There are SO many things swirling around in my head that I went to put up on this blog, but I think I had better take yesterday's two part series on women in football to its logical conclusion. Yesterday I opined that vigorous, competitive athletics, including even traditionally masculine sports like football, are NOT incompatible with femininity. Of course, that means I ought to clarify my view of what femininity means.
This is an important topic. Many women shy away from feminism because they believe that it is "un-feminine." I have heard people say that feminists want women to look like men or that feminists want women to look as unattractive as possible. But that is far from the case.
I tend to present myself in a feminine style. At work, I typically wear dresses (sometimes even flowered dresses!) and long skirts, with very high heels, pearls, blazers, and make-up. But to me, femininity is just that -- a style. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I think it will continue to fluorish as a style. It is a style that often enhances the attraction between the sexes. But, in my view, femininity is neither a sacred obligation nor a persona I adopt to make my husband feel bigger and stronger than he already is.
Certainly, feminists have dissected the concept of femininity, pointing out both negative and positive aspects. Feminist writer Susan Brownmiller said it best: "Femininity, in essence, is a romantic sentiment, a nostalgic tradition of imposed limitations . . . Femininity always demands more. It must constantly reassure its audience by a willing demonstration of difference [from men], 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."
Brownmiller also pointed out the positive side of femininity, the primary reason most women do not want to abandon it: "We are talking . . . about an exquisite esthetic. Enormous pleasure can be extracted from feminine pursuits as a creative outlet or purely as relaxation; indeed, indulgence for the sake of fun, or art, or attention, is among femininity's great joys."
In sum, my message about femininity is that it is not at all inconsistent with feminism as long as you understand femininity as an aesthetic that you can cast off when it is inconsistent with something you want to accomplish (like playing in a rugby game or landscaping your yard). Feminism has nothing against "feminine loveliness" but it does eschew the notion that women should limit themselves or their opportunities simply for the purpose of creating, exaggerating, or reinforcing distinctions between the sexes.
(I also have to admit that it's kind of fun to conduct a deservedly searing cross-examination of a hapless witness while I am wearing a flowered dress and a butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth expression. One advantage of a feminine persona can be the element of surprise!)