I began wearing makeup at the age of 12. Ironically, my aunt, who is a self-described feminist but also worked at Clinique for many years, was the one who formally introduced me to the world of makeup. While I wish that she would have waited to give me makeup until later, I feel very blessed than I have a woman in my life who balances her feminist believes with her love of makeup quite well. However, I regret to say that I am addicted to the stuff. I feel "less attractive" when I leave home without it, which is entirely un-feminist (and un-Christian) of me. I think caring about your appearance in no way indicates a woman is "less feminist" than other. However, it is how you see yourself without it that matters. As of now, I am struggling with seeing myself as beautiful without the foundation, concealer and lipgloss.


Just wondering if you purposely mentioned shaving your legs and if that is something you have thought about - in high school it was a big deal for me to stop shaving my legs and I got called "forest legs" and people made other mean comments. I don't know where they got forest legs by the way. Anyway, I know to shave or not to shave is a big deal for a lot of feminists/women. For me it was one way to say, even though I probably feel like it looks better with shaved legs and armpits, that is an oppresive culture telling me that (the same way they tell me to be skinny, wear make-up, etc) and I'm not going to do it. I'm used to it by now but even in college it was a struggle...

I never quite understood the deal with the shaving, but then I've always had a peculiar aversion to body hair. On men as well, which is probably why I gravitate towards asians or swimmers ;)

Actually, after thinking about this for a moment (thoughtful post btw, Happy) I don't personally feel you should worry too much if you choose to make an effort to look nice, be that via exercise, make-up, tailored clothing or what have you. For better or for worse, people respond to appearances...anyone who has worked in sales or probably anything dealing with face to face interactions can tell you this, first impressions especially. I think it's human nature to respond more positively to an attactive person. I was a bit of an ugly duckling when I was younger, but as I've gotten older and my appearance has changed I have noticed the difference in how people respond to me up front - both men and women. Attitude has a lot to do with it, but someone who is well turned out and has a healthy or youthful appearance is in most cases going to get a more positive initial reception then someone who looks like they do not take care of themselves, or (and I agree it's kind of unfair) someone who is ugly. That's an advantage if used properly. Like I said, maybe not fair or anything, but I think that's just reality. Might as well roll with it.


I just don't.

It doesn't help to handwave and decide 'well, if I like it, I'm not going mess it up with feminist analysis'.


I remember in 7th grade, my friend asked me, "Do you not shave your legs because you're trying to make a feminist statement." I was completely mortified, ran home and asked my mom to buy me a razor. I guess I must have missed the shaving bandwagon as it came by because it never even OCCURRED to me that I was supposed to be doing it yet. I must have just been a bit slow in that regard, since NOW my friends all tell me that they started shaving in 5th or 6th grade. Oops.

Was that directed at me, mythago? Would you prefer that I conformed to your standards?


My whole life I have always been extremely "Femme". As a child I loved Barbie Dolls, playing dress up, styling hair, and admired the beautiful
and glamorous old-time movie actresses. As an adult I have long flowing hair, wear make-up, wear fashionalbe clothes, love babies and cute little animals, etc. and I am still as "girly' as ever !
However, from a very young age I have also been a militant feminist.
It's funny I have never seen a contradiction between being a Feminist and being "feminine" and have always been shocked to learn there are
those who do create a false dichotomy between the two !
Perhaps it's cultural. I have always thought that America is a particularly "macho" culture. I feel there is a rampant devaluation of the "feminine" in the dominant American Culture. Whether you are a man or a woman extolling feminine virtues is greeted with scorn.
Growing up in the United States I have never really been encouraged by anyone outside of my family to be feminine. The Feminist complaint that women are encouraged to be feminine has never rung true for me. I always get the impression that feminity is frowned upon and one who exhibits feminine characteristics is viewed as weak and vapid. "Being Pretty" = "Dumb", "Liking Clothes" = "Silly", "Being Generous" = "Pushover", etc.
And in my experience a "masculine" woman is always seen as superior
to a "feminine" woman. Needless to say that it is the same with men.
My mother's homeland is Italy and the Italian culture has been the biggest influence of my life. I always grew up with the idea that motherhood, family life, and glamour were great joys and certaintly not meant to be viewed as burdens. And that being "feminine" is not a mark of inferiority.
Perhaps Europeans have more of a love of beauty and aesthetics in general. I know that my cousins in Italy are always shocked at how American men and women seem to put such little effort into their everyday appearance. Everyone views the world through their own
cultural lens.
This is just my take on things but just to reiterate I have never
understood why a Feminist woman could not also be a "Feminine" woman and also be PROUD of it !


I think there's a huge topic of class in this whole discussion which I don't see often addressed.

Where I was growing up, women wore stretchy black pants or jeans and sweatshirts. For fancy, there were sweaters with (hideous to my eye) applique. For really really fancy, a dress. I grew up with poor people: there was a serious danger to being too femmy, because then you were probably a "hoor" who was "putting on airs" &/or was trying to "sleep her way up".

Teen girls pulled their jeans up with their coathangers and did their hair in claws and slathered on 17 coats of Maybelline, sure: I'm not saying there wasn't a fundamental insecurity of female-ness, nor a fundamental *class* insecurity, where you're trying really hard to look rich: nor am I saying that there's not patriarchal spin on all this. But femmy is not, to me, just a matter of gender and leave it at that; it's bigger and deeper and more layered than whether Paris Hilton's image is an example of whoring your way to god almighty as the gold standard of female beauty. Her icon is way more layered than that.

What Paris Hilton is, is rich. Born into money. She's an idiot because she can AFFORD to be an idiot: look at that show where she runs around being a moron. Is this *really* about women? From where I'm standing, it's about class: "Lookit her, those goddamned rich people are morons; it's okay we're poor, because at least we're not broken in the head." Hilton is for schedenfreude.

Sexism? Sure. It's Paris Hilton and not Roger Gotrocks. To me, though, Hilton accomplishes two rather big things: first of all, she proves that money innoculates from the consequences of being utterly useless, and is therefore sort of a threat: but she also suggests that money isn't everything, unless you're willing to go all Flowers for Algernon.

I mean, it seems to me that the world over, "style" is about what's next to impossible to achieve unless you're rich, and that tends to reflect on class. The femmy woman thing seems to me to come out of a class where women didn't have to work - real work, mind you, not our fancy-pants intellectualism - and therefore were ornaments to their menfolk. Yeah, it's patriarchal that women are the primary ornaments, but haven't you all noted the rise of the rich meterosexual man?

I don't imagine the rich/poor thing is going away soon; but I do imagine that having a wife to be taken out of the closet looking unsuitable for working in the lower classes will become less representative of wealth for men, and men'll start having to worry more and more about hairplugs and raquetball and losing a few and having their cuticles done and their hair just so. And more butt implants and pec implants and whiter smiles and waxed backs and waxed fronts and the whole ninety yards. I mean, this is *happening* in male beauty culture: they have their own youth-i-fying product lines and Body Shop couture coming along.

I mean, now, it's these strange hair streaking techniques and from hell botox and lifted faces and surgery surgery surgery. This shit screams money, not beauty. People look damn odd after all that work is done.

Youth is more easily kept if you're not working class. If you're not spending all day every day on your feet, working 10 hour days, and bussing on the way home, to eat simple carbs in craptastic salt sauce for dinner. So of course youth is going to be a gold standard: poverty ages the heck out of people.


(( Hence, you put on makeup for a job interview to look more "professional". Good makeup is not cheap.

I suppose, then, that I see Femmy women as making more of a money statement than a gendered statement. A perfectly understandable necessity in certain spheres; I'm not dissing femmy women at all of any class. But regardless of what the upper classes DO with style - make it gender neutral, whatever - they're still going to be "hobbled" from manual labour, "high maintenance", and expensive. ))

The comments to this entry are closed.