Friday, November 6, 2009 Are you a feminist? Or a feminine-ist? [Oh, come on!]

So, a writer for Oprah's magazine has this article suggesting that feminine-ism replace the term feminism. The premise is offensive, but arguing for femininity is not. I'm into femininity. Femininity is frequently devalued while masculinity is valorized in men and women. It's seen as frivolous - as not something that's worthy of being sought, and as something that weighs women down.

To quote Julia Serano:
Traditional sexism functions to make femaleness and femininity appear subordinate to maleness and masculinity... [F]emale and feminine attributes are regularly assigned negative connotations and meanings in our society. An example of this is the way that being in touch with and expressing one's emotions is regularly derided in our society...

[T]raditional sexism also creates the impression that certain aspects of feminity exist for the pleasure or benefit of men ... After all, feminine self-presentation tends to highly correlate with a more general desire to surround oneself with beautiful or aesthetically pleasing objects and materials - whether in decorating one's home or adorning one's body. (Whipping Girl, 326-328)
Sometimes, the article hits on those points:
As a card-carrying "feminine-ist," I am here to tell you that feeling sexy is what helps me to be my most powerful and successful self, and being powerful and successful also helps me feel damn sexy! As "feminine-ists," we definitely don't need to make the choice between feminine or powerful and successful. We should and must try to embrace both choices simultaneously.
But then it shames women who aren't feminine:
I see too many women these days rushing around trying to do it all, but meanwhile they're not being it all! They're not being their fullest, best feminine selves. Instead, they're being tougher than they'd like to be as well as more exhausted, strident and irritable, thereby feeling unattractive inside and out. All while suffering from guilt over the stuff they did not manage to squeeze into their over-booked schedules.
And tries to center the women's movement around men:
With the word "feminism," it might have been embarrassing for a man to say he was a supporter because it might sound like he was admitting to supporting of a group of controlling, bitchy women. But with new pro-sexiness, pro-sweetness, pro-balance words like "feminine-ist" and "feminine-ism," what's not for a man to love?
So, to re-cap: feminine is "best". Feminism is about "controlling, bitchy women" who are not sexy, sweet, or balanced. Advocacy for women's rights is only significant when it reinforces norms and caters to men.

Let's see.... what are we missing? Can't forget some good old transmisogyny:
True story: My friend David got mugged at a bank machine by a beautiful, leggy, sexy woman.
"Actually, it might have been a transvestite," David corrected himself.

"It's okay if you were mugged by a woman," I told him, smiling.

Now embarrassed, David said, "The more I think about it, the more I'm sure he was a transvestite."

I laughed but was also intrigued by why David would be so embarrassed to be mugged by a beautiful, leggy, sexy woman, but not a man.
So, the writer devalues and dismisses and others folks on the trans feminine spectrum, and implicitly essentializes femininity as the sole domain of cis women. Oh, and some ungendering thrown in there for kicks. Awesome.

"Feminism" has a great deal of baggage and issues in too many areas to mention, and femininity is devalued. But, let's not center it around traditional femininity in an effort to shore up oppositional sexism and cissexism. Thanks, though.


  1. I am actually happy you tackled this topic. I've seen this femininity vs. feminism way too much lately--including a facebook group that I saw a bunch of acquantances join called "Femininity NOT Feminism".
    This new movement seems to do a lot of hating rather than dissecting feminism.

    It's really sad that there is still a stigma present with Feminism rather than an acceptance or a search for understanding. After all, we (as feminists) are trying to find a way to work towards equality on all fronts.

    In short: thanks for writing!

  2. Another great posting from you. But then, what other kind do you post?

    It's interesting and disturbing that many women who call themselves feminists, like Robin Morgan, hate transgender women because they think we uphold "traditional" notions of "femininity." Sadly, too many trans women I've seen seem to be parodies of that fantasy. And, very often, I find myself accepted or not according to the degree to which I conform to that non-reality.

    On the other hand, although I was born a woman in mind and spirit, I did not have to spend my life confirming to some unattainable ideal. I am in the process of becoming the kind of woman that I am, and will become, and am discovering what it means to be that woman.


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