23 March 2007

What does feminism/feminity mean to you?

Twisty and MotherMe both posted some things recently that have me thinking about my stance as a feminist.

Feminism means so many things, in the end what matters is what it means to YOU. The usual reaction I get when I identify myself to someone as a feminist is a big lip curl, which irritates the shit out of me right from the get-go. I've been doing a lot of reading of radical philosophy lately, and pop culture viewed through the prism of feminism is really ugly. A few examples?

Waiting to see my physical therapist the other day, I pawed through the stack of magazines on an endtable...Women's Day, Men's Health, ESPN, Metropolitan Home. To be sure, Metropolitan Home is way out of place in the midst of my suburban hell, but I digress. As I leafed though one of the women's mags, I found an article that pissed my feminist self right off...it was about keeping beauty secrets from your man, the things women do, and hide from the menfolk, to stay young and beautiful. One quote which sticks out in my mind in particular was from a woman who wears some kind of maybe eyeliner? Not sure...anyway, she said that the claim on the packaging is that it 'lasts 16 hours' and her brag was that her husband had 'never seen me without it. I don't think he knows HOW UGLY I am without it.' (Emphasis is mine, of course.) There was another woman who slathers herself in olive oil after a bath and wraps herself in a cotton sheet, then goes to bed. (That's actually probably great for your skin.) But the reaction of her friends was honestly, "Can you imagine a man putting up with that? No wonder you're single." Good and merciful Goddess, those are the antithesis of feminism to me.

I turned away from that article about hiding beauty secrets from the menfolk lest I throw it at my (male) PT's head when he came to get me, and the whole mag was full of horrible, horrible awful stuff that only went downhill from there.

It is easy to resort to bumper sticker wisdom and quote the cute, "Feminism is the radical idea that women are people" but that isn't all of it, nor is it enough. Much like when the Supreme Court tried to define pornography decades ago, however, about all anyone can really say is that they know it when they see it.

Femininity, however, is something else entirely. When I hear the word femininity, I think power. I think triumph. I think dresses, yes, and soft edges. But I also think about melting someone into a puddle of goo with a look, a touch, raw sexuality, sensuality. And if that isn't power! I think that as women, we hold so many of the cards. We forget that in the rush to be acceptable to the largest number of people, as we are taught from the cradle about 'nice girls' and how they get along with everybody, all the time. It is difficult to push those voices of our mothers, grandmothers, and yes, even teachers out of our heads, all those who told us, "Nice girls don't push. Nice girls don't throw things. Nice girls don't flirt. Nice girls don't dress like that."

If that's all the case, who the hell wants to be a nice girl? Screw that, not me!


MotherMe said...

Nice girls don't swear, or want sex, or forget to shave their arm-pits.

Damn. Guess I'm not a very nice girl, either.

Lucy Arin said...


terri said...

amen sister.