The Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

January 29, 2011, 5:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

In my last post I discussed the necessity for abstract thinking when considering more advanced feminism, which was really just a big long introduction to this post (but I got so long-winded that I decided to let it stand on its own):

Very, very frequently in mainstream coverage of ladybusiness, the idea that “femininity” is and should be a highly valued concept goes unquestioned – certainly, femininity is wonderful, which is not to say that everyone must practice it, but it’s not bad either, right?

Twisty doesn’t think so – speaking of an interview with author Peggy Orenstein:

You might think Orenstein sort of gets it in this book about pink preteens, but then she says “You don’t want to send the message that things that are feminine don’t have value.” But yes, you do. Why does nobody see that femininity is internalized patriarchy?

Now, I will be the first to say: Twisty is a hammer-swingin’ kind of gal, and sometimes, she swings her hammer with a little too much abandon. I appreciate that, because it gets a point across, and I’m not going to nitpick her arguments unless they are intrinsically flawed (I also trust her readers are intelligent enough to not necessarily take her comments as gospel, or at face value, instead readily critiquing them when they see fit).

But what she’s getting at here is the concept of “femininity,” and all it represents, is, when you’re really honest with yourself, just a re-branding of misogyny:

  • Women are weak = Women are diminuitive
  • Women do the child-rearing = Women are nurturing
  • Women are objects  = Women are beautiful
  • Women are harlot temptresses = Women are coy

And obviously, it’s not that simple (it’s never that simple, is it), but the point here is that generally speaking, what we laud for being “feminine,” is really just taking what has otherwise been negative and making it into a positive – though positive it may be, it does not yield any increase in power, and can be spun on its head directly back into misogyny in a flash. A racist comment that’s “positive” (e.g. Asians are good at math) is no less racist and offensive than a “negative” one – you’re still reducing a person to a less-than-person status based on a factor outside of their control.

So when someone suggests that something like femininity should not be encouraged, a good thinker will have questions. Questions like…

  1. Why not? Men and women are different, to pretend they aren’t is ignoring reality. Shouldn’t we celebrate our differences?
  2. Are we supposed to just go around in some Orwellian dystopia, wearing identical grey sacks to ensure that everyone is treated just the same?
  3. My GOD, have you thought of the CHILDREN?????

Which is excellent! But what spurs these questions is a gut reaction to the suggestion that something which might be extremely common in our existence is not right. Does it make me a hypocrite to write about how our concept of femininity is not necessarily something which should be praised, hit “Publish,” then go put on makeup and do my hair? Yes, it does. But that’s why it’s called feminist theory – sometimes it is simply not feasible to practice everything that you preach, and I try to acknowledge that. When we’re speaking in ideals, however, as in what we should work towards (since the only time change comes crashing through tends to be during scary dictatorships and violent revolutions), it is reasonable to say “I don’t think women should have to feel that they need to do their makeup and hair before going out of the house,” without necessarily committing to that ideal 100% of the time.

Point being, we have to allow ourselves to consider that something we do regularly and maybe even enjoy might not be ideal behavior. In this case, the notion of femininity falls under that umbrella.


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