my “good looks” during an exam where I’m partially nude. Femininity is the toolkit designed in bright pink.

    Femininity is a dumb fantasy perpetuated by the patriarchy to keep women and others who fail to meet dudely standards in their place.

    (Mary, in Massachusetts)

  178. RadFemHedonist

    Femininity is a crime against women, it’s feeling like you can’t make masturbation jokes (and share enthusiasm) with the boys in your class, it’s the notion that it is somehow rational to starve yourself or replace bits of your own sensation filled flesh with plastic, it’s a part of the notion of hierarchy.

  179. j

    Miller, I completely agree with you about the use of the words “bitch,” “whore,” and “rape” in supposedly transgressive and humorous contexts. I just wasn’t sure if you had written it in response to someone else’s comment or whether Twisty had added that as a response to your comment. It’s all clear now.

    For the record, I am not J with a capital J, and I do not agree with J, although I understand the argument she is making.

  180. Artemis

    J (and others) – I’m curious what you think about the new line of pink sporting goods Target is now marketing to girls (pink golf balls, baseballs and glove, tennis racket, basketballs, etc.). That is, other than the obvious crass commercialism of it.

    Sports can empower girls to be strong and independent, to be aggressive and get sweaty and dirty. Sometimes girls can be so empowered by this experience, they are able to do it without worrying about how they look doing it.

    The question is this: if girls and women choose pink equipment to play those sports, are they somehow reclaiming femininity in a good way?

  181. J

    “…simply strapping on something sexy and then walking around declaring yourself free of patriarchal pressures.”

    Who says it’s that simple? Not me. The kind of people who think that way are the ones who want to do something to negate patriarchy, which is in itself a perverse way of affirming it. Being authentic (in this context) means doing something that the patriarchy deems to mean this or that, but with no regard, positively or negatively, for that meaning. The result of this may mean disapproval, which may mean all kinds of sanctions– even death. Does this mean we should avoid being killed by patriarchy for ignoring its demand that we acknowledge its power, because that in itself is an acknowledgement of its power.

    How many women have died because they have made the choice to be authentic, even if it got them killed? How many women have have been killed by the patriarchy because it mis-perceives something they do or not do as this other kind of intentional unacknowledgement? What would it mean if these figures were reversed?

  182. LMYC

    Oh Monika, that whole “you could be really pretty if you tried” crap is a serious hate-fest for me. I KNOW I COULD. No, but you would look GREAT! I KNOW. No, but seriously–

    I FUCKING KNOW, OKAY? I could walk around in crippling shoes and a face full of paint, and what would be my fucking reward? Having women blink and back up before talking to me, having fat women hate my guts, having men treat me as if I had the brains of a potato and LIKE me, up until the point where it became clear that I wasn’t handing out blow jobs like tucking a cookie in Junior’s lunchbox upon which pint they would become extremely physically threatening. Ooh yeah, gimme some of that. *pukes*

    I don’t even bother explaining it — why try? “Yes but” is the only thing you’re going ot get back, or pitying looks about what low self-esteem you must have. I’ms orry? I have LOW SELF-ESTEEM because I don’t want to be seen as a golddigging fucktoy with bunions? How is wanting to be LOOKED AT and ACKNOWLEDGED as a functioning adult with a brain a sign of LOW self-esteem?

    I’ve had all of ONE conversation about this that was worth it, with a middle-aged woman in our office who didn’t say it as if she felt I had to be informed of what I looked like, but who asked me, “Do you ever do that whole dress-up thing? I mean, you could manage it.” I told her, “Not anymore. I don’t realyl like the way it makes people act around me. They get weird.” And she said, “Yeah … ”

    Trying to explain this to a woman who has bought into it is as impossible as trying to explain it to a man who cannot fathom a woman who DOESN’T want his clam-necked meatpop crammed up her. Isn’t that our sole purpose in life, after all? Why WOULDN’T I want to fulfill the purpose of my entire creation?

    Okay, I’ll shut up now …

  183. Jane Awake

    I like Kyso K’s idea of juxtaposting our ideas about what feminity is with other, more familar and less thoughtful ones. (Although, I don’t mean here in this thread.)

  184. LMYC

    I forgot to add one crucial benefit of doing the dress-up thing:

    Getting MARRIED to one of those turds and being a trophy wife and faking my orgasms until my 50th birthday, upon which point I’d find my ass towed back to the lot and put into the crusher while Turd Boy plops down a down-payment on a new model with a heads-up display, onboard GPS, and leather seats.

    At least then I could scam the house out of him and write self-help books about How To Find Yourself After The Divorce, or maybe even start my own perfume line.

    *pukes again*

  185. ChapstickAddict

    And to add to my comment, femininity is about being lusted after and reviled at the same time. (Is there a “perfect” female that isn’t dead of her own femininity?)

  186. Marcia

    Hi everyone. Thank you for all of your thoughtful responses. Amazing! This is already bigger than I know what to do with. That’s a good thing, so please continue! Since this is ongoing, and since I don’t have enough paper, I’m directing my professor to IBTP to read the responses. I’ve also sent this question to the bulk of my own email list which is considerably smaller than the readership here. It’s not a diverse sampling, but it’s a start. Kyso K, yes! I’d love to see responses to this question on other blogs – music blogs, sports blogs, weight-loss blogs, stripper blogs, anything. Anyone who feels comfortable posing the question to another blog, do it, then post the link.

    There’s a great range of definitions right here, though. Everything from evil to empowering (sorry for the overused term), and so much in between. Some see it as a positive, and so they assign positive traits to it. Some see it as a negative, and assign negative traits. There is a lot of freedom of interpretation with a term like this. And that’s what makes it so fascinating.

    So, I’ll post my paper here when it is finished. That way you can read the responses not shown here, plus my comments.

    Don’t ask me to define “femininity.” If I knew what it was, I wouldn’t be asking…


  187. LMYC

    Sorry — I forgot.

    I’m in Los Angeles.

  188. LMYC

    Marcia, there’s another thing going on.

    Some see it as positive, some see it as a negative — and many of us are addressing the fact that society definitely sees it as negative.

    This is a misunderstanding that I often see from artists when projects like this come up. “Femininity is a prison” is a statement that recognizes how it has been constructed as one by forces much, much larger than we are. The proper response to this is not to say, “Person X considers femininity a prison.”

    Person X considers that it has been constructed as a prison, one that she is trapped in against her will and had no say in constructing.

    A person who says “being black is a pain in the ass” is most likely saying “being black has been turned into a pain in the ass by a racist society” and not “being black is inherently bad.”

    Sorry to be didactic, but I see this misunderstanding a lot.

  189. J

    Like I said before, when patriarchy designates something feminine it is at once representing and trying to cover up with that representation its own impotence.

    Women who be feminine because they are convinced that the only way they can have any power or enjoyment is through affirming the patriarchy.

    Women who do all they can to be unassociated with what they’ve been told by patriarchy to be feminine, are still trying to cover up that impotence, but by ignoring it.

    The really radical, socially stirring, and authentic women (and men even) are the ones who, when they participate in so-called feminine practices, do not care if they expose patriarchy’s impotence. This is to say that when they find that their desire to do something coincides with the patriarchy’s desire for women to behave in a certain way, they are not drawn into the desire of that Other, but do as they please, because the patriarchy’s central power is making us want what it wants BECAUSE it wants what it wants. The woman who does not care about patriarchy’s desire, even when she appears to act as it wants, is making her own choice.

  190. LMYC

    “…simply strapping on something sexy and then walking around
    declaring yourself free of patriarchal pressures.”
    Who says it’s that simple? Not me.

    J, in your last comment #185, you certainly do seem to be saying this.

  191. Marcia

    Okay, fair enough. Still, whether one holds society/patriarchy responsible for making femininity a drag, whether one finds it inherently a drag, or whether one just finds it a drag for whatever reason, it is still a drag. I’m not saying that society isn’t responsible for it, I’m just saying that whatever the reason, some find it to be a negative term. No judgment, just observation. Same thing with some of the positive responses, as some see femininity as the practice of going against the dictionary definition (gentle, passive). Is that femininity? I don’t know. Are we redefining femininity or just making ourselves feel better? Don’t know that either.

  192. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Clam necked meat pop?

    I am SO using that.

  193. josie my source of most frustration

    Femininity is about denial and control. It’s a compromise that’s made in exchange for access to goods and privileges.

    Esther, NJ

  194. Mar Iguana

    Stilletto heals are empowerful in that one of them can deliver 800 pounds of pressure per square inch when smacked upside the head of a willfully ignorant asshole.

  195. J


    You know, my comment does sound like what TP said, but what is patriarchal pressure other there than the internalized cow-tow to behave according to the way patriarchy says the world works? That is why I mentioned early on that approval as much as disapproval should mean nothing to the woman (person, really) acting authentically, especially when the practice in question is conventionally charged with a certain emotion/expectation/response.

    Geting beat-up, or even killed, for not acknowledging the patriarchy when you have a desire to do or say anything is not the same as doing what the patriarchy wants you to do, feeling the way patriarchy wants you to feel, just so you aren’t beat-up or killed is the exertion of a much stronger force. The latter case is much more sick and twisted. Physical violence is obviously not the direct consequence of being authentic, but if you thnk you’re liable to die at the hands of the patriarchy, would you rather it be for something or nothing at all?

    So, why shouldn’t a woman be allowed to act authentically, even if that means doing what seems to you to be pointless things? What I’m saying might seem naive, especially with TPs example, but what is any less naive about cow-towing to the patriarchy so that it will not hate you, objectify and use you, when such cow-towing is a demonstration of how much it hates you?

  196. Professor Zero

    Femininity is having sex for the (sole) purpose of pleasing and serving men.

  197. Andrea

    Feminanity is conformity dressed up in a push-up bra and stilettos.

    Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Love this thread. Especially Anuna’s and Vera’s responses…

  198. Clio Bluestocking

    Feminity robs us of authenticity.

  199. thebewilderness

    I think you are being naive. We learn from a very early age that the rules of the patriarchy are submit or die. Physical assault, pawing, pinching, grabbing, is an almost daily experience for most girls.
    Every time a woman is raped and murdered the discussion focuses on how she deviated from the rules of the patriarchy and quite naturally got herself killed.
    Most women comply to the degree necessary for safety and survival.
    You said: “Physical violence is obviously not the direct result of being authentic.” Yes, it is. Frequently.

  200. James Givens

    Feminity is being the best person as a woman as you can be. I attribute that similarity to being a gentleman which I attribute to masculinity. Just like being a gentleman is putting yourself second to other’s feelings so is feminity. Feminity and masculinity are two words which are used to encapsulate the selflessness that we can display to others by placing another’s worries, concerns, pains, etc. above our own. It is truly the mechanism that allows us to find a meaningful relationship with either sex. Only by putting friends, family and others ahead of ourselves do we allow for any real relationships. It is selflessness as is masculinity. Those are just the two words we use to differentiate between the two sexes.

    James Givens
    Los Angeles, CA.

  201. greengirl

    Yes, Professor Zero, your post ties right into what I was thinking. Faking orgasms as well as not cutting my hair (at one time). What is it with the hair? Can anyone tell me? Is there a biblical precedent or?? I remember something from my childhood about “a woman’s crowning glory” crap like that. My last ex – (male) had/has very long hair – took a vow in the 70s to never again let steel touch his hair, probably the Samson myth, was born into a fundamentalist Christian ethos and for him, the hairier the woman the better. Probably some adolescent fantasy imagining her hair cascading over his face/body while they’re making “hot love”. However, on most other fronts, he is still holds the views of the quintessential patriarch. My parents on the other hand, were very critical/conscious of body hair: My dad thought my unshaven armpits disagreeable (ugly), and my mom cautioned against having long hair as I aged. Presumably, long hair makes a woman look “older.” To be fair, my dad also detested my brother’s beard and long hair in the 60s.

  202. CafeSiren

    Femininity is what my ex-boyfriend wanted from me; and it’s me blaming myself when he left me because I couldn’t give it to him.

  203. kcb

    In our culture, high heels are indelible code for all the crippling effects of the patriarchy, and men read this code and enjoy it avidly as such (however unconsciously) whether the damn shoes are worn in lockstep subjection or independence or irony or whatever.

    Yep. I’ve heard women described as wearing their “come-fuck-me pumps” many a time since I was a young pup, but I’ve never heard anyone refer to any woman and her come-fuck-me Chuck Taylors, penny loafers, or Ropers. IBTP.

  204. Larousse

    Femininity is what starts with the smothering of the soul of every young girl who doesn’t act like a silly ass just to please people. It’s spewed forth by the jerk who tells her to “smile” when she has the temerity to actually be thinking, perhaps examining a leaf or insect or engaging in any activity that’s not considered feminine. It looks at her with pity from the vapid eyes of her sister and other women who come off as just as intent on deforming her very being as are the wankers who made the rules. (Of course, they’re just trying to fit in and on some level probably believe that they are doing her a favor.) It’s enforced by her father and brothers who are smug and secure in their sense of entitlement.

    Femininity — the lack thereof, that is — is often invoked when a woman of any age does not succumb to unwanted sexual advances. Femininity is a disgusting choke collar on all women and girls all over the world.

    Femininity is the face of a pathetic clown who crawls instead of walking, fakes orgasms and never complains. Femininity has NOTHING to do with actually being a woman.

    Los Angeles, CA

  205. Older

    “Femininity” is a collection of maladaptive behaviors designed for women by men, in order to make themselves feel “masculine” by contrast. I do not make the mistake of trying to “own” this word or this concept. I do not assert that the way I am, the way I do things, is “feminine” because I am a woman. No, it is *female* because I am a woman. I am unable, and if I were able I would be unwilling, to do things in a “feminine” way. My favorite men are men to whom “masculinity,” and hence “femininity,” means nothing.

  206. mearl

    Ugh. J, I have to agree with LMYC here, simply because I don’t believe Helene Cixous was getting at the root of things in her theory – and that’s not because I’ve been brainwashed by patriarchy and Helene, magically, has managed not to be. By following the logic of postmodern theory, there is absolutely NOTHING in this universe that is “authentic.” Everyting in existence is not only a result of relationships, but is also looked at through the lens of the human condition, so is ultimately tainted with or read according to that condition.

    Things like high heels do not exist in a vacuum, nor have they sprung up suddenly and inexplicably. Everything that is within socially constructed human understanding is a result of millions of years of evolution, development, conscious and unconscious conditioning, all of which have developed under the stranglehold of what we call patriarchy. If there WAS autheticity, high heels would likely not exist in the first place. You can’t fully remove what currently exists from the category in which it exists (for humans in our collective umbrella of understanding), from the tradition of human understanding that caused its existence in the first place. Therefore you really can’t observe a piece of footwear that is a physical hinderance in the “footwear” category, that is only worn by one gender, that has developed according to the communal fetish of the other gender, and say it can be worn without all the baggage of its own development. Unless you gave the whole world amnesia, you can’t deny the existence of high heels as “feminine” without negating everything that lies in its history. Postmodern theorists seem to labour under the impression that their own theories can exist outside the very bias and circumstance that they claim to objectively observe.

    To put it simply, you can sit in the middle of the room and call yourself and egg, and by pomo standards, you could be an egg and you could simply not exist at all, but in terms of the relations and understanding of human language and the human condition, you really AREN’T an egg. Sorry. There is no “authenticity.”

    And guess who I blame for that? NOBODY! But I blame the patriarchy for the silliness of femininity.

  207. banshee

    “NEVER EVER EVER worry about being “unfeminine” or “Unladylike.” You’re female, and that makes you feminine enough.”

    From: http://www.sonic-boom.com/industrial/rivetgirl-1.html

  208. mearl

    Oh, I forgot. The “ecriture feminine” theory also assumes that a human, whose development, likes, dislikes, opinions, etc. have all developed under the brainwashing of society, can actually be free of politic and do as he or she PLEASES. Not possible. Everything is political. If there was no conflict, there would be no development and we’d all still be in an infantile state, or perhaps an amoeba state. See Nancy Chodorow.

  209. mearl

    Whoops. There are supposed to be en-dashes in my second sentance instead of commas. Hopefully the lousy grammar is understandable.

  210. Fiona

    Anuna, your “famininity” typo has great potential as a neologism, I reckon. It’s femininity as famine, and what is more feminine than self-denial to the point of starvation — physical, intellectual and spiritual? That’s why I said femininity is pain — hunger hurts, dammit!

  211. LMYC

    …what is patriarchal pressure other there than the internalized cow-tow to behave according to the way patriarchy says the world works?

    Excuse me? When I got followed around by a slobbering drunk when I was 14 and out walking with a friend of mine, what part of that was INTERNALIZED? Sounds pretty external to me. He didn’t spring from my internalized self-hate; he came from around the corner.

    It must be nice to live in an enclosed, hermetically sealed universe of your own making, or to be so solipsistic that you believe everything to have sprung from your own imagination. The rest of us live out here.

  212. Hattie

    Some asshole is using my name, Hattie, to post crap. Please disregard the troll. I will post from now on under another name.

  213. Hattie

    Just adding this:
    Here is what Asshole wrote using my name:

    Use as much black hair dye as possible to maintain your femininity. First sign of grey, bring out the dye. Not cover up, grey touch up stuff. Full on black dye job.

    My men friends say it makes me look terrific. I have never ever had this much attention paid to me before. I only wish I had started dyeing my hair to this lustrous black color earlier. I feel complete now.

    the boy needs attention. What a fucktard.

  214. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Femininity is one big drag show.

    Sometimes I genuinely enjoy my participation in it.

  215. RP

    Femininity is one of those things I just don’t get and cannot perform adequately in the eyes of others. Femininity is a tacky mystery to me, like the popularity of American Idol.

    RP, Chicago

  216. Sage

    My two cents and then some: Feminity and masculinity are both stereotypical collections of actions and attitudes relating to the two primary sexes. I say much more here (complete with a list of respective actions and attitudes).

  217. Beth Granter

    Femininity to me is how women are naturally. Nature/nurture arguments about behaviour aside, things like body hair that grows naturally on a woman, is by default feminine. Things like high heels may be perceived to be feminine, but those things will always be a matter of opinion. I believe the only truely feminine things are things about women’s bodies. Like boobs, and hips, and periods.

    Beth – Brighton, England.

  218. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Hattie, I interpreted that post as purposefully ironic. What I mean is, what (s)he wrote actually goes through women’s minds sometimes. We really are psyched into believing that X product will turn us into catnip for men and that our lives will be complete afterwards. I thought “HAH that’s very funny! Good one Hattie!”

    Now that it has occurred to me that the irony may have been unintentional? That’s feven unnier.

    Then again, could there be more than one ironic woman using Hattie as a handle? This could turn into some high comedy.

    (Sheesh these are some good meds, and no I’m not sharing.)

  219. Bird

    Hattie, I also thought it was stated with tongue firmly in cheek. I don’t think anyone around here assumed that the post was you being serious.

  220. Marcia

    Chapstick Addict. I love the collage!

  221. Kali

    Femininity is the list of traits, attitudes, behaviours ascribed to, and prescribed for women that allow men to take emotional, material and spiritual resources from women without giving the same in return.

    According to the rules of femininity, women can/should nurture men. Men cannot/need not nurture women. Therefore nurture, empathy, soft emotions are coded as feminine and rational self interest is coded as masculine.

    Women should sacrifice material comfort/weath for the sake of others (especially men and boys). Men cannot/need not sacrifice material comfort / resources for anyone (especially women and girls). Therefore sacrifing, modest, undemanding are coded as feminine and demanding, ambitious, agressive is coded as masculine.

    Women should go through personal pain and degradation to please men. Men can please themselves even at the cost of pain to women, or through the degradation of women. Therefore high heels, painful beauty rituals, uncomfortable and objectifying clothing are coded as feminine and sexual aggression and selfishness is coded as masculine.

    Femininity and masculinity are two sides of the same coin that tells women to give pleasure/comfort to men, and tells men that it is OK to give pain/discomfort to women.

    Kali, CT.

  222. LMYC

    Greengirl, there’s definitely a biblical thing going on with hair — as if a creative force behind something as ponderous as en entire universe would give a FLYING FUCK about someone’s fucking HAIRSTYLE.

    The most annoying thing for them is if you grow your hair long and keep it up all the time and out of the way, as I do. It’s down to my ass at this point; keeping it down is not an option, and keeping it LONG means I don’t have to fuck with it. I wash and air dry once every week or so, and other than that, nothing. No styling, no irons, no blowdrying, no nothing. The ultimate in lazy-ass body care. Plus, I can get it entirely off my face with one good hairstick. (I love the mean-ass librarian look.)

    Hair ideally should be either past one’s ass cheeks or buzzed. I have a friend with a crew cut; she loves it. I once remarked to her that we are the only two people I know who can ride in a convertible with the top down without caring about our hair.

    Men have massive brain farts about it, though. I have actually literalyl been asked by several men, “Well, WHAT’S THE POINT of having long hari if you don’t wear it down?” I like it. “Yeah, but WHAT’S THE POINT?” “I enjoy having it. “But WHAT’S THE POINT?” Oh I’m sorry — you mean WHAT’S THE POINT of me having any body qualities whatsoever that YOU DON’T GET TO JERK OFF TO? I’m the point, shithead. I like it, and I couldn’t give a rat’s furry little asshole if you never see it, okay?

    What’s the point. What the motherfucking point. They actually think it — and YES, ALL OF THEM DO. This isn’t an “I’m not like that” horseshit thing — EVERY man thinks this about EVERY woman’s hair and body. What’s the point. What the motherfucking point. Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick.

    Braids function rather well as garrotes. Men with creepy-ass hair fetishes should be aware of that.

  223. LMYC

    Hedonistic Pleasureseeker, I think I stole that phrase “clam-necked meatpop.” I seem to recall ripping it off from Donna Barr’s blog. She has written some goddamned GOLDEN posts about this sort of thing. Google “wolf food donna barr” for her blog(s).

  224. Elimy

    Also my first comment, though I don’t aspire to the heights of Anuna’s impressive initial offering.

    Femininity is a series of expectations of behaviors, thoughts and actions that all revolve around keeping one’s mouth shut.

    Femininity made me want to keep my mouth shut in class, so as not to offend my male classmates’ carefully constructed ideas about their intellectual superiority.

    Femininity made me want to keep my mouth shut to all food for four years, because anorexia would surely cure me of my bodily imperfections.

    Femininity is making me want to keep my mouth shut about my boyfriend’s emotional abuse, because all of his friends say he’s such a nice guy, and if he’s never hit me, what does it matter?

  225. Weeze

    LMYC, as someone else who rocks the mean-ass librarian look, I completely agree. I’m pushing forty, for fuck’s sake, and guys feel like I’m cheating them out of something by not showing them my hair.

  226. Frigga's Own

    I already had my turn, but this thought occured to me so I’ll blurt it out anyway.

    Femininity is asking, when given a choice between cake or death, if the cake is low carb.

  227. TP

    Though I love the screaming comments about J, I still feel drawn to J’s comments. I like the idea of women somehow rising above patriarchal control. I think the women here do it as best they can, some with more baggage to fight against than others.

    Without downplaying the insane and dangerous pressure that women face, I still like to think that women can do anything and should be encouraged to aspire to greater freedom. I understand that authentic can be distorted into meaninglessness, too. But I know that deep within us we have a core of truth and a soul that likes things sexlessly.

    The further you get from sexual desires, the freer you should be able to get from the patriarchally-approved strictures of attraction and arousal. A shoe can just be a shoe, and whether it is green or blue is so removed from the fucking patriarchy that you can’t really blame the patriarchy for whether you picked one color over the other.

    Is that what you mean, J?

    I’m a man, and I love clothes, and try to look presentable so my wife will like looking at me, for many reasons besides sex. I just wonder how trapped I am. I hear quite plainly how trapped women feel. It’s so much worse to be damned if you look good and damned if you don’t, which is exactly where the patriarchy puts women. J wants a way out of that, if I’m not mistaken.

  228. LMYC

    TP, we all want a way out of that. What we’re not willing to do is stick our fingers in our ears, hum loud, and tell ourselves that we HAVE a way out when we don’t.

  229. LMYC

    Oh, and TP? If you are listening to us pick nits with J’s argument and hearing shrill screaming banshee-women, might I gently suggest you have a shitload more to learn about your own characterization of women than you think?

    I mean, opening your statement with something that pretty much translates to, “As madly amused as I am about your girls all getting yourselves in a hysterical little lather about blah blah blah … ” doesn’t make you look like not a shithead, you know?

  230. thebewilderness

    Frigga, perfect!

    LMYC, wash and wear hair, you betcha.

  231. LMYC

    Bewilderness — wash and wear and no trim and no money and no sitting in a salon trying to tell them, “No, I don’t WANT you to leave a little length so I don’t look masculine, I want a CREW CUT,” no mouuse, no gel,l no having it hang in your face if you forget to visit the salon or don’t feel like it, or don’t want to spend the money …

    Long hair rocks. The ultimate in benign neglect. :-)

  232. Bird

    LMYC: As a woman who’s had a shaved head and now has hair down to her ass, I have to agree. It’s my hair, and I grew it long because it’s the easiest to care for after being bald (one bar of soap does it all then). I don’t wear it down because then it gets in my way, plain and simple. But as a woman who rides a motorcycle and wears a sparring helmet for martial arts, a braid is a very good thing.

    I also hate it when men try to talk me into taking my hair down so they can look at it. I hate it even more when a strange man thinks it’s okay to touch it when he tries to pick me up when I’m out having a drink with my friends. They’re likely to take an elbow in the ribs, a back kick to the knee or worse for that one. This shit comes from the same sense of entitlement to a woman’s body that leads some men to grab asses, and either behaviour will meet with a very negative response on my part.

    My boyfriend gets to touch my hair because I say it’s okay (and I like having my head touched by someone I care about). My best friend gets to touch my hair because she knows how to do really cool braids with multiple strands and such. Strangers do not.

  233. Thalia

    Femininity is the smug, condescending, and pitying look on my transgendered Sibling’s face when s/he looks at me.

    Femininity is what has my Sibling convinced that s/he gains more status as a thin, tall, high-heel-wearing, frilly-skirt-bedecked woman than a skinny, gawky, balding man.

    Femininity is why my Sibling has actually stated aloud that s/he is a worse driver when dressed as a woman than as a man.

    Femininity is what has my Sibling convinced that s/he makes a better woman than I ever will.

    Femininity is why my Sibling doesn’t seem to hear me half the time, or complains that I am too “angry”.

    Then again, that last one could just be because my Sibling is a solipsitic asshole. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

  234. Thalia

    Oh my fucking gawd, my comment went through! That’s the first time in fucking years.

    A good time to add, then, I guess, that I’m in Massachusetts.

  235. ChapstickAddict

    Marcia, thanks! I have to say, it was pretty satisfying to cut up my old fashion magazines. I kept them for the recipes and the laughable tips about what men are thinking, but now they have a new purpose!

    (Also, I was in one of my manic feminist moods, having just met and talked with Sarah Weddington, one of the lawyers to argue Roe v. Wade. Eee!)

  236. witchy-woo

    Elimy –

    Fuck femininity. Lose the boyfriend. His friends obviously don’t know him as well as you do.

  237. Magna Vix

    Femininity is whatever is expected of women and girls.

  238. Magna Vix

    Gina, Portland, Oregon.

  239. Pony

    “{…}some with more baggage to fight against than others.”

    Uh oh.

  240. ChapstickAddict

    Elimy, if that loser is still your boyfriend, you will feel so much better once you dump that load off your back. I was in a relationship like that once, and I actually tried to make HIM dump ME (by the way, that doesn’t work too well.)

    If you want to talk more, just shoot me a comment in my blog.

  241. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Funny how half (or more?) of most women’s problems can be solved with DTMFA.

    I wonder if it comes in cans?

  242. Pony

    Femininity Spring 2007


  243. Charity

    I’m late to this thread but have found it so captivating, so thanks everyone. I want to believe TP “gets it” but I’m completely with LMYC in interpreting the “screaming comments” comment. To respond to your own choice of words, TP, it’s not only more “satisfying” to reinvent something than it is to “reinterpret” it as you “would like”, it’s also, you know, on the reality-based side of things rather than the wishful, fantasy, deluded side of things. Yes, not acknowledging patriarchy and believing every choice is a free one if you simply claim it is IS wishful thinking. And further, even if we do “have a core of truth and a soul that likes things sexlessly”, I’m willing to go out on a limb here to say that HIGH FUCKING HEELS are not one of those things. Yeesh.

    For me, femininity is a farce and a double bind (there is no course of action is satisfactory or a “win”). It is the reason I won’t ever know if my needs and wants and preferences are authentic or not. It is what makes me hate myself sometimes and makes me angry at other women too much of the time. It keeps us (women) at each other’s throats fighting for the scraps they allow us while the real enemy looks on, smirking and unscathed.

  244. Susan in Dallas

    For femininity nothing beats some straight forward cleavage.

    (preferably home grown — not the other type we have in Dallas)

  245. LMYC

    I don’t know Susan, I think a used tampon or a placenta beats cleavage in the straightforward department pretty handily.

  246. witchy-woo

    The patriarchal concept of ‘femininity’ – i.e. what a woman ‘is’ (how she should act/behave/appear to be) – has just about completely divorced us from ourselves.

    A few years ago (in the great scheme of things) men even pondered whether women have souls – some men these days probably don’t even think to ask themselves the same question – or should we be allocated space along with the rest of the livestock.

    Femininity rescued us from kipping in the stable only to ‘promote’ us to being entertainment for the masses.

    Well fuck that. I’d rather kip with the donkeys than have some bloke determine the existence of my soul.

    Witchy – UK

  247. roamaround

    I’ve come a long way in my understanding of femininity since I started reading this blog a few months ago. I totally agree with the mask, prison and choke collar comments and also the survival ones.

    On hair, I recently went from blond to chestnut. Oh sorry (!) I should say from “a blonde” to “a brunette.” The men I work with kept asking “why” as if there has to be a reason. Like LMYC said: “But WHAT’S THE POINT?” It’s been five months, and just the other day one asked, “So do you like your new personality?” Personality?? It’s HAIR!

    Femininity is getting stuck with the stupid bake sale while the men in the department just bring beverages. That’s all I can add to the amazing comments above. I love this thread.

  248. Spit The Dummy

    Femininity for me is walking every day in a foreign landscape where I don’t know the language or any of the customs. Whenever I open my mouth, whatever I do, even if I just enter I’m marked as a stranger and people react with either intolerance, hostility or anger, with the threat of violence ever present. Femininity is otherness.

    Femininity (as it is commonly understood in our culture, defined as it is by the patriarchy for the patriarchy) is an essential survival kit for women within that patriarchy and the one I was issued with is broken.

    Most of my life I managed to fly under the radar and cobbled together the broken parts as best as I could – but I’ve recently tossed the whole kit and caboodle against a rock and smashed it to smithereens. Fuck the patriarchy, these days I’m just being me and that’s all the femininity I need and all the femininity anyone in this world is gonna get. No heels, no dresses, no make-up, no frills, no pandering to male ego, no taking a back-seat, no putting everyone else first all the time, and definitely no fucking cleavage.

    Frankly, I’m still trying to get my jaw back up off the floor at the idea that someone on this list suggested that cleavage is the ultimate feminine. Pretty gutsy, I’d say, considering some of us here don’t have two breasts any more and may still consider ourselves to be feminine. Female gender=feminine, IMO. All the rest is artificial, socially constructed hogwash and I’m trying hard to expunge it from my brain.

  249. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    I’m starting to really like being bald. Try it! Want to be blonde? Pop on a wig! Want long hair? Pop on a wig! Wanna be a redhead? Pop on another wig! Want to look professional? Pixie cut! Wanna be a hit at your family reunion? SHAVE YOUR HEAD! Change your mind? Put on another wig!

    Actually, if you’re the kind of woman who likes to style her hair, priced out over several years wigs save a TON of money and time. I could run over some of my wigs with a truck and leave them out in the rain overnight and the next morning just shake the rain off and put one of them on my head. Viola. NEXT?

    When I lost my hair I was devastated. These days I’m happy I have so much extra time to do with what I please, now that I no longer have hair to deal with. I wish every woman could feel free enough to do whatever they pleased with their hair without suffering for it.

    Femininity means spending too much time and money on your hair.

  250. Aggie

    Some random thoughts:

    Femininity seems inexplicably intertwined with hair. I happen to have have born with a shade of deep red hair. To my continual horror, red hair is one of those physcical traits that makes a person extremely visible, especially to a certain type of unsavory male. In my lifetime, I have had my hair both extremely long, and punk-spiky short. When my hair is long, men–who I don’t know–random men on the street, at the bus stop, etc…somehow seem to think that it is perfectly within their right to come up to me and start a conversation about my hair. “I hope you don’t ever cut that beautiful red hair,” they say. Or, “That’s a good length on you. You’re not going to cut it are you?” etc. Now mind you, I don’t know these men. I (gasp) don’t even consult my own husband before going to the hairdresser’s. Why these men feel that they have any right whatsoever to discuss my hair with me is beyond my comprehension.

    More so, what I find stunning is that they ACTUALLY THINK I am going to take their opinions into consideration. I don’t even know these idiots. But, you know, they are the Almighty Male. In their minds, of course I am going to nod seriously, and think to myself, “I must not ever cut my hair, for Random Male on the Street has expressed his preference for long hair, and his vieiwing pleasure comes before my personal bodily autonomy.”

    So, I got sick of it and chopped every bit of it off a few weeks ago. I love my super-short punky look and I especially love that it seems to frighten, anger and confuse men–and intimidate the hell of out my sexist boss, who tried to claim that I did it as a stress reaction. Right, because a women who chops her hair off MUST have mental problems. Does she not that the Male will not be pleased? Does she not care, by God????

    Super-short hair a huge f-you to the long, swishy, feminine softy-soft hair ideal. And maybe it’s because I feel more powerful, or stronger, or just plain fierce, but when I walk down the street now there are far fewer men who seem comfortable approaching me now. This is all to say, Femininity to me means, total accessibility, lack of physical or emotional boundaries, submission, ready availability and being willing to pay any price to be “pretty.” Otherwise you are insulting men.

    I often find myself fascinated with classic images of femininity….usually from the 20’s. I am artist and recently went through a stage where I was doing a lot of renderings of Flapper women….short hair but heels and kicky little dresses…I also went through a Pre-Raphealite stage, where I was riveted by ultra-feminine images of the women in their long wild hair and flowing gowns.

    I’ve been feminine: thin and willowy and pretty with swishy long hair and big eyes. I was anorexic, suicidal, and anxious. I am a hell of lot happier now, heavier with short hair, in a strong, powerful body with a strong sense of boundaries and healthy dose of anger.

  251. Aggie

    Sorry for typos in that last post; I got thrown off the system before I could edit.

  252. Scratchy888

    This shit comes from the same sense of entitlement to a woman’s body that leads some men to grab asses, and either behaviour will meet with a very negative response on my part.

    There was this guy in the pub who came and sat with me and my husband. He soon began talking, and as he did, he affected the masculine gesture of putting his hand on my knee, in an overfamiliar way. He was a small cockroach of a guy, and not at all attractive. The gesture seemed more foolhardy and ignorant than domineering, actually, but I eventually thought it was time to repay the gesture. “I know some martial arts. Are you interested in learning some?” I interjected. “uh..ok…” he responded. I grabbed his palm and put a wrist lock on, which pushed him down to the ground, bent forward from the waist. I held it there a few seconds, oblivious to his embarrassment. When I let him go, he stood up red-faced. He made some perfunctory remarks about how clever I was, and then immediately excused himself from the conversation, and went to annoy someone else.

  253. LMYC

    Aggie — you GO. That shit ain’t theirs. Hair belongs to them what’s got it, and yes, there is a TREMENDOUS amount of baggage associated with it, and it’s a huge pain in the ass. I don’t cut mine but keep it up for me — and the baggage still annoys me.

    You know what the best kind of hair, body, face, and clothing on a woman is? Whatever kind that leaves her as at-home in her own being as she can possibly be. (If it says “fuck you” to the patriarchy, so much the better. Oops, was that a value judgment? Tough. Being the sort of woman who likes on occasion to think of herself as a giant walking middle finger to the patriarchy, I like seeing that, so I expressed my enjoyment of it.)

  254. greengirl

    Wanted to say this earlier:

    Femininity is living with faulty antennae.

  255. LMYC

    Hey HP and everyone else:


    Sunday, July 11, 2004. Read it and base your life upon its teachings.

  256. Bird

    Scratchy888: Yeah, martial arts are a good thing, aren’t they?

    The best thing about that story is that you defended yourself—you didn’t wait for your husband to do it or ask him to make the mean man go away.

    I’ve told my boyfriend straight up that if some guy grabs me inappropriately when we’re out somewhere, I consider it to be my right to defend my own body. That means that the first action, whether that’s words or physical defense, will be mine. If he wants to step in after if necessary, that’s fine if it looks like I could use the help.

    But I do not want him telling some guy to stop touching his girlfriend’s ass. It’s MY ass, thanks, and I’ll define who can put his or her hand on it. No man gets to declare that for me—I can speak for myself.

  257. lucizoe

    These responses are all very educational. Everything I would say has been said, even my lightbulb-on-the-subway moment of: Femininity is adding question marks to every spoken statement, especially opinions. Asking for acceptance at every turn. Feeling at fault for existence and comandeering some worthier person’s space and air.

    The best teacher I ever had once told my class the story of when she and her sister, good Italian girls in the late ’40s, went and got their waist-length hair cut. Her father and brothers beat the heck out them for the transgression, and the general consensus of the class was relief that such violent expressions of ownership are archaic now, in the very enlightened late ’90s. I can remember looking across the table at my friend, whose father had threatened that very thing not two days earlier when she asked him permission to get a haircut and thinking “B-wah??”

    That is a huge problem with my generation. We grew up being told that women’s rights have been achieved, nothing more to see or do, move along now. Anything we witnessed to the contrary was just an anomaly. Girls can do anything!

    The same teacher above laughed at me when she found out I was a feminist.

    If I don’t stop here I’m going to bore y’all with a stream-of-consciousness personal exploration post a mile long.

  258. Kyso K

    Kyso K, barring all of the ‘totally’s, everyone here knows what ‘anti-feminists’ think of feminism. That’s why we’re here, so we can discuss feminism without some choad putting in his 2 cent stereotype.

    Not what anti-feminists think of feminism. What they think of femininity. What the hell are these women getting out of it?

  259. Mar Iguana

    When I was 19 (’66), almost overnight, my hair developed gray stripes ala “The Bride of Frankenstein” in the dark brown hair I inherited from my Mexican mom. I never dyed it despite the relentless flack I caught with Pepe’ Le Pew, Lily Munster jokes and the advice that I’d scare boys away. Fine by me. Kept out a lot of riff raff. Boys are so easily frightened and confused. On the other hand, a few self-proclaimed warlocks/wizards have invited me to the crossroads at midnight over the years. Idiots.

    I absolutely hate having my hair cut, mostly because I cannot stand ANYone touching my hair. So, I grew it long because it was so much easier to deal with, as LMYC and others have pointed out. Then, beginning in my late ’40s, I start getting bugged by people with the contradictory advice that I should dye it to make me look younger, but cut it because long hair isn’t appropriate for a woman my age. Good grief, where do people get off telling other people what they should do with their hair? The nerve. How disobedient of me to refuse to pay through the nose to upkeep a dye job and a hair cut year after year. Especially since my hair grows so fast.

    I did get bored with it a few years ago though. I remembered a magazine article I’d see in a magazine in the ’70s that showed how to give yourself a perfect haircut by making a pony tail in the middle of your forehead, holding it between the index and middle fingers to measure how short the bangs will be and whacking it off. I do this about once a month. Keeps it outta my face but gives some length in the back. In the spring, I start just cutting the bangs so the back will grow out making it easier to put it up with a stick because I get too hot wearing it down. When just cutting the bangs, think triangle, picking a spot for the top of the triangle depending on how much bangs you want.

    Another thing about mandatory femininity that makes me crazy is the feminine hygiene aisle in every drug store and supermarket dedicated to making sure our units are sanitary and kept flower-fresh. An entire aisle making sure women never forget being female means being essentially so dirty and foul they need hundreds of products to clean up the mess. I take special pride in the fact I have denied The Man a bunch of bucks by avoiding this aisle altogether. I didn’t need to be buying expensive pads or sticking stuff up inside me to deal with menstruation.

    I discovered this decades ago when I was out in the middle of nowhere in Mexico and had nothing but toilet paper with me. I developed a little technique that’s not only cheaper, but healthier, cleaner and safer. However, most women are so brainwashed they refuse to believe it possible.

    The Technique:
    Tear off a strip of TP, length depending on how heavy the flow
    Keep folding in half until narrow enough to fit
    Insert between labium
    Wear panties to keep in place

    The Benefits:
    Nothing crammed up inside you to forget and give you toxic shock
    Cleaner than yucky pads worn outside the vulva, held in place by medieval straps, that clog toilets and leak
    Easy to change every time you have to pee; TP just falls into the toilet without you even having to touch it.

    Once I started doing this, I not only saved big bucks, I never stained my clothes or bed sheets again. I would love to see a total boycott of feminine “hygiene” products. Women don’t need a gaud damned thing outta that aisle. All womem need is no more than what the boys need: Toilet paper, soap and water. The Man profiting from women brainwashed into thinking they are vile vessels of dirty, stinking glop would go broke.

  260. Hattie

    Well, basic writers have trouble getting sarcasm across, I guess.

  261. TP

    No, I have to insist I really really DO enjoy the screaming, impassioned, over-the-top comments, and if you choose to interpret that as patronizing I’m helpless. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry, and if they’re directed at me my stomach hurts, but I really do enjoy hyperbole and emphatic statements more than sophistry or the passive voice.

    I grew up with women (mom, sis, grandma, etc) who talked like this and that’s the way I like it. I want everything right up there, out on the table, screamed out at the top of the lungs. It’s not patronizing when I say it, there is no implied sarcasm in it at all. It’s just the way I like things; clear and open and loud and sometimes funny.

  262. thebewilderness

    Dear TP,
    Out of courtesy to our passion and despair, and to avoid future misunderstandings, please refer to us as shrill rather than screaming. That is unless we are writing in all caps in which case we know we are screaming so why do you feel the need to point it out to us. Please provide an example of an over the top comment, so that we can critique your judgement.

  263. lawbitch

    Shrill is definitely *not* feminity. I’m proud to be shrill. ROTFLOL!

  264. Scratchy888

    The best thing about that story is that you defended yourself—you didn’t wait for your husband to do it or ask him to make the mean man go away.

    The strange thing about the story is that I didn’t actually perceive myself to be defending myself at all. Actually, my thought processes went like this: “He’s invaded my space without asking, so obviously he is very comfortable himself with the invasion of personal space, so let me experiment a bit and invade his.” So, as you can see, I wasn’t thinking about self defence at all.

    What really spoiled the whole effect, however, was Mike crying out, “Jenny, Jenny Stop!!!” It was as if he was calling off his dog. I had to explain the way my mind was reasoning, to him, as he had obviously missed the sense of what I felt.

  265. LMYC

    TP, I’m so totally with ya! I myself just LOVE to go over to the JADL-related blogs and bulletin boards and watch a couple Jews go up in a froth over some right-wing Holocaust denier! It’s like so totally funny to watch them scream and froth and jump up and down! (They get so over the top when they get a bug up their ass about something, don’t they?) But I’ve got some totally cool Jewish friends, so it’s all right.

    If you want real fun though, go to the coloreds’ blogs — they’re even more fun to watch! You can almost see them rolling their eyes and flapping their arms when they get all worked up about something like the death penalty being unfair to them, it’s just so entertaining.

    In fact, I encourage all white gentiles to stop over at some of them people’s blogs when it’s a slow night on TV.

    (ATTENTION FOR THE STUPID AND LAME: This is called sarcasm.)

  266. Lauredhel

    Late to the party. (formerly commenting here as “Lara”, but moving to a more unique moniker.)

    Femininity is this “Girls Toy”: “Pixel Chix pal is a 2-D girl living in a 3-D world”.

    I’ve put a bit more of my take here, shamelessly citing from the blamers above.

  267. Australian Blamer

    This contribution is the work of Cal Wilson, a Kiwi comedian working out of Melbourne.

    I heard it only once from her, in a shitty little room one dreary winter, but it’s still my favourite femininity trope.

    From suffragette to supermodel; from emancipation to emaciation:
    ~Oh no! Don’t give me a whole vote, I’ll never finish it.

  268. josquin

    I cringe away from your TP-inspired sarcasm, and I hope that doesn’t make me stupid or lame.
    You’re firing some pretty hard artillary at a very undeserving target. I am bothered by act of whipping out the big guns so easily. It’s a form of wolf-crying which doesn’t seem to increase understanding among people.
    There are nuances here. They deserve attention.

  269. BetsyAnn

    Femininity is the fun part of the evening, the singing-along-to-ani-how-high-will-my-fauxhawk-go-sparkly-eyeshadow-girly-drink-laughing pre-party part of the evening,

    before anyone at the party ruins it by thinking it’s for him.

    Femininity is glitter for glitter’s sake.

    Elizabeth, Italy

  270. BetsyAnn

    of course, femininity is also wanting to add a disclaimer “or at least that’s what I think” to the a post,

    for fear of not being liked.

  271. roamaround

    BetsyAnn, I was just thinking of that exact scenario this afternoon! The girly part of the evening before it gets ruined by male intrusion, enjoying each others’ swishy soft or spiky hair, sparkly eyes, crooked smiles, or full lips, in a happy radiant glow.

    High heels are patriarchal tools in any context, but surely our hair, eyes, and smiles can be reclaimed and celebrated outside of the male gaze. It’s good to save time and money and say fuck you to the patriarchy by ignoring feminine dictates, but there has to be room for frivolity and sensuality too.

    Put on the music, grab a martini, and let’s dance!

  272. MedeaOnCrack

    Femininity, by Christi Nielsen: “She should have know better.”


  273. MedeaOnCrack

    And the rest:

    {insert pre-scream)

    “That would never happen to me because I (took karate), (have chains on my fuck me boots), (looked him right in the eye), (am tall and work out), (was in the military), (carry a pointy umbrella).

  274. J

    “Is that what you mean, J?”

    Sorry for the sudden case of disappearance. I got sucked into a final paper, from which I didn’t start to recover until Saturday.

    If it helps you to think that way, TP, sure. My point is that the same injunction for women to not do things that are (or what once were, in our hypothetical post-patriarchal scenario) feminine is merely an inverse of patriarchal logic. In this sense, it isn’t even an inverse of the form of rationale, but just its content.

    I mean to divorce these practices from femininity. Some people like to get all post-structuralist and tell me such things wouldn’t exist if they weren’t, in fact, feminine; that their history wholly inscribes them with femininity. Perhaps. As far as an ethical stance is concerned, I side with Lacan when he says “do not concede your desire.” In other words, do not make your desire the desire of the Other (the desire (for you) to be feminine, which in patriarchal code is another name for the phallus, or whatever), and do not interfere with the desire of others. If your desire is *really* to do any of these things otherwise lambasted as feminine, such as the exhausted high-heels example, then you should be able to do so with out being impeded by anyone else’s desire for you to do otherwise.

  275. msxochitl

    J said:
    “If your desire is *really* to do any of these things otherwise lambasted as feminine, such as the exhausted high-heels example, then you should be able to do so . . .”

    The real question, the question that all those trying to resist all forms of domination–capitalism, patriarchy, racism, etc–ask, is not “Do I desire it?” but “Why do it desire it?” Where do those desires come from? What is the context in which those desires are formed?

    Can a person claim to “divorce” their desire for Big Macs & SUVs & big houses & maids, for example, from American capitalist culture? Because that would be pretty naive.

  276. J

    “The real question, the question that all those trying to resist all forms of domination–capitalism, patriarchy, racism, etc–ask, is not “Do I desire it?” but “Why do it desire it?” Where do those desires come from? What is the context in which those desires are formed?”

    Of course it is, and in the end that is a question for the person in question *alone* to answer for *themselves*.

    “Can a person claim to “divorce” their desire for Big Macs & SUVs & big houses & maids, for example, from American capitalist culture? Because that would be pretty naive.”

    Can they?: they must be *able* to do so. That is entirely different from saying that anyone, much less myself or anyone else here, is actually making that claim. I personally can’t see how they’d make such a claim, but I also don’t see how that is a positive fact of it being impossible. I don’t know if it’s really so much to do with what is being claimed either: can a person, a woman, do otherwise identified-as-feminine things without being inscribed or further inscribing femininity? Of course, that asks alot more, or at least as much of the world in which she lives, but is that not what revolutionary movement is about?

    Is the feminist revolution (talked about here, at any rate) not only about making the world such that a woman does not inscribe herself or the world with patriarchy, but also about bring it about that the world does not inscribe her or itself with patriarchy? How else can we understand what Twisty as meant– and I’ve used this example before– when she says that in the truly post-patriarchal world, a young woman *could* walk down the street in otherwise-provocative clothing, or no clothing!, without being (or wanting to be) sexualized? If this is *not possible,* in the same way that it is *not possible* that a woman could want to do otherwise identified-as-feminine things without furthering patriarchy in her mind or in the minds of others, the what the hell is feminist revolution?

  277. Mar Iguana

    “…what the hell is feminist revolution?” J

    Ignoring poorly written, convoluted pretzel-logic mind fuck.

  278. J

    “I mean to divorce these practices from femininity.”

    I realized after posting my last post that I should have added: in light of what I wrote about divorcing otherwise identified-as-feminine practices from femininity, I am speaking purely topologically. This is the only way we can do it here, because I cannot make the personal claim to a desire to do an otherwise identified-as-feminine activity without regard to femininity. I mean, not without some long meditation on the question, and only if I can tenatively answer yes to something– like sewing or house-keeping or taking care of young children, all of which I enjoy very much.

    Like someone prompted me to say, such an inquiry is for, by, and of the person in question. So there is something lost in me even trying to make a case for *some* claim to such an authentic desire. This should be no surprise, however, since the felt-necessity to make such a case is purely in reference to the desire of the Other.

  279. msxochitl

    But this isn’t the post-patriarchy, post-capitalist, post-racist world. Of course, things will be different then. Will we desire big houses, SUVs, boob jobs, blue contacts & skin whitening creams then? I doubt it.

    As things stand, we can’t deny that our desires are shaped by the conditions under which we live. Desires don’t come out of thin air. We’re supposed to desire the things that our culture deems appropriate for our gender. So we do. That’s patriarchy. I’m not going to beat myself up for desiring some of these things. But I’m not going to lie to myself about the reasons why I desire these things. I’m not going to cite some elaborate pomo theories to help myself and other women lie to themselves either.

    And I’m sure as hell not going to bring down the patriarchy by refusing to acknowledge its power in shaping my desires. (Just as I can’t defy racism by dying my hair blonde & wearing blue contacts & claiming that that has nothing to do with wanting to look white.)

  280. JimmyDean'sFuckedUpCousinClyde

    Speaking as a man, I’d have to say that feminity is that marvelous and mysterious allure that women have and men don’t. It’s sexual, and it’s corporeal, and some portion of it is spiritual–ineffable. I see it in women when they are peacefully composed and I see it in women when they are ragingly pissed. I see it when they are nurturing, and I see it when they are rejecting.
    It has a gentle delicacy about it, and it also has a tornadic forcefulness. Nearly every woman has it. Those who don’t are often traumatized —they may not be able to express it, or anything as a result of the trauma. Gay males and transgenders try to have it, but frequently miss having it. Some of them have it.
    Do I know what it is?
    No, I don’t.
    Do I know it when I see it”
    Yes, ma’am. I do.

  281. msxochitl

    “that is a question for the person in question *alone* to answer for *themselves*.”

    I think this is the prevailing thought in gender studies isn’t it? We’re not supposed to question where desire comes from, the forces shaping it, and so forth. It just is, and is therefore untouchable, sacred. For example, if some guy says, “I like porn,” we’re supposed to shut up and take it at face value. Because only he, as an individual can answer that question.

    Just one more thing on the “only individuals should individually question desire” idea: I gotta you, it feels wonderful when we try to figure out this shit together, rather than go it alone. I wouldn’t be a feminist if didn’t have a group of friends challenging me to see the obvious and showing me, by example, that there are alternatives to being a decorative piece of shit. Plus, consciousness-raising is just fun.

  282. Scurry

    Sorry but I just cannot get past the idea that not doing something (like make-up, etc. etc.) because patriarchy wants us to do it still puts us under their dominion. It is reaction, it is based on their wants and it means we are THINKING ABOUT WHAT THEY WANT. Isn’t ignoring someone more powerful than rebelling against them?

  283. J


    I think we’re seeing this mostly the same way. For one thing, I’m not saying that the only change to be made is to assume a kind of blissful ignorance to patriarchy. I am saying that this is the kind of change we must embody as we affect to make it whole. In otherwords, and I don’t cite Ghandi for anything other than the fact that he said it, you need to be the change you want to see in the world. Is this all there is to it? Of course not. Without this though, there is a serious failure to any otherwise claim to revolution, especially when we’re talking about feminist revolution.

    I am also not in any way, shape, or form denying that “our desires are shaped by the conditions under which we live.” In fact, I am, for the sake of revolutionary discourse, taking that to its most logical conclusion. The world we live in conditions us to either inscribe ourselves or others or the world around us with patriarchy. My point is that this is a big feedback loop that has to be interupted. We do it by consciousness-raising. That’s where the whole notion comes from: Marx’s notion that if we could raise class consciousness to be aware of its conditions, that it could then affect them (no pun intended) productively, in terms of the interests of the working class. Same thing with this whole notion of feminist consciousness-raising. The point is to interrupt a person, many persons, ideological thinking, so that they may then interupt and ultimately stop their ideological activity. This last bit is not exactly what Marx taught though, and I’ll explain why.

    I think that there are certain deficencies in the way Marx figured this would work, because his ideological model of base-superstructure and false consciousness only accounted for ideological thinking. The doing of ideology is much more insidious and subtle. I think that when we supplement Marx with psychoanalysis, as Adorno, Marcuse, Lacan, Firestone, Kristeva, Irigaray and Zizek have done, we have a much more complete way of understanding and describing how we are affected and can affect ideology. So, I am wholly concerned with the present conditions because I aspire for the successful outcome of feminist revolution. I am concerned with not only what people are thinking, but what they are doing as well, and the relationship between the two.

    Now, I know that it feels great to be part of a movement. You mistake me if I mean to undermine the value of people raising each other’s consciousness. I think you miss the point, both my point and the point of raising one’s consciousness, if you think that someone else can change you for you. If consciousness raising is not self-reflexive, then it is nothing more than a moment to re-inscribe the ideology you think you’re transcending. In the end, you are finding for yourself your own way, releasing yourself from patriarchy, and not anyone else.

    So, whether we allow ourselves to think that, for example, a woman could really wear high heels in a post-patriarchal world is of the utmost importance to whether we’re on the right track. Because, if we want to go with the post-structuralist take of the issue, the very thinkability of the act of women wearing very uncomfortable high-heel shoes is inseperable with the “why?” that has as its answer “Femininity, or aka Patriarchy,” and for that reason it makes no sense to say that a women will not, indeed, cannot wear such shoes without it being an act of patriarchy. This only means that we cannot, at present, given the fact that the meaning of such an act is wholly inscribed with patriarchy, think of what it would mean to wear those shoes outside of the context of patriarchy. This does not demonstrate that the act of wearing the shoes is patriarchal, but that our thinking about the meaning of wearing such shoes is thoroughly patriarchal. Saying that for post-patriarchy to be possible the wearing of such shoes– and I know this horse has been beaten well enough, so I will leave it after this– is really impossible is to employ the same logic that patriarchy employs to cover-up (by ignoring), fill-in (with femininity), or destroy (kill) women, who are the hole in patriarchy’s delusions of wholeness and total domination.

  284. Yeny

    JimmyDean makes me want to smash my fist into the wall! Is that urge not cute and feminine enough for you, Jimmy?? Should I wear heels while I do it so I don’t lose my gentle delicacy. Or maybe I’m just one of the traumatised women that is messed up because she refuses to accept her delicate nature. Honestly, can men like you shut the hell up?

  285. J

    “Saying that for post-patriarchy to be possible the wearing of such shoes– and I know this horse has been beaten well enough, so I will leave it after this– is really impossible is to employ the same logic that patriarchy employs to cover-up (by ignoring), fill-in (with femininity), or destroy (kill) women, who are the hole in patriarchy’s delusions of wholeness and total domination.”

    I meant to say in that last part: “…women, whose autonomy is the hole in patriarchy’s delusions of wholeness and total domination.

  286. msxochitl

    “Isn’t ignoring someone more powerful than rebelling against them?”

    Yes indeed, it’s better to ignore rapists than rebel against them.

    That’s why disenfranchised people all over the world don’t have to fight their rights. We should just ignore the white western men in power, go about our lives as if they don’t exist, try real, real hard not to “THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY WANT,” because that might make us so pissed off that we’ll start doing the opposite of what they want us to do. Which would be bad. Yeah.

    Scurry again:

    “not doing something (like make-up, etc. etc.) because patriarchy wants us to do it still puts us under their dominion”

    We’re always under their dominion. But are we better or worse off when we rebel against them? I really don’t understand why you & J insist on making this a theoretical statement. Why you put so much faith in whatever the French theorists say when there are historical examples you can refer to to figure out the answer to this question.

    Better yet, try some of that doing- the-opposite-of-what-patriarchy-wants (even if it means you’ll actually have to “think about what they want”) for yourself. See what happens. You might like it. Even if it’s not “authentic” (because it’s a reaction), so what? Rebelling is so much fun! Perhaps we need to go through this stage of rebellion to get a feel for what we really want, try new things, break out of the old roles & set us in the direction toward true liberation and authentic desire.

  287. msxochitl

    J, I’m not disagreeing with your description of post-patriarchy. I was disagreeing with statements such as the following, where you are speaking of the present:

    “It [wearing heels] is empowering strictly in the sense that it is authentic; it is what she really wants . . .”

  288. Q Grrl

    “Do I know it when I see it”
    Yes, ma’am. I do. ”

    Ah, yes. The ol’ femininity is to the male gaze what pornography is to the male gaze standard. Or don’t you know the source of your quip JimmyDean?

  289. J

    Well, msxochitl, I’m wrong for saying that wearing high heels can be empowering. In fact, I’m not sure what empowerment really is, now that I’ve chewed on it, which is not to say I didn’t have an idea before. It almost makes more sense to speak of something in the inverse. That’s another dicussion though. I think there’s a certain point to what I was saying that remains truthful though: rather than being a means of empowerment, the woman who can wear the shoes without any of the baggage is powerful.

    I think there are women like this now, or have been at any rate. When they’ve been quiet, patriarchy has simply covered them up like no other; when they have something to say, however, then the patriarchy wants to and typically has killed them.

  290. J

    “I’m not sure what empowerment really is, now that I’ve chewed on it, which is not to say I didn’t have an idea before. It almost makes more sense to speak of something in the inverse. That’s another dicussion though.”

    I better say it now while it’s on my mind, or I’ll forget how I want to say it.

    Thinking of women’s empowerment is increasingly problematic for me in the same way that too many people conceive of feminism as (strangely conservapedia’s article on Feminism has exploded by several fold) “a philosophy granting equal rights and opportunities to women.”

    It’s that sense that women were did not have rights or whatever until they were *granted* them. In the same way, empowerment condescends to inform us that those being empowered never had power, could not be considered as powerful beings, until it was given to them. There is a certain under-tone of “give back” that I think some people like to think is implied, but it is totally superficial to what empowerment means: you are now allowed to have power. That “being allowed,” being “granted” or whatever, is utter bullshit, because it is precisely a statement of how women are, at least in the minds of those “giving” them power, not powerful.

    It just strikes of an unforgettable cognitive dissonance, to say that one group of people are *allowed* to have what another group of people considers consitutive of who/what they are, especially when that something is power.

  291. Elizabeth

    Elizabeth, Seattle WA. I see several femininities.

    Femininity-1 is an animal presence that we, being animals, instinctively recognize. I’m happy enough to have femininity-1, which is good, because I can’t do a thing about it. I can shave my head and stomp around in work boots – and I have – and I’m still as feminine as a lioness.

    Femininity-2 is about fashion and the outer role that women play, are heavily encouraged to play, and are often forced to play. Frills, pink, and high heels. I might occasionally play with femininity-2 (working out my class issues, there) but it’s not my thing and I’m not about to sacrifice any physical comfort for it.

    Nor am I about to sacrifice any physical comfort by eschewing it. I can think of a small handful of examples in which femininity-2 accoutrements work for me. None of these examples involve shoes.

    There is a woman I respect who plays the femininity-2 game to the hilt. I don’t get her, but I respect her, because I know what she’s done and I know that she has a core of steel.

    Femininity-3 is about the inner role that women are supposed to play — caring, nurturing, and loving, and never thinking or dismissing. All-loving, all-devoted Angel In The House. “Pink Energy”. Wanting babies, and wanting to baby everybody. When the chips are down, the feminine-3 woman is all heart, no brain. She has endless generosity and unconditional positive regard.

    Fuck that noise. That’s one tiny, mincing step away from a personality disorder.

  292. J

    “There is a woman I respect who plays the femininity-2 game to the hilt. I don’t get her, but I respect her, because I know what she’s done and I know that she has a core of steel.”

    This is what I was talking about, and I guess my example of shoes, particularly uncomfortable shoes, really undermine’d my message– although opening up, I think, some other interesting terrain.

    I’m glad you got it across alot clearer than I did. I defer to your example, though when I talk about all the appearance junk, I mean any aspect of outer appearance that in any culture that has this patriarchal function, and not as a whole package but as individual parts that make up all kinds of packages. Different parts of the same culture will assemble femininity often with many of the same parts, but not always, and not always in the same order.

  293. shannon

    Femininity is a bunch of boring stuff that people want me to do because my naughty bits are different from men’s naughty bits.

    Memphis tn

  294. smmo

    I got pulled over Friday night, the first time in 10+ years. (Damn I’m boring.) Some hullaballoo with my VIN and license plate numbers being incorrect that will amount to seventeen levels of bureaucratic hell. And the PIG that pulled me over says “will you be able to explain all this to your husband?” And I sort of giggled and said “I think so” because I was scared and just wanted to get home. Femininity is giggling to cover up fear.

  295. Erin

    Looking like a woman (that is, the outward performance of femininity) is what lets me get away with acting “masculine”, or, as I like to think of it, acting like me.

    My clothing is so over-the-top feminine (always skirts, big retro dresses, lipstick, although I do now favor flat shoes more than heels) that people often don’t notice that I’m running everything, and doing it as much as possible my way.

    Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors … (although I have to say I really enjoy fabric & textiles, so aesthetically I prefer the big skirts and dresses to jeans and tees. If I didn’t enjoy it I would have found another strategy, I suppose!)

    So I agree with J that you can use the outward trappings of femininity to subvert what the patriarchy expects. It’s like those odd new restaurants that give you soup that tastes like a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich. It looks like one thing but behaves like another.

    The ideal, though, would be that someday these trappings would not be “read” as having these patriarchal flavors — that what you wore would be as immaterial as your blood type; just something that was part of you that you didn’t have to change.

    In Chicago …

  296. Come the Revolution
  297. mearl

    Some problems I have found with pomo are that – despite its contributions to a way of thinking about the world – it is a genre dominated by men and male perspective, it is relegated to a small group of academic elite whose sole purpose in life is to write out theses that are more impressive and poetic-sounding and profound-looking than the last, it is characterised by much mutual admiration and tongue-lolling, and it is divorced from reality. In terms of feminism I remain strictly a functionalist, and to any scholars who have been getting Helene Cixous and Herbert Marcuse poured down their throats by a multitude of adoring eggheads, I say check out the theorists’ detractors, like Nancy Chodorow in “Feminism and Psycyoanalytic Theory.” The woman is brilliant.

  298. S

    J, I agree with quite a bit of what you have to say. However, you cannot have your postmodern feminist cake and eat it too!

    Helen Cixous, Lucy Irigary, and Julie Kristeva are right up my alley, but by default, the very essence of their arguments preclude us from concluding that “The really radical, socially stirring, and authentic women (and men even) are the ones who, when they participate in so-called feminine practices, do not care if they expose patriarchy’s impotence”

  299. Scurry

    I think it is way too easy to believe you are actually fighting patriarchy by not wearing high heels. It can be symbolic, yes, but what does it actually do to defeat patriarchy? I don’t wear high heels or make-up or “do” my hair but it’s because I like it that way and not to make an anti-patriarchal statement.

    If it makes an anti-patriarchy statement it’s because I chose how I wanted to look all by myself and only for myself. Doing what I do for myself only, without regard for patriarchy (or you, for that matter) is a feminist statement.

    Of course we should fight evil in all its forms. But it’s too much like religious dogma to demand that we all dress and act in a prescribed way. I’ve had enough of that in my life.

  300. JimmyDean'sFuckedUpCousinClyde

    Q Grrl,
    I wasn’t talking about pornography.
    I was trying to describe something I cannot accurately describe, femininity. What I am sensing is that “femaleness” is less emotionally charged a word . . .yet fails to convey a subtler quality associated with femaleness, femininity.
    Or does femininity not exist and I am completely wrong in my perception?—-biologically 1/2 of all gamete producers are female, but only a few of the hundreds of thousands of female of species have feminine qualities. My female cats do have it. My male cats don’t. I don’t see it as much in my female German Shepherd, but definitely don’t see it in my male GS. Primates often have it. Ann Coulter wishes she had it.
    I must confess I don’t know what the hell is is. I sense femininity, and I can’t say precisely what it is I am sensing.
    Sorry if I offended anyone.
    That was not my intent.

  301. msxochitl

    “Of course we should fight evil in all its forms.”

    Then say so! Don’t confuse yourself with all that pomo nonsense you’re no doubt being fed about how ignoring domination is better than fighting against it.

    “But it’s too much like religious dogma to demand that we all dress and act in a prescribed way.”

    Who here is demanding that “we all dress and act in a prescribed way”? This is a straw man. What I’m saying is that we should all question why we desire what we desire, rather than just naively proclaim “I really just love feminine things, but that has nothing to do with patriarchy.” Or, as J put it: “[Wearing heels] is empowering strictly in the sense that it is authentic; it is what she really wants . . .” Or as you put it: “I chose how I wanted to look all by myself and only for myself.” If that’s what you want to tell yourself, fine. But if you claim that there is something very feminist and radical about wanting what the patriarchy says we should want, I’m going to call bullshit.

    Frankly, the “religious dogma” being tossed around here is your unsupported belief that “ignoring someone is more powerful than rebelling against them.” Where is your evidence that any group of disenfranchised people came closer to liberation by ignoring their oppressors? Where is your evidence that doing the opposite of what patriarchy wants (ie, fighting against rape, dowry system, trafficking in women, etc) strenghtens the patriarchy? Are we just supposed to accept these claim, because some French theorist said it?

    “I think it is way too easy to believe you are actually fighting patriarchy by not wearing high heels.”

    Another straw man. I’m not talking about fighting patriarchy by not wearing heels. I’m talking about fighting patriarchy by resisting patriarchy (especially in its most insidious forms, such as rape), instead of ignoring it and refusing recognize its power in shaping my lives and desires, believing that my ignorance will somehow free me from its grasp.

  302. roamaround

    msxochitl, yes, yes, and yes.

  303. M The Pedagogue

    I’m still trying to understand what J is proposing here, and I’ve read at least something by all the abovementioned pomos and quite a few more to boot so I’m guessing it’s not a problem with my mental library.

    Maybe it’s because I ain’t got time to think about authenticity when I’m getting dressed in the morning, trying to figure out which of the leering meathead fuckwads are going to be working today, whether it’ll be dark by the time I leave work, and which route I’ll be walking to get to work.

    At best, ignoring patriarchy excuses it for at least a little while longer. At worst, that’s some seriously stupid shit, like getting in a car with someone who’s obviously obliterated. I like the idea of imagining beyond patriarchy, as an intellectual and artistic exercise towards visionary thinking, but I sure as hell wouldn’t recommend it as a way to get around. I don’t think that’s what you’re recommending either, J, but I’m not sure what you ARE saying.

    I’m still brokenhearted after my class on gender that you all here helped me find readings for. The women kept asking, “But how are women implicated in our own oppression?” Like if we could just figure out what we were doing wrong, we could make it go away. (Sound familiar?) Meanwhile the men kept making analogies to various animal and wildlife behaviors.

    Fuck, I’m depressed, but at least I’m not deluded. I know exactly who and what I’m afraid of when I’m out on the street or alone in my office – and it’s not women. How I compose my appearance is never going to be the site for my authentic self-expression, simply because I cannot control the symbolic meanings firmly attached to the presence or absence of any number of appearance items that everyone has mentioned (hair, heels, lipstick, skirts, etc etc etc) in *other people’s minds.* I just want to get home safe, preferably feeling as much like a human being and as little as a sized-up sexbot as possible.

  304. Luckynkl

    Femininity: A rampant, highly contagious, patriarchal disease, cock-tailed in the labs of the Fatherland’s House of Mirrors and spread in epidemic proportions primarily among sadosociety’s female population. When this delusional hallucinagen is, among other things, ingested or injected, it makes females appear much smaller than they are and males appear much larger than they are in an effort to make males’ truly insignificant existance seem instead, really, really big, important and necessary.

    Courtesy of Wickedary, femininity = the totaled woman. The state of idealized female servitude. Fembots. Female robots. The archetypical role model forced upon women throughout fatherland, the unstated goal/end of socialization into patriarchal womanhood.

  305. Luckynkl

    Oops, forgot my location.

    Planet Earth. State of Consciousness.

  306. hedonistic

    Erin, I’m hearing you loud and clear upthread. Smoke and mirrors. “Nobody here but us chickens, bok bok!”

    I do the same thing, but only while dating. I’m bad, however, in that when it comes to dating men my motives are downright sinister. I ooze Elizabeth’s Femininity II on my first dates to see if I can lull men into a false sense of superiority. Once puffed up, they reveal what they’re REALLY all about (EW!). Then I kick them to the curb and tell my story on my blog (I know, I’m evil; so sue me). In the past two years only ONE man has passed my test; unfortunately he moved out west. Sigh!

  307. Scurry

    Msxochitl, this just all seems like ground we have plowed over and over and over to little avail. It sounds like old-fashioned seventies-style conciousness-raising. It surprises me that this group is so willing to cede femininity to the patriarchy. The question was not “what does patriarchy say femininity is?” but “what is femininity?”

    I agree that patriarchy has made us uncomfortable with ourselves in a way that our generations will not be able to overcome. It is a deep and abiding sense of less-than. I am aware that patriarchy’s view of me will always be part of my view of me. That internalized view is the toughest fight any of us has.

    Ignoring is not excusing, it is not not fighting. It is saying that what I am has nothing to do with what you think of me. What I am is what I decide. How can I fight if I am still letting patriarchy decide what femininity is?

  308. Luckynkl

    It is saying that what I am has nothing to do with what you think of me. What I am is what I decide.

    Nah, you didn’t decide a thing. We’re all as conditioned as Pavlov’s dog. And unless one was raised on Pluto or in the jungle by a pack of wild salamanders, no one has escaped that conditioning. We’ve all been taught how to walk, talk, act, and think from the moment of our births. Choosing to be Moe, Larry, Curley or sometimes Shemp is not really a choice, ok? Those are precluded choices. But if one starts to act and think like a salamander, now we’re talking.

    Sorry, but you’re not special or in control of much of anything. Not even yourself. You get to control 10% of your life. The other 90% is learning how to roll with the punches and maybe getting away with a thing or two.

  309. AradhanaD

    Advertisers know what femininity is about, they know it better than any of us really:

    “Knowing you are worth it” – a bottle of $3.99 hair colouring to get rid of your grey
    “Strong enough for a man but made for a woman” – Because women aren’t supposed to be stronger than men.
    “Beauty is skin deep” – but if you don’t measure up – you will never get a date on prom night.
    “A Campaign for Real Beauty” – you need help to get rid of cellulite off your ‘real beauty zones’ to make them REALLY BEAUTIFUL.
    “Where no food is a sin” – but if you eat too much that will be a sin and your fault (it’s not the food it’s you!).
    “A totally organic experience” – because fake orgasms are better than the real thing.
    “Lifts and separates” – saggy boobs are not the right kind of boobs.
    “Maybe she’s born with it ~ maybe it’s Maybelline” – Cause deep down inside, we know it’s all a show – and if you can’t afford it you aren’t woman enough, If you don’t support it – you aren’t woman enough. If you don’t pretend that you like it – well, you just aren’t feminine and thereby woman enough.

    Now, do you want that in pink, fuschia or mauve?

  310. mearl

    “It sounds like old-fashioned seventies-style conciousness-raising.”

    Ha! Please note the advances made by said seventies-style consciousness raising, vs. when you look around, all the advances being made today. As LMYC said upthread: “When I got followed around by a slobbering drunk when I was 14 and out walking with a friend of mine, what part of that was INTERNALIZED? Sounds pretty external to me. He didn’t spring from my internalized self-hate; he came from around the corner.”

    Unless all the rapists in your city spend their time reading Helene Cixous, you might find some problems with convincing them that wearing heels and dressing all girly-girl is a statement of your AUTHENTICITY.

  311. J

    “I don’t think that’s what you’re recommending either, J, but I’m not sure what you ARE saying.”

    I am not talking about “ignoring” the Patriarchy as a way of “fighting” it, because I am skeptical of the notion of “fighting” the Patriarchy that I typically see– perhaps, ultimately, in itself even. By this I mean that we reinscribe power, of patriarchy, in resisting it. This is what both Debord and Foucault were onto in the ’60s and ’70s.* I have always prefered Debord’s approach to the problem though, because his approach to the issue of “the Spectacle” is much more pragmatic.

    Simply put, if we’re really going to do away with patriarchy, we can’t do it on the terms patriarchy sets for us. That mostly means we can’t resist purely in exterior terms, like winning the vote for women or reproductive rights. These have their own value, but they are not dealing with patriarchal mode of thinking, the patriarchal individual. They have certain effects, for sure, but those effects only skim the surface of people’s patriarchal conditioning.

    In this sense, resistance to patriarchy is not enough. In fact, it is almost antithetical to our cause. We don’t want to live our lives to make it so we can just resist patriarchy, because that means there is still a patriarchy that needs resisting. If you accept the fact that there will always be patriarchy, it is even more ironical why you are even resisting it. I don’t think anyone accepts this though; I think we all at least believe that there can be an end to patriarchy.

    It’s this last bit that I think is absent from most, practically all of feminist revolutionary rhetoric. My point, what I AM saying is that we have to have as the number one priority this question “is what I am doing/saying/thinking furthering the end of patriarchy.” I think most feminists like to think they really have that in mind, and maybe a bunch of them do. I think that most people, radical feminists included, have something equally powerful invested in the continuation of patriarchy, which is to put it bluntly the only meaningful world they have ever known.

    This investment is what blinds so many to something other than patriarchy, so that all that gets furthered is some other *version* of patriarchy, but not the cause of ending it. So, in ignoring patriarchy, I speak very much to the phrase “be the change you want to see in the world.” What this mostly means, rather than passiveness, is constantly asking the above quesiton, but also asking yourself “what do I have invested in the patriarchy that I can let go of.” This last question might do better to assuage people’s concerns over the practicality of something like “ignoring patriarchy.”

    I have to admit that this is all still alot of thought in process (like what thought isn’t!), and I am dipping into the teachings of Nietzsche, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Cixous, Kristeva, Irigaray and most significantly, the Buddha.

    *For as many times as I’ve engaged my arguments with Lacan, Foucault, Debord, Zizek, Kristeva, Freud and Nietzsche, no one who “objects” to them has really made an objection to my argument, but passes along the non-argument of “it’s just pomo.” The one person who remote took my argument on the grounds of the argument, took a distinctly Foucauldian stance and made use of one of the hallmark pomo epitaths, that “there is no authenticity.” So, don’t make the pomo cop-out and actually argue it if you think “it’s just pomo nonsense.”

  312. Kali

    “My point, what I AM saying is that we have to have as the number one priority this question “is what I am doing/saying/thinking furthering the end of patriarchy.””

    That is the exact opposite of “ignoring patriarchy” or “doing something you consider authentic(?) to yourself regardless of whether it is patriarchically mandated” that you seem to be arguing for in the rest of your discussion. In fact, asking this question could sometimes mean *not* doing something you want to do (that you consider a part of your so-called authentic self) because you realize that it furthers the cause of the patriarchy.

    Let’s take the example of Indian resistance to the British Raj. Some people really didn’t want to give up their silks and imported goodies for the sake of civil disobedience. Are you saying that is fine because it is an “authentic” desire, not reactionary like those silly revolutionaries trying to fight the mighty Raj? Participating in civil disobedience would mean letting the Raj dictate your behaviour, so the true way to resist/defeat the Raj is to hang onto the silks and goodies?

  313. J

    “That is the exact opposite of “ignoring patriarchy” or “doing something you consider authentic(?) to yourself regardless of whether it is patriarchically mandated” that you seem to be arguing for in the rest of your discussion. In fact, asking this question could sometimes mean *not* doing something you want to do (that you consider a part of your so-called authentic self) because you realize that it furthers the cause of the patriarchy.”

    You’re right, except you mis-represent what I say. I did not say do “what you consider” to be authentic. Authenticity isn’t a positive quality that you can apply. That is to say, and this goes further than I have been taking it, you don’t do authenticity, you are authentic or you are not. If you are authentic, then what you do is authentic as well. Does that mean you can do willy-nilly? Well, yes and no. You can do whatever, but only if it doesn’t further any intention of patriarchy nor give way to any intention of patriarchy.

    Is that a rule? No. Treating it like a rule misses the point. If one is authentic, then their desires will not make them do things that further patriarchy. Simply put, they will not desire patriarchy. I don’t say any of this is at all easy to grasp or put into action. Living every moment at your core empty of patriarchy.

    I don’t know if you’re Indian example has much to do with what I’m saying. What about keeping their silks and goods makes their desire authentic? Is it because it is not in the name of civil disobedience? That’s doesn’t sound very authentic to me; sounds like your desire is taking ques from something apart from yourself.

  314. M The Pedagogue

    Ok, ok I see, and yeah, regular periodic self-examination for how one can personally divest ideas or goods from the patriarchy is a nice personal exercise, like yoga, but I guess I fundamentally disagree on that being the way to go. Why? Survival is only the first of many reasons that come to mind.

    What it seems like to me is that you’re taking the pomo-ified (expanded to include nonmaterial goods like ideology) version of Marx’s false consciousness, tweaking it further with the Cixous and others (ecriture feminine) who makes some room for “authenticity” (or at least something like it), but ultimately you end up back at the completely American preoccupation with individual action. None of us can completely purify ourselves. And yeah, I do think it’s a waste of time to try because basically we – and here I speak generally about the left – spend so much goddamn time navel-gazing in an attempt to prove to ourselves and everyone around us how organic, free-range, toxic-free, evolved, politically consistent and open-minded we are that we hardly spend a moment trying to figure out how to take down, oh, I dunno, Halliburton. It just seems so much easier to think of my own personal choices in a vacuum, as if they weren’t entirely prescribed by patriarcapitalism.

    Here is where I rely on radical ecological arguments. It’s not about the fucking shoes (like AradhanaD’s “pink, fuschia or mauve” bullshit choice) but trying to end corporate stranglehold over the whole planet and all the resources. Until we can get our own clean water without having to fight or fuck for it or send a check through the mail so that it keeps magically coming out of the pipe in the wall, trying to figure out heels-or-no-heels is cripplingly stupid. I don’t say this as criticism about this discussion. I am saying that there are an awful lot of folks working on sustainable off-the-grid living, and THOSE sacrifices are a lot more pertinent and valuable to contemplate than clothing. And when you start to think about how to bring down the *capitalist* patriarchy, the ways to do it are pretty astonishingly easy, at least in comparison to making people change their damn minds: just imagine how fast shit would go crazy if several hydro dams got blown up, knocking out power to a good chunk of the western US and knocking out the water supply system too. Or, as many have pointed out, we could just wait for peak oil to collapse global shippping and transport of goods.

    Before you think I’m a wacko, consider how impossible 9-11 seemed before it happened. It’s only a matter of time before oil runs out or somebody gets around to fucking up the infrastructure we take for granted most of the day. (That is to say, I’m not advocating anything or interested in debating ethics, but it is useful to consider the inevitability of such things and the emotional reaction such possibilities bring up in us.)

  315. Kali

    “What about keeping their silks and goods makes their desire authentic?”

    Silk feels better against the skin than homespun cotton to them. Sometimes civil disobedience involves going against very basic (authentic?) desires such as avoiding physical pain (being beaten up, thrown in jail).

    The problem is you keep using the term “authentic” but you don’t define what you mean by it. So, to start with, give an example for each of the following:

    – authentic desire that furthers patriarchy
    – authentic desire that does not further patriarchy, or undermines patriarchy
    – inauthentic desire that furthers patriarchy
    – inauthentic desire that does not further patriarchy, or undermines patriarchy.

  316. Kali

    “you are authentic or you are not”

    In that sense, everything and everyone is authentic. It is impossible to be inaunthentic. Even if you are doing something at gunpoint, you are expressing your authentic desire, i.e. balancing an authentic desire to live against an authentic desire to not do what the gun-pointer is demanding, and authentically favoring the authentic desire to live.

  317. pippi's sister

    weakness and wiles.

    corvallis, or

  318. J

    “None of us can completely purify ourselves”

    I’ll go on a limb and take it that you’re talking about patriarchy here, in which case it’ll just be the fundamental disagreement I have with you and perhaps some other people. It’s cool, because there is a certain sense that you are right: practically none of us will on our own raise our own consciousness. It’s just too damn difficult. Doesn’t mean some haven’t, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the only way we can continue to raise our consciousness is through others, who nontheless are usually quite helpful. In the end, our “purification” is our own, though for most of us this means help along the way.

  319. J


    As I have used it, if we are acting authentically, then we are not furthering or sustaining patriarchy. If we are furthering or sustaining patriarchy, then we are acting inauthentically. Simple as that, no in-between.

    For most of us, especially being conditioned our whole lives by patriarchy, what feels right, what you might call a basic desire, is a bad place to start looking for authenticity. I would say our most basic desires involve us, yes living, but for the sake of patriarchy. Of course, it’s not like it’s that simple either. We live for the sake of fulfilling the desire(s) of the Patriarchy, the only system of meaning practically any of us have ever known. Living authentically then, is to live for, and through all your acts and thoughts express, something besides, beyond Patriarchy.

    If that is difficult to wrap your head around, it is because it means transforming your subjectivity, and to the extent that’s fundamentally patriarchal itself, completely letting go of it.

  320. M the Pedagogue

    J- In the end, our “purification” is our own, though for most of us this means help along the way.

    Right – what I’m saying is that reaching an endpoint of total exorcism of patriarchal thinking/feeling/acting/whatever is not a reasonable goal. Nor a particularly important one, because as you say, it is our own. Consciousness-raising then becomes an effort to see more clearly and feel less miserable about ourselves.

    Which is an entirely different project than ending patriarchy. It is an important distinction. CR is a personal and community coping strategy, and possibly a necessary precursor to any actions toward creating a new world order, but not an end in and of itself. I attempt CR whenever I can get away with it in the classroom or on a syllabus. I recognize this is not a solution, but my contribution in forming a wider and more solid foundation of people willing to think beyond the current constraints. You can’t fight something you can’t “see.”

    Hacking the credit card companies and student loan databases and setting everyone free of lifetimes of debt would be a much sexier action, but I don’t have mad skillz like that.

  321. mearl

    M the Pedagogue, this is what I think about in relation to feminism, although you say it better than I could have.

    I see problems with a pluralistically-defined, individual-focussed, well-read-and-living-in-privilege-based feminism, because I’d like to know where the real effects of the collective action are going to manifest themselves in the big picture if there is no collective action. One person over *here* lives at the top of the economic pile in a rich First-World country and has filled her head with the philosophers and doesn’t accept that she is living her life inauthentically, while millions of men over *here* haven’t even heard of Foucault and likely never will in their lifetime, and continue to have a very concrete hold on power, be it the power to kill, make law, make money, define value, take away children, rape, decree what women should say and think and do and look like, and access life-giving resources. Theories about the workings of power are lovely and all, but they probably don’t mean much to a woman in the Congo who has had her family slaughtered and is psychologically traumatised from the brutal beatings and invasive gang rapes she has had to endure.

    I don’t say this because I resent pomo (although I think that if you take its theories to their extremes you are left with nothing), or that I have not bothered reading it all. I say this because I have studied it, and I disagree.

    I was thinking about why such a fizz ensues whenever the subject of heels or makeup (seemingly trivial things) comes up as opposed to when Twisty posts the news of blatant and over-the-top patriarchy, such as women who are blamed by their communities and by law for their own rape. My personal take is that I think it’s a shame when the women who are benefitting from the feminist revolutions just sit back and get comfortable and start putting the wires back around our own cages under the guise of “well, now we have a CHOICE to be feminine!” I worry about those pesky little things like backlash, paired with the kind of privilege which results in misunderstanding, and lack of experience with extreme oppression that results in defense of theoretical bullshit. There has not been a successful revolution in history which has been spearheaded by random individualism and pluralistic abstract values.

  322. mearl

    grammar: ack!

  323. M the Pedagogue

    mearl: word. exactly. The global view is always such a powerfully stark testing ground for so many theories, and gives perspective on the symbolically-laden but materially insignificant debates such as the shoes & lipstick ones.

    This is why I’m preoccupied with Puritans. I really think that America, and by extension any culture importing American culture, has a hard rhetorical lineage of salvation-anxiety-fixation that distorts otherwise productive conversation into self-defense. (see Perry Miller and Sacvan Bercovitch) I do love critical theory, oh how I love it, but at some point, the good shit’s gotta get off the page and into the world. I don’t think that’s impossible. I do think the extreme privilege from which most academics come is what hinders revolutionary praxis, not the theory itself. And that brings us back to CR.

    There’s also a book out which I need to get that has to do with the academic left leaving issues of class and global injustice behind for more “fun” work. Can’t remember the name of it, but it was actually a religious studies professor (go fig) and apparently it was quite the excoriation. How many dissertations have there been on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for fuck’s sake? Us humanities types are skittish around economics, and economists can be some scary-ass mofos, but I’d love to see some theory that can do the damn math – for all the reasons you listed above. That kind of work is way past due.

  324. J

    “…what I’m saying is that reaching an endpoint of total exorcism of patriarchal thinking/feeling/acting/whatever is not a reasonable goal.”

    Well, then how can you say that you’re interested with ending patriarchy?

    “Hacking the credit card companies and student loan databases and setting everyone free of lifetimes of debt would be a much sexier action, but I don’t have mad skillz like that.”

    My point is that that this occurs to you as the better way, however relatively unfeasible, to end patriarchy is itself endemic of patriarchy. Patriarchy is a self-delusional belief, and the material world that supports and is supported by it, in the the total domination of reality, with white males at top, and women, children, and nature at the bottom. When something threathens its delusion of total domination and explanation, it either covers it up, fills it in, or destroys it. In this sense, patriarchy isn’t going to be destroyed, lest you perpetuate it in yourself those who help you do what you do, which brings me back to the first question above.

  325. A.K.

    This is my first post. Although, I have been admiring this blog for many months now.

    smmo, I was pulled over reccently while driving my boyfriend to work. I only ran a single stop light, but the cop insisted that he would forgive my ticket if I let my boyfriend drive the rest of the way on account of “my carelessness”. I let my boyfriend drive because cops scare me and I’m a student with little money. We had to stop at a gas station a mile later and switch because my boyfriend can barely drive a stick.

    I smiled the entire time. That sick smile of submission is femininity.

  326. Mar Iguana

    “Us humanities types are skittish around economics, and economists can be some scary-ass mofos, but I’d love to see some theory that can do the damn math – for all the reasons you listed above. That kind of work is way past due.” M The Pedogogue

    Read Marilyn Waring’s book, “If Women Counted” and watch her documentary “Who’s Counting?” Refusing to count the unpaid work of women and nature in nations’ gross domestic product, excluding from national accounts the negative costs of damage to the environment and valuing only the market economy, is a destructive policy and it has to end. Waring shows how easily and quickly this evil, war-mongering system could be ended.

    The present system imputes value to death, destruction and the war machine. The work of women, oceans, air and forests are given no value until they are prostituted, polluted or chopped down.

    The only place you can get Waring’s DVD, for about $30, is from Bullfrog Films at http://www.bullfrogfilms.com. The book is easy to find on Amazon. If I could afford to buy the DVD and her book and send it to every woman in the U.S., I would. Unfortunately, as a woman, whose life-creating and -sustaining work has no value whatsoever according to the UN; whose paid work is considered worth less compensation by corporations who deem pay equity “perniciously anti-capitalist,” I’m not able to do that.

  327. msxochitl


    “. . . we reinscribe power, of patriarchy, in resisting it. This is what both Debord and Foucault were onto in the ’60s and ’70s.”

    Do you see what you are doing? You are making a claim, and instead of providing evidence to support your claim, you give the names of theorists who believe this claim. And you call this an argument? This is what I mean by nonsense, or dogma.


    ” . . . resistance to patriarchy is not enough. In fact, it is almost antithetical to our cause.”

    Tell me how women organizing against rape, the dowry system, trafficiking in women are acting in a way antithetical to our cause. Tell me how this kind of activism does not chip away at patriarchy. Then tell me what we’re supposed to do instead, because I agree with you when you said that one of the most important things we need to figure out “is what I am doing/saying/thinking furthering the end of patriarchy.”

    So, J, tell me why it my supporting lower-caste women organizing for abortion rights in South Asia is only reinscribing the power of patriarchy. I’m dying to hear your answer!

  328. msxochitl


    “. . . we reinscribe power, of patriarchy, in resisting it. This is what both Debord and Foucault were onto in the ’60s and ’70s.”

    Do you see what you are doing? You are making a claim, and instead of providing evidence to support your claim, you give the names of theorists who believe this claim. And you call this an argument? This is what I mean by nonsense, or dogma.


    ” . . . resistance to patriarchy is not enough. In fact, it is almost antithetical to our cause.”

    Tell me how women organizing against rape, the dowry system, trafficiking in women are acting in a way antithetical to our cause. Tell me how this kind of activism does not chip away at patriarchy. Then tell me what we’re supposed to do instead, because I agree with you when you said that one of the most important things we need to figure out “is what I am doing/saying/thinking furthering the end of patriarchy.”

    So, J, tell me why my supporting lower-caste women organizing for abortion rights in South Asia is only reinscribing the power of patriarchy. I’m dying to hear your answer!

  329. msxochitl

    “The one person who remote took my argument on the grounds of the argument, took a distinctly Foucauldian stance”

    If you must put a label on my stance, it has something to do with radical feminism, anarchism, and anti-imperialism, not Foucault.

    J: “I have to admit that this is all still alot of thought in process (like what thought isn’t!), and I am dipping into the teachings of Nietzsche, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Cixous, Kristeva, Irigaray and most significantly, the Buddha.”

    Have you considered reading something different? What I mean is, if you are interested in revolutionary social change, maybe you could read biographies and histories of people involved in those movements? Or books by radical feminist theorists? I know you think that radfems are only reinscribing patriarchy, but really, we’re not that bad.
    There’s this awesome, awesome book by Marge Piercy called Vida that you might like.

    PS–Karma is a “blame the victim” ideology.

  330. J

    “Tell me how women organizing against rape, the dowry system, trafficiking in women are acting in a way antithetical to our cause. Tell me how this kind of activism does not chip away at patriarchy. Then tell me what we’re supposed to do instead, because I agree with you when you said that one of the most important things we need to figure out ‘is what I am doing/saying/thinking furthering the end of patriarchy.'”

    It isn’t, and that is because you misrepresent what I said. Hell, what of you quote of me is quite clear: “resistance to patriarchy is not enough. In fact, it is almost antithetical.” That kind of activism does chip away at patriarchy, but when trying to end patriarchy is limited to this kind of change, then the effect is one fighting for new rules, not a new or no rule-maker (aka Patriarchy). Our (call for) outward changes (in the world) should reflect the intensity and concentration of our inner training to be patriarchy-free.

    msxochitl, I’m not saying that feminist revolution is patently wrong-headed. I’m pointing out that in many ways the revolution at hand is not just material and social, but inner and personal. Changing the minds of society is the door to changing all of the outward oppression made possible by their ignorance, and that is really only going to effectively happen if we ourselves are sure our thinking and ways of behaving are consistent with our cause of ending patriarchy.

  331. S

    Foucault quoting academics accusing Cixious quoting academics of privilege based feminism…brilliant! Sure it’s obvious that postmodern feminist theory is elitist but find me a brand of feminism that is not. Throwing academic credentials around to prove or disprove this otherwise is just plain ironic.
    Also, I’d just like to take a moment to be offended by the notion that “the lack of experience with extreme oppression results in defence of theoretical bullshit” A persecuted Congo woman I am not, but white capitalist guilt does not cancel out mine or anyone else’s experience of patriarchy.

  332. msxochitl

    J: “I’m pointing out that in many ways the revolution at hand is not just material and social, but inner and personal.”

    Who said otherwise? This is just a truism. And no, this is not the same thing as saying that fighting patriarchy is “almost antithetical” to ending it.

    J: “Our (call for) outward changes (in the world) should reflect the intensity and concentration of our inner training to be patriarchy-free.”

    Are you saying that this isn’t happening? Have you had much experience in feminist activism? Is this what you have observed? If you mean that radical feminists in South Asia aren’t reading Lacan, and Cixous, then you are right. If you mean that they are not thinking deeply about women’s oppresion and how to end it, then you are wrong.

    J: “Changing the minds of society is the door to changing all of the outward oppression made possible by their ignorance, and that is really only going to effectively happen if we ourselves are sure our thinking and ways of behaving are consistent with our cause of ending patriarchy.”

    We’re can never really be sure, can we? But we can act in ways that move us toward our goal. I think that organizing against female sexual slavery is one way of moving us closer to that goal. You say that fighting patriarchy is “almost antithetical” to ending it. And I’m still waiting to hear why you believe this is the case. I’m still waiting to hear how, when the lowest caste women organize for abortion rights, rights to education etc, how they are “inscribing patriarchy by resisting it.”

  333. msxochitl

    S: “Sure it’s obvious that postmodern feminist theory is elitist but find me a brand of feminism that is not.”

    The Feminist Dalit Organization in Nepal, for one. (The Dalits are the people of the lowest caste.) Or is that not what you mean by brand?

  334. J

    “We’re can never really be sure, can we? But we can act in ways that move us toward our goal. I think that organizing against female sexual slavery is one way of moving us closer to that goal.”

    Sure it is, but the way you organize and implement this change, what kind of space you try to carve out for otherwise sex-slaves, what kind of action you condition them to further take for themselves, is intimately tied to the extent to which your thinking is or is not patriarchal. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make gross changes, like tearing down the sex-trade, but I think that just saying that gross change is enough is naive. It’s the difference between striving for a world where the sexualization of women is not allowed and striving for a world where the sexualization of women is not really thinkable or wanted.

    I think that when resistance is the only basket in which we put our patriarchy-ending eggs, it becomes antithetical to that cause, BECAUSE ending patriarchy involves changing people, the world and ourselves in a way that goes beyond mere resistance. It goes beyond resistance in that we must come to a point where there is nothing against which we’re resisting, which I do not think is possible through mere resistance.

  335. mearl

    S: who quoted Foucault? Nit-pickin’ ain’t theorizin’. I never said patriarchy DOESN’T affect the privileged classes either. Sure, I happen to be educated but have realised that an elitist feminist theory does not extend to those who have to deal with issues outside the academia. Some others have not clued in to this one yet.

    I feel like writing, “DUH” here, but that would be petty and mean of me. And we all know I am neither of THOSE.

  336. mearl

    And msoxchitl, REALLY. Why bother taking small steps toward change when you can’t have the whole whopping ideal of changing the mindset of all men and ending patriarchy completely? It’s just silliness to take that practical advice of yours and fight for gains in the real world UNTIL you can get to a point where you can gather up everyone in one big critical theory class and have them all suck back a hefty draught of pomo so we’re on the same page. Then when I put on my heels and lipstick and go out to be a sex slave, all the guys will be well-read and realise that I’M BEING AUTHENTIC AND ACTING WITH FREE WILL AND PERSONAL AGENCY, not bowing to the patriarchy. Jeez.

    Gawd. Revolution. How silly.

  337. msxochitl

    Word, Mearl.

    I interviewed this incredible woman here in Nepal named Laxmi Karki. She was imprisoned for organizing against the monarchy and was raped and tortured in jail. While in prison, she did some consciousness raising. Most of the women in jail with her were imprisoned for having abortions and she wanted them to see how all of this is connection: imprisoning women, women not having control over their bodies & the monarchy.

    Unfortunately, she probably knows nothing about Lacan and therefore nothing about gender and how to end patriarchy. The poor, deluded thing has no idea that her actions were merely inscribing patriarchy, that her CR in prison didn’t really change people’s mindsets or do anything beyond resisting. I should have told her that, even though she calls herself a feminist, she really just wants patriarchy to continue so that she’ll have something to fight against.

  338. msxochitl

    “I think that when resistance is the only basket in which we put our patriarchy-ending eggs, it becomes antithetical to that cause, BECAUSE ending patriarchy involves changing people, the world and ourselves in a way that goes beyond mere resistance.”

    Where is this world you live in where feminist resistance to patriarchy involves action without thought? You’re arguing forcefully for something that already happens.
    I can see what you mean if we had stuff like wet t-shirt contests to raise money for a rape-crisis center. But I haven’t come across much of that.

    J: “It’s the difference between striving for a world where the sexualization of women is not allowed and striving for a world where the sexualization of women is not really thinkable or wanted.”

    That sounds like radical feminism to me. (Even though you dissed radical feminists by claiming that we really don’t want to end patriarchy.) And the comparison you’re making here and in previous posts is between liberal feminism and radical feminism, the difference between moving up within the system to abolishing the system. You are not comparising resistance to patriarchy vs. whatever else it is that we should do instead of/in addition to resisting that we are not already doing.

  339. S

    I would never have taken your tone to be mean, a thinly veiled sarcastic attack maybe, but mean no. I was poking fun at myself for being a Foucault quoting academic more than anyone else. I will endeavour to take myself more seriously. Also, I apologise for misinterpreting page long posts on consciousness raising, radical feminism, radical ecological feminism, post structuralism, and postmodern feminsm for theorising and not nitpicking. Point taken. I must say however, that I feel a bit out of sorts over the last dozen or so posts. While I do think that disagreement from both within and outside feminist communities is productive and necessary, I have been to women’s studies conferences where front line workers and academics align themselves into opposing camps and spend half of the day defending themselves against one another. To me it seems as if these posts exude a similar vibe. I guess I’m just wondering why a more symbiotic relationship remains so seemingly elusive?

    I am familiar with the FEDO, and they do amazing advocacy work on behalf of Dalit women, girls, boys and men. Is it elitist that educated women founded this organization? I don’t know, and I don’t really care, because they have advocated greatly on behalf of Nepal’s Dalit population, and helped to improve the lives of many, particularly women. In the same breath, is it elitist that educated postmodern, multicultural, and global feminists have developed theories of ethical relativism/absolutism, which have been incorporated into various government policies, especially Canadian immigration policies as they pertain to immigrant and refugee women? Well I don’t know, but I have to respectfully disagree that “elitist feminist theory does not extend to those who have to deal with issues outside the academia” Honestly, I don’t even know how I would begin to draw this line you’ve alluded to, because to my mind feminism in general, and women as a whole are shaped by fluidity and interconnectedness.

    Although I prefer not to place static labels such as radical feminist, social feminist, and postmodern feminist upon myself, I have found the writings of social ecofeminists, Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva to be very helpful in my attempts to understand the kaleidoscope that is feminist thought. Rosemarie Putnam Tong however, is much more poetic and succinct in her assesment than I could ever hope to:

    “What I most treasure about feminist thought is that although it has a beginning, it has no end; and because it has no predetermined end, feminist thought permits each woman to think her own thoughts. Not the truth, but the truths will set women free.”

  340. Johanna

    I’m sick of feeling of not being feminine enough, it’s crippling. Screw femininity. Be human.

  341. Pissy P.

    To answer the question, I’d have to invoke a quote from French actor, Jeanne Moreau, “There are only two things without limit: femininity and the means to exploit it.” Thus pointing to the inextricable link between patriarchal capitalism and its cash cow.

    Femininity is a performance, a dance, if you will, done for approval, acceptance and to fatten the wallets and egos of capitalist patriarchy.

    Refuse to be a cow.

    New York, NY

  342. mearl

    S: olive branch. I wrote that at the finish of a long day and was at the frayed end of my rope. I stand firm upon my other posts. For those who are pondering the question of sex-positive authenticity, here is a good post to read:


    Crap. I don’t know how to make links very well, do I?

  343. Diane

    There is a nice article about women wearing short hair and what it means to them and other people. This is about the evolution of society that has changed the life in many ways, including hairdos.
    Short hair is practical

  344. surprise

    I am really late to this party, years late. But, it’s an interesting post.

    There seems to be some perverse inverse relationship between femininity and “true believer” autocratic religious or totalitarian socialist regimes.

    It’s fascinating to consider femininity in the context of autocratic religious societies such as shariah law-binding Moslem states and fundamentalist polygyny Mormon sects. In each case, literal patriarchy, in which fathers envision their wives and children as part of their multi-generational dynasties, is very strong. In the case of the fundamentalist Mormons, these dynasties can include patriarchs with five, ten, thirty, or even, in very rare instances, eighty wives (i.e. Warren Jeffs of Colorado City). Femininity, the theatrical, conscious art of inducing male arousal through submissive female behaviors; make-up highlighting lips, eyes, and smooth skin; relevatory views of tabooed female flesh; and/or clothing that emphasizes female sexuality or sexual organs is very proscribed or not permitted at all in these societies. In Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, women are swathed from head to toe in black or blue fabric, with only their eyes showing (and sometimes not even that). In FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) communities, women without jewelry or make-up wear voluminous floor-length prairie dresses, usually of a solid pastel color. Their hair is worn up, and is not allowed to flow freely.

    The same is true of totalitarian socialist regimes, at least in their “true-believer” stage. In totalitarian socialist countries everyone is required to wear drab, bulky utilitarian clothing at all times to ensure a selfless equality on the part of all members of society. In Communist China immediately following World War II and in North Korea today, women are forbidden from wearing bright clothing or revealing outfits that might draw the male gaze away from visions of a future utopia.

    Both autocratic religious-patriarchal societies and totalitarian socialist regimes seek to obliderate sense of self. In patriarchal societies, however, the focus is on tearing down specifically female individuality and agency, while building up male selfhood and influence to great heights; in totalitarian socialist regimes, the focus is on tearing down everyone’s individuality and agency, both male and female. The later, from what we know about history, is undoubtedly worse.

    One has to come to the conclusion that femininity, the theatrical, conscious art of inducing male arousal is not a product of patriarchy (again, patriarchs who envision their families as multi-generational dynasties and marry off their underage virgin daughters to other old-fart patriarchs), but of societies in which females consort regularly with men of diverse backgrounds and taste, understand them to some degree, and are able to choose their own sexual partners and/or husbands.

    Of course, femininity has severe drawbacks. Being a performer, being on stage all the time is tiring. It gets in the way of having authentic relationships with males. And, if femininity is all that a woman is, then she’ll have no dreams for herself as an autonomous human being.

    I think a nuanced, balanced view of femininity is the right way to go. In this modern world in which we need to play so many roles, femininity should be be one role among many that a woman may don, if she so chooses. Of course, that presupposes that there are other, positive roles available.

  1. Anuna Rocks Her First Comment: What is Femininity? « Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    […] I’m linking to Twisty’s site today because I don’t want to lose yesterday’s post, Blamer Brain Trust Action Request, in which Twisty asks the Feminist Hive Mind to help a friend out with a school project. Her friend frames the question: Hi everybody. I’m doing a project for my “Dress and Society” class, and I’m asking you to help me if you can. This time, I’m asking you to answer the question, “What is femininity?” There are no rules – your answer can be short, long, metaphorical, literal, poetic, sarcastic, whatever. I’ll cite your first name and city/state. If you’re not comfortable with that, give me an alias to use. If you’re interested in reading the final project, let me know and I’ll be happy to email it to you. […]

  2. Fierce Femme

    What is Femininity?…

    Some women cling to this label to be otherwise validated by men and women (as I used to be, in my insecure teenage days)…

  3. Pink golf balls? Nice try, but … no. at I Blame The Patriarchy

    […] I’ve barely had time to duck my head into the bulging “what is femininity” comments. I did, however, notice this query: “[…I]f girls and women choose pink equipment to play […] sports, are they somehow reclaiming femininity in a good way?” […]

  4. About a word. « This Highway

    […] And that’s where things got tricky. Jane’s talking about her personal experience, but she’s talking about it in political terms. I asked a question about her definition of her experience using those political terms. I wasn’t challenging or invalidating her perception of her experience (and, incidentally, I don’t appreciate her implied challenge to mine when she responded, “If you are still not sure how women are oppressed by men, I refer you to your own experience, or your female family members or your local newspaper or this blog (maybe start with this thread on that blog)”). […]

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