All posts are inspired by something. Usually it’s books, or a conversation on Twitter, or a problem in my writing. This one comes from a few sources: the Oscars on the 24th, talking with friends about feminism, and a post on Facebook today. I’m not going to rehash the problems with the Oscars because there have been hundreds of excellent, thought provoking posts about the pervasive sexism in the jokes and skits. I’m not going to rehash the Facebook post because the intention of this post is not to attack the original poster but to talk about my own views on femininity, identity, and celebrities.
That is to say if you’re still going to find that offensive, when I said my own views, then you need to leave right now.
Here are a few basic tenets of my beliefs:
1. There’s very little that is more offensive to me than women telling other women how to exist in an acceptable manner in the world. We’re already taught by a male-dominated and male-created culture how to exist regardless of where we live. We’re all in this together. We’re on the same side. We need to stop tearing each other apart if we want to make this world a better place for the females who come after us.
2. There is no right way to be a female in our world. Which also means there’s no wrong way to be a woman.
3. A person’s true genuine authentic self is acceptable. It must be. If it isn’t okay to the perceiver, than that is on the perceiver. The person who is being their authentic self is never required to carry another person’s judgment. They shouldn’t be asked to, and they shouldn’t be required to carry that judgment.
3b. It is impossible when talking about celebrities to know whether they’re showing their truest and most authentic selves. But if we begin to treat them as a culture as if they’re being authentic and genuine, and withdraw our judgment (including the “well they asked for it by being in the spotlight” excuse), then maybe we will see more celebrities being their most authentic selves.
Femininity used to be an ugly and repulsive word to me. I used to be insulted by the idea that I might be feminine. You may as well have suggested I contracted a highly stigmatized disease. What I perceived to be feminine in the world did not align with my own view of my self even as I struggled with myself. I didn’t want to be seen as feminine because I didn’t feel or want to feel girly. I thought that feminine had to mean that I wore dresses and makeup and cared about how my hair looked. I thought feminine was synonymous with delicate. I’m a lot of things. I’m even fragile and I might accept that adjective if you catch me on a good day. But I’m not delicate.
feminine (adj.)mid-14c., “of the female sex,” from Old French femenin (12c.) “feminine, female; with feminine qualities, effeminate,” from Latin femininus “feminine” (in the grammatical sense at first), from femina “woman, female,” literally “she who suckles,” from root of felare “to suck, suckle” Online Etymology Dictionary
Femininity just means that you’re female or have female qualities. I’m specifically not saying that femininity means womanliness here because not all females identify as women and not all women identify as female.
There is no right way to be a woman. There is no wrong way to be a woman.
There is no right way to be feminine. There’s no wrong way to be feminine.
You are feminine if you identify as female. That’s all. That’s it. It’s that simple. If you identify as female, you are feminine. Whether or not you dress in pink, wear dresses, and care about your hair is entirely another issue. The bottom line is there’s no right or wrong way for any woman to be a woman. And to suggest there is a right and wrong sexism and misogynist, it suggests that women have to fit a certain mold, and generally speaking, those molds we carry as Truths inside of us are created in a male-dominated society. And just because you don’t like someone’s version of their femininity doesn’t mean that they are wrong, shallow, or fake. It also doesn’t meant they’re giving off the wrong femininity because there isn’t.
And to suggest that someone who is bubbly, and happy, and dresses in pastels, and who does, in many ways, appear superficially like she walked out of the fifties is not as good and rejectable is sexist. You can reject the reasons that women were forced into their pretty little boxes in the fifties and not reject that version of femininity. Because if you don’t, then you’re saying that this generation’s femininity is better, which has been said before when forcing women into little boxes. Somewhere out there, the forever bubbly happy girl who dresses in dresses and flits through life actually works for a girl. How dare you suggest that she’s not feminine enough because she isn’t the type of feminine that you look up to?
Moreover, in this case, the target of this hate speech was Anne Hathaway. She’s a feminist! She’s outspoken, proud, a supporter of human rights including same sex marriage, wildly successful in her field, etc. The time it takes to tear down someone like Anne based on her apparently being an old school version of feminine is wasted time. There are so many better people to say are holding back women with their views of femininity? Let’s try the 138 Republican Congressmen (and one congresswoman) who voted AGAINST renewing the Violence Against Women Act. THOSE people are holding back women with their views of femininity. Anne won one of the 9 awards that went to women on Sunday night. 30+ awards went to men. We should be CELEBRATING Anne’s success.
This gets to my final point. We need to stop giving celebrities the special treatment of our fine combed judgment. There’s a line. We can talk about whether or not we like someone’s dress, but to then tear apart the person as a person based on her dress choice goes too far. We need to think hard and critically why it was okay for what happened on Sunday night to happen. We need to think about why the world felt bad for Robert Pattinson when Kristen Stewart cheated on him, and why she was labeled a slut. We need to think about why it is okay for the Oscars to condone domestic violence, alcoholism, sexualization of a little girl, eating disorders. We need to think about why it was okay for women to win only a fifth of the awards at the Oscars, occupy only a fifth of the seats in the US Senate and less than a fifth of the seats in the US House of Representatives, but it’s okay for us to dislike Anne Hathaway for being the “wrong type of feminine” and Lena Dunham for showing her not-size-two body on television.
We internalize sexism. We internalize misogyny. I’m no exception. Stating this does not abscond me of my hypocriticalness. We’re quick to say that Anne is “too girly” or that next to Jennifer Lawrence’s brash awkwardness that she owns with a fierce pride, Anne’s “little girl femininity no longer does it for [us]”, but no one would ever say “Hugh Jackman is too manly.” With the exception of people who are uncomfortable with transgenderness, we never say that men are being men incorrectly. Especially in a society that’s increasingly accepting of homosexuality, we’ve become comfortable with many types of “manliness”.
Not one person on Twitter (that I saw) after Daniel Radcliffe, Joseph Gorden-Levitt, and Seth MacFarlane suggested any one of those men were gay which means we’ve come a long way. So why as we become increasingly accepting of various shades of manliness we’ve carried with us a narrow view of being a woman? Sure, it’s shifted. Jennifer Lawrence is the media and public darling, and partially because she owns her awkwardness, but why didn’t it widen to include Jennifer and Anne? Why must it shift so that Jennifer is the touchstone and Anne must be excluded? Why is this an either or situation? Why can’t they both be considered female, feminine, and impressive people in their own right who are doing incredible jobs in a misogynistic and difficult working environment?
Aren’t these things we should be thinking about? When we slam one woman for not fitting our personal view of femininity and feminism, then we keep all women back. Ladies, the world holds us back enough. We don’t need to help it. Stop bringing each other down. Spend your energy fighting people who are genuinely hurting your ability to have access to healthcare, a job where you make the same as a man, and marry whom you love.
I’m off the soapbox and back to writing now.