We live in a society where femininity is seen to be frivolity – where lipstick and jewellery are seen as meaningless decoration rather than artistic expression. However, anyone who has observed the perfect winged liner can tell you that this a huge underestimation. Not only can both fashion and make-up be empowering, but it can function as resistance – as a big middle finger to convention.
The power of femininity is denied in our society, and this is a huge error. The fact that gender neutral or androgyny is assumed to be masculine is proof of this – normally portrayed as women in suits rather than men in make-up. It is not just the patriarchy that sees femininity as inferior or ‘silly’ though – this has also come from feminists.
In the attempt by second-wave feminists (1960s-1980s) to break down gender binaries and give women more choices than mother and wife, there has been a tendency to paint all things feminine with the same brush. There is the idea that anyone who enjoys feminine things – whether that is make-up or dresses or baking – is somehow taking part in their own oppression.
Not only does this underestimate women, but it does exactly what feminism should be against. Whether you are actively trying to avoid gender stereotypes or you conform to them, if you impose your beliefs on somebody else it is still restrictive and oppressive. Gloria Steinem has famously said that “The greatest gift we can give one another is the power to make a choice. The power to choose is even more important than the choices we make.” Personally, I think this is one of the biggest lessons we can learn from the feminist movement.
Regardless of whether someone chooses to wear heels and contour, or not shave and have a bare-face, or even a mixture of the two – the most important thing is that they have made that choice themselves.
Whatever choice is made, there will be someone to criticise and some that will judge. It’s a sad truth of our existence, and I hope it is something that one day we can escape from. I could talk extensively about all the problems with this, however for now I think we need to talk about femininity.
This hatred of femininity can be related to so many problems in our society, regardless of someone identifies as female or not. Femininity is devalued, whilst masculinity is held as the unchallenged norm. Most things associated with femininity are seen as lesser – whether this is childcare or even the traditionally female dominated exec positions in the union.
The glass ceiling – the underestimation of feminine values and the idea that all women want is to have children.
Victim-blaming – the idea that feminine gender expression is a representation of sexual passivity.
The diet industry – the idea that women should take up as little space as possible.
Our femininity – our make-up, our dresses, our push-up bras – are seen as something to consume as though it is something done for somebody else. But, it is time for us to reclaim this.
It is time for us to say I am doing this for me. I am wearing a dark lip because this is what I want. I am not wearing make-up because this is what I want.
This is not to deny that there is huge pressure on people to conform to certain standards of beauty, and it is also not to accept this. Things need to change.
It is to say that regardless of whether you wear make-up or not, whether you wear dresses or not; this should not and does not change your value as a person. You are just as valuable at a size 6 as a size 26. You are just as valuable whether you are gay, straight, male, female,black, white, disabled – whether you are none of these or a combination of many of them. Society will try to tell you that you’re not – it will be shouted at you from all angles, but it is time to shout back.
It is time for us to reclaim our bodies and our gender expression. Let’s not be constrained by societal rules and let’s experience everything there is to offer! It doesn’t matter whether you do this in a skirt or a suit, just by doing it and claiming it as your own – you are being revolutionary.
So, pick your weapon of choice – eyeliner, stiletto, doc marten, or make-up wipe –put on your war paint and, together, let’s change the world!