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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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137 Responses

  1. Bill
    Bill October 10, 2006 at 11:32 am |

    I thought “empowerful” was NOT powerful. Are you using the same definition twisty does?

  2. Kelley
    Kelley October 10, 2006 at 11:41 am |

    I often ask myself the same questions, but then again, what does it mean to be feminine? Isn’t the concept of “femininity” referenced here in and of itself a patriarchal construct?

    Do lipstick and high heels really define us as feminine? Personally, I’m as at home in riding boots and breeches as in heels and lipstick, but I don’t feel any less feminine. I’m happiest when I don’t have to wear make-up, yet at the same time, I know damn well I won’t be taken as seriously at work without wearing it. I realize I may be mixing my issues here, but the thoughts are just tumbling out of me thanks to this post.

    Jill, this is absolutely one of the best posts I have ever read and you have clearly laid out one of the internal arguments I have been having with myself for years!!! Thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one to struggle with this (although I really did despise Sex and the City).

  3. Morgan
    Morgan October 10, 2006 at 11:45 am |

    i think there’s a difference between “fun” and painful (lip gloss/hair products v. stilettos/brazilians). i mean, golf and ESPN don’t hobble men or make their crouchs bleed just to get sexual validation.

    having said that, it’s not like i’ve never done those things, i just wonder why that difference is never noted.

  4. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon October 10, 2006 at 11:56 am |

    Well, while we’re confessing: I like pink, purple, lacy, fluffy, sparkly stuffs. I like langerie and I like playing sex-bot heroines (or cute sprites) in my video games. I wear make-up occasionally and I give into the whole “wrinkles are bad-evils, make’em go away!” crap. I dress my daughter up like a ballerina, princess and fairy with wings/wand and tiara. Most of her clothes are pink or some shade thereof. I’ve even painted her nails and let her wear some of my eye shadow and lipstick! I’ve already admitted to buying the flower/hammer/screwdriver thing in a previous thread… OMG… I even CROSS-STITCH!!! *gasp*….. *bursts into tears* I’m an evil bad feminist!! WAAAHHHH!!!

    *jk* ;)

  5. Cecily
    Cecily October 10, 2006 at 12:01 pm |

    I second Kelley. I specifically love playing with makeup, but I have been feeling guilty about it and whether it destroys my feminist cred recently — dithering over whether it matters that no one expects me to wear it, I can wear it or not and no one cares at work, et cetera. The whole thing has confused me and perhaps wasted my energy. Thanks for your thoughts.

  6. Heraclitus
    Heraclitus October 10, 2006 at 12:05 pm |

    It’s true that male frivolous behavior isn’t considered as frivolous as female frivolous behavior; isn’t this in part because the male version is still bluff, straightforward, forthright, while the female version is largely about concealment and artifice (make-up, clothes, etc.)? Not to over-intellectualize Monday Night Football vs. bikini waxes, but doesn’t it reprise the reality vs. appearance distinction, with women inhabiting the realm of appearance, making them both less serious but also more threatening?

    Okay, that was weird–here’s a frivolous comment to make it better. I remember reading an article by a female sports reporter about how she was watching football with a group of guys. One of them said something like, “What’s that Cover 2, anyways,” and none of the guys knew, so she started explaining it in detail. The guys were all soiling themselves, not because they thought it was hot, but because they were intimidated by a woman who knew more about football than they did.

    Finally, I’m a little confused by the inclusion of both make-up and marriage in this list. Surely both aren’t equally frivolous, patriarchy-fellating follies? (Or are they?)

  7. freya
    freya October 10, 2006 at 12:11 pm |

    I’m trying to figure out how my attraction to “rocker guys” who wear eyeliner and other makeup fits into this. Especially since I’ve felt that way since my very early teens. hmmm…

    Over time I’ve quit wearing as much make-up, especially on weekends. But, how I dress and “package” myself definitely affects how I’m treated while working.

    Too girly is as bad or worse than not girly enough… Too girly means being condescended to, while not girly enough means being treated like I’m not professional. Not quite the same thing, although I’m not sure how to explain the difference more articulately.

  8. Amber
    Amber October 10, 2006 at 12:21 pm |

    God THANK YOU for finally saying what I’ve been trying to formulate. I’m in the same boat as you, and while I realize that I don’t have to make sense every second of the day, and I’m allowed to enjoy a pair of shoes or curling my eyelashes, it bothers me that Twisty, et. al. have a perfectly legit bone to pick.

    where I get uncomfortable is when girly culture or traditionally “female” things get trashed simply because they’re girly or traditionally female, and therefore considered frivolous.

    Exactly.
    (also a Sex & the City fan)

  9. Karen
    Karen October 10, 2006 at 12:27 pm |

    This was a great post and an important subject. I think, though, that some cross-cultural perspective is warranted here. Cosmetics may be a patriarchal plot in some places, but in others wearing nail polish is a real act of defiance.

    I grew up in a very conservative small Southern town. There was still a lot of stigma attached to some kinds of makeup when I grew up, especially, and oddly, eyeshadow and mascara. There was this idea that “nice” women might wear lipstick and powder, but more than that damaged one’s reputation. There were still churches that prohibited all makeup and hairstyling for women, calling them “Jezebels.” The Taliban also prohibited cosmetics and nail polish, and women still risked their lives for manicures and a few swipes of a mascara wand. For those women, cosmetics really are an act of rebellion. We would do well to remember that.

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 10, 2006 at 12:30 pm |

    Here’s the thing, and I guess it’s more than a little meta, and maybe a little off topic, and it isn’t a criticism of you or anyone at Feministe.. Both you and Amanda (who, for God’s sake, approves of porn) get treated with kid gloves by Twisty. You can admit these things and get away with it. You can feel free to admit to these things with Twisty, despite being a little feminine in a patriarchy-approved way, because you run a large blog

    Twisty doesn’t make waves with the popular kids. It’s everybody else she attacks. She pulls commenters responsible for petty gender-treason up onto the stage and humiliates them in front of the rest of the blamers. Or she take a subset of her audience, like, for instance, heterosexual women, and post something that intentionally subjects them to ridicule from the rest of her audience, all the while retreating from the fray and claiming that she has no responsibility for the behavior of the blamers.

    That sort of shit-stirring is the raison d’etre of I Blame the Patriarchy: not to do anything useful, or discuss anything meaningful, but to issue diktats to other feminists and punish little people, for whatever reason — hypocricy, weakness, necessity — can’t follow them.

    Any accomodation that falls short of open revolution is gender-treason. Being abused, instead of being understood as being a victim, is constructed as victimizing other women. And all the while, she avers that progress is impossible and that the patriarchy is both omnipresent and invincible. And if what’s demanded is absolute compliance to absolutist standards, then, well, I agree: that is impossible.

    We all fail. We all betray our ideals, sometimes in small ways and sometimes in important ways. We fail because we’re human and stupid and venal — every last one of us. But when we’re held up to the light, it should be for the purpose of making us better people, not something which it is impossible for people to be — something which, I might note, not even Twisty is.

  11. piehat
    piehat October 10, 2006 at 12:43 pm |

    Long time fan, first time commenter here at Feministe. This is a great post. I agree, totally, and this is right along the lines of what I’ve been thinking for a while. My own take on it is, it doesn’t make sense to deprive myself of things I like and enjoy (high heels, skirts) — or even just don’t feel comfortable without (makeup) — because of feminist guilt; but if I keep in mind the ways in which these things are unfair and/or actually harmful to me, eventually I will feel less of a desire or need to indulge in them, because I’ll realize that the harm outweighs the benefit. Either that, or I’ll figure out that I like them for themselves and not for their benefits within patriarchal society.

    Anyway, thanks for the terrific post!

  12. Redzilla
    Redzilla October 10, 2006 at 12:49 pm |

    The obvious root of the problem is semantic. We can’t all agree on what “feminine” is, and nearly all of our definitions are at odds with some of the most inherently female things in women’s natures. For example: childbirth. Only the die-hard girlie would dream of wearing make-up and heals to the birthing suite. Yet, isn’t childbirth an inherently “feminine” activity, in that it excludes “masculinity”? All the same, most people would not find a woman in the midst of her great sweating labor “feminine” in the most basic western cultural definition of the word.

    Plus, I think it’s a major mistake to dismiss make-up as frivolous. After all, it’s part of the “game” of reproductive predation, where various members of a species try to gain supremacy and power by elevating their level of attraction to the opposite sex. Take one of our nearest relatives, the bonobo: the most sexually alluring female of any given band tends to wield the most power.

    (And to come clean and confess any given bias–I’m a wallet carrying, no make-up wearing, power-tool owning, married, childless feminist.)

  13. Mezosub
    Mezosub October 10, 2006 at 12:54 pm |

    I tend to be of the opinion that getting feminists to attack each other is a patriarchal construct as well.

    What better way for the patriarchy to deflect attention from itself than by putting out these disputes so that feminists will be so busy bickering over things like wearing makeup and high heels, or whether or not to change their names when they get married, or whether to stay home with their children or go right back to work, that they don’t have any energy left to protest ways that victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are shamed and dismissed by the authorities, for example.

    These are just a very few examples, but I think it points to a larger problem in feminism. It’s hard to fight the patriarchy when the patriarchy encourages us to fight each other.

  14. antiprincess
    antiprincess October 10, 2006 at 12:54 pm |

    Karen – ever read “Lipstick Jihad”?

  15. Lizard
    Lizard October 10, 2006 at 1:02 pm |

    It’s sort of interesting to note that Mary Wollstonecraft covered similar ground 214 years ago:

    ….it is a farce to call any being virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason. This was Rousseau’s opinion respecting men: I extend it to women, and confidently assert that they have been drawn out of their sphere by false refinement, and not by an endeavor to acquire masculine qualities. Still the regal homage which they receive is so intoxicating, that till the manners of the times are changed, and formed on more reasonable principles, it may be impossible to convince them that the illegitimate power, which they obtain, by degrading themselves, is a curse, and that they must return to nature and equality, if they wish to secure the placid satisfaction that unsophisticated affections impart. But for this epoch we must wait—wait, perhaps, till kings and nobles, enlightened by reason, and, preferring the real dignity of man to childish state, throw off their gaudy hereditary trappings: and if then women do not resign the arbitrary power of beauty—they will prove that they have less mind than man.

  16. Ken C.
    Ken C. October 10, 2006 at 1:10 pm |

    Now, it all gets more complicated when we recognize that there are ways to be male in our culture that do not require a good golf game, a souped-up car, or football knowledge. There’s the ubiquitous Father Figure, the Sensitive Guy, the Metrosexual, etc — all acceptable incarnations of Maleness.

    Why say this? It has little to do with the rest of the discussion, and it’s basically false.

  17. Sara
    Sara October 10, 2006 at 1:37 pm |

    Ken, I’m sure that Jill just thought she’d throw in something she didn’t believe was true or relevant to see if you were paying attention.

  18. Maureen
    Maureen October 10, 2006 at 1:43 pm |

    There’s the ubiquitous Father Figure, the Sensitive Guy, the Metrosexual, etc — all acceptable incarnations of Maleness.

    Maybe in the city, perhaps, and among twenty-somethings, but in Red State America–the only one that’s accepted is the Father Figure, and he’s always got the legacy of once having been a Man’s Man who’s now settled down and has outgrown his taste for PBR in favor of single-malt Scotch.

    And oddly enough, a couple of weeks ago I was shopping with a couple of friends (both physics majors) and one of them worried that when she showed up for dinner with a bunch of male physics friends she’d be teased for shopping and “girly things”. (Yeah, like playing Halo II is so socially useful.)

  19. Shawn
    Shawn October 10, 2006 at 1:48 pm |

    A different perspective:
    [Just an opinion, no flaming necessary.]

    I take pride in my femininity and am thankful every day for it. I do not identify it with lipstick, weakness, or frivolity. It gives me depth, complexity, dignity and hope. I acknowledge its influence on my emotions and thoughts without shame. I prize it as I would a treasure because it is my wisdom and my spirit.

    In a male dominated patriarchal society, embracing the value and strength of femininity may not be understood, but I refuse to concede the correctness of the male definition of the word feminine. The idea of femininity has been twisted by the male value system until it is unrecognizable. Being feminine does not make one simper or vasilate. Women are far from weak. Never has there been a creation on earth that has the flexibility, the steadfastness, or the sheer strength that women have. We are wise, calm, caring, giving, intelligent people, and what we deserve more than anything is that acknowledgment. I love being a woman. I love it even in the misogynistic culture of America, including all the trials and blame and violence aimed at my entire gender. Hopefully I am passing this pride on to my daughter.

  20. pigeon
    pigeon October 10, 2006 at 2:14 pm |

    i don’t have much to add to this, or time to formulate anything coherent, but i just wanted to say thank you for this post. i’ve encountered this issue mostly within the queer/dyke community where femme is often immediately equated with high maintenance, frivolous and trying to pass as straight. or, if i’m not with a group of more visibly identifiable dykes, it’s assumed that i’m a straight woman voyeur who doesn’t really belong in whatever queer space i’m in. & while i can’t deny that i do get a lot of privelege from my femme appearance (less vulnerable to queer bashing, less likely to be discriminated against based on my appearance at job interviews, etc.) its ever frustrating when my femme presentation seems to override my credibility as a feminist activist.

    i also think that privilege can sometimes be used productively — while its unfair and fucked up that i get said privileges solely based on my appearance, i often think of it in the same terms as i think of the white privilege i get — i can’t change the fact that i get these privileges, but there are times when i can use it to fight against the oppressive systems that give it to me in the first place. i feel like i’m still in the process of figuring out how i feel about this and how to use privilege in a way that doesn’t further perpetuate the problem, but i think there’s potential for activist work within this.

    not sure how coherent this is, but this mostly to say that i relate a lot and really appreciate this post.

  21. Justin K.
    Justin K. October 10, 2006 at 2:18 pm |

    Morgan’s right to point out that while the things and practices that constitute maleness may be equally frivolous as the stuff femininity’s made of, they tend to be less physically and mentally harmful/painful/hindering. I think Heraclitus makes a mistake when he calls masculine practices more “bluff and forthright.” There’s just as much artifice and performance, and yes, concelament in football fandom as there is in girly stilleto culture. One could perhaps make a case that there’s more concealment in masculinity, at least in this country, because it is primarily defined as negative. Men DON’T DO a vast litany of things, from sniffing flowers to sucking cock, and that makes them men.

    I think we need to make a distinction between gendered things and practices that are harmful, those that are benign and even enjoyable, and those that can be positive. Someone mentioned skirts as an encumbring feminine thing, but they can be downright practical. Many a hot summer day I’ve thought a comfy skirt (or kilt or something) would be nice.

  22. Karen
    Karen October 10, 2006 at 2:35 pm |

    antiprincess, no I haven’t, but since you mentioned it I’m going to request it from the library. Thanks for the tip.

  23. Natalia
    Natalia October 10, 2006 at 2:49 pm |

    Jill, about the shaving/waxing thing…

    A blog entitled “The Diary of a Rentboy” once had an interesting take on it. The man, a sex-worker, wrote about how it’s all about the look of the woman’s sex organs. He said that in his experience, women whose labias curled outward looked great with more hair down there, while women with “shy” (his word, not mine) labias, looked better bare. It was a purely subjective posting, but it put into words what I had been trying to articulate for a while now: the fact that I shave because I like the look, because I think it suits my body.

    So that’s always something to think about.

    Besides that, I think people are going to have their different likes and dislikes, and sometimes it’s wise to remember how subjective these so called girly attributes can be. For example, I don’t really enjoy wearing high heels, but boy, do I love make-up. Am I less feminine, or more feminie? Less of a feminist, or more of a feminist?

    See what I mean?

    I think the trick is finding what you really enjoy doing, and sticking to the plan, whilst remembering that pleasure almost always comes with strings attached, whether said pleasure is encompassed in a doughnut, or an episode of Sex & the City.

    *wink wink*

  24. Cecily
    Cecily October 10, 2006 at 2:53 pm |

    Heraclitus: Finally, I’m a little confused by the inclusion of both make-up and marriage in this list. Surely both aren’t equally frivolous, patriarchy-fellating follies? (Or are they?)

    I don’t know that marriage is equally as frivolous as makeup, but both are concessions to the patriarchy that make it easier for a woman to get along within said patriarchy and be accepted. I was recently reflecting on this. I used to be married — married as a 21-year-old virgin in fact — and felt a vague unease which I know, post-marriage, can recognize as the realization that I was, ‘for my own reasons’ doing precisely what a Good Girl ought, and being rewarded accordingly.

    Notice the implication in Biting Beaver’s EC story that had she been married, she would have been eligible for EC? It’s that kind of thing that makes me think that marriage, whether frivolous or not, does imply a quid-pro-quo with the patriarchy in much the same way that consistent makeup use can.

  25. Natalia
    Natalia October 10, 2006 at 2:57 pm |

    Ok.. my comment got cut off. Where was I? Oh yes…

    This is why I’m glad, Jill, that you wrote this post. It reminds me a little of the eternal hijab debate. Is it kosher to tell a woman in hijab that she’s frivolous, or an enabler of the patriarchy, no? The same should go for things like make-up, in my opinion. On the other hand, it is very important for us to continue discussing things like hijab and make-up, and making sure that we’re including everyone in the debate.

    Although then again, most feminists I know tend to draw the line somewhere. Plastic surgery, for example, is an interesting phenomenon. Now, I’ve often thought about having my tits “done” after I have kids, if only because I grew up with a mother who was very unhappy about the state of her own boobs after she had me and my brother. And that, as a feminist, is something that I seriously need to think about. It would be nice, however, if people did not trash me for at least entertaining the notion, particularly since I know where these sorts of insecurities and desires come from.

  26. Tuomas
    Tuomas October 10, 2006 at 3:06 pm |

    If I like to watch football (which I don’t at all, but let’s pretend), then I’m a “guy’s girl” and that’s, like, totally hot.

    Egad. Not really, but I suppose many “guy’s girls” think so.

    And obviously YMMV.

  27. Lizard
    Lizard October 10, 2006 at 3:17 pm |

    Egad. Not really, but I suppose many “guy’s girls” think so.

    Whereas you know their position to be folly, because you have the final word on what’s attractive?

    To be clear, I’m not offering a position on the football issue—merely offering a small unfeminine retch at your high-handed response. Indeed, MMV.

  28. sophonisba
    sophonisba October 10, 2006 at 3:23 pm |

    Amazingly enough, “Tuomas’s personal preference” is not the same as “society’s consensus.” You, personally, may not like “guy’s girls,” just as you, personally, may not like slender blondes. That’s not relevant to the fact that “like one of the guys” is still supposed to be a compliment to a woman, and “like one of the girls” isn’t supposed to be a compliment to a man.

    Jill’s quite right. A woman who is conventionally hot, drinks beer, and likes watching sports is described as both perfect and mythical. A hot woman who likes shopping and conversation is described as something you have to put up with.

  29. Heraclitus
    Heraclitus October 10, 2006 at 3:23 pm |

    Justin, I agree with you completely that masculinity can be just as rigidly defined by various rituals and artifices as femininity. My only point was that talking about the Bears’ running game (and I still don’t understand why they got rid of Anthony Thomas) or the engine on your car is perceived as being more grounded in reality than discussing make-up or skirts, whatever may actually be going on beneath the surface.

  30. Tuomas
    Tuomas October 10, 2006 at 3:26 pm |

    Whereas you know their position to be folly, because you have the final word on what’s attractive?

    I have the final word on what I find attractive.

  31. Feministe » The Persistent Undesirable
    Feministe » The Persistent Undesirable October 10, 2006 at 3:28 pm |

    [...] the Media Depicts the Trans Revolution in Skirts and Heels” Heraclitus responded to Jill’s post thusly: It’s true that male frivolous behavi [...]

  32. Cecily
    Cecily October 10, 2006 at 3:30 pm |

    I have the final word on what I find attractive.

    And it’s relevant here how?

    Oh, as a demonstration of how any discussion of women’s behavior and performative gender must necessarily revolve around or devolve into the personal penis preferences of men. Jolly good show, I must say!

  33. piny
    piny October 10, 2006 at 3:40 pm |

    I have the final word on what I find attractive.

    Yes, but both your individual preferences and your (uncontested, for fuck’s sake) right to determine them are not pertinent to this discussion.

  34. Tuomas
    Tuomas October 10, 2006 at 3:40 pm |

    Lol. Such bad faith.

    Sophonisba and cecily: My argument was meant to be bit more complex than that. For example, consider housework: Most men whine that their girlfriends have far too exacting cleanliness standards, but amazingly, men seldom date messy women.

    I suspect part of the dating scene for men and women is whining and bitching about the ways of the opposite gender, but then few put their money where their mouths are. I suspect conventionally attractive women who are into approval-seeking behaviour are quite common, because one part of seeking approval would be being conventionally attractive.

  35. piny
    piny October 10, 2006 at 3:44 pm |

    Sophonisba and cecily: My argument was meant to be bit more complex than that. For example, consider housework: Most men whine that their girlfriends have far too exacting cleanliness standards, but amazingly, men seldom date messy women.

    And yet, you somehow seldom manage complexity. We’re talking about social pressure here; surely an expressed, admitted preference has a great deal to do with the effect of that pressure?

  36. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate October 10, 2006 at 3:45 pm |

    Egad. Not really

    Gotta agree with this. I don’t know any guys who find an interest in sports “hot” – not that there aren’t any, of course. For many men (especially married men, in my experience), part of the fun of watching football (like waking up at 5:00 a.m. to go golfing or fishing or hunting) is because it’s “just the guys”.

    And it’s relevant here how?

    Oh, as a demonstration of how any discussion of women’s behavior and performative gender must necessarily revolve around or devolve into the personal penis preferences of men.

    That, or because it contradicts a blanket statement about men that was made in the post.

  37. piny
    piny October 10, 2006 at 3:47 pm |

    That, or because it contradicts a blanket statement about men that was made in the post.

    Which it wasn’t. Not all men insist that women be extremely thin or even prefer extreme thinness; however, extreme thinness is presented to women as the pinnacle of female beauty.

  38. Tuomas
    Tuomas October 10, 2006 at 3:55 pm |

    Have men expressed and admitted preference to “guy’s girls”, and when?

  39. Niles
    Niles October 10, 2006 at 3:58 pm |

    I thought the point (or a point) of feminism was the egalitarian freedom to be theatrically visible, or not, as chosen, without the deviance from the majority being considered a threat that must be pounded into the ground.

    Cosmetic enhancements are as old as human history, for women and men. There’s a fine weave between practical, decorative and dionysian false face altered state. It’s just the way we humans are. We like masks and costumes and we like taking them off.

    Please, don’t ever feel bad about loading on the bling if that’s your thing. Just defend the peace of others opting for ventures down other avenues, as they should yours. You’d think that would do in the patriarchy faster than anything.

  40. Lizard
    Lizard October 10, 2006 at 3:58 pm |

    I have the final word on what I find attractive.

    Yet your initial post used language and tone to indicate that your personal preference was the right one, not to be confused with the misguided silliness of the unenlightened masses.

  41. NBarnes
    NBarnes October 10, 2006 at 3:58 pm |

    Personally, speaking as a guy, I think we’ll still have cosmetics postpatriarchy. Vanity, though it’s gender-specific in our culture (of course), is not something that I think is itself a product of the patriarchy. I think sexual display for potential mates / fuckbuddies is one of those things that humans, given the right social context, just do. And I think that clothes (‘fashion’), makeup, and such things are always going to be part of that display. I think that the patriarchy, like it does with most things, corrupts and damages what ought to be something more innocent and happy. I think we ought to all be choosing our clothes and our makeup and having fun with our vanity and our presentation, rather than worrying ourselves sick over looking ‘right’ or sending the wrong signals or torturing ourselves with such extreme shoes and outfits that we’re unable to have fun while we’re dolled up. And I think that all of that goes for boys and girls both; I think that boys ought to be more comfortable being seen, being the object of gaze, and girls ought to be more comfortable looking.

    And, yes, boys should wear lipstick and eyeliner.

  42. Tuomas
    Tuomas October 10, 2006 at 3:59 pm |

    Which it wasn’t. Not all men insist that women be extremely thin or even prefer extreme thinness; however, extreme thinness is presented to women as the pinnacle of female beauty.

    It’s a bit more established case there, as fashion industry indeed does present that as the sole option for beauty.

    part of the fun of watching football (like waking up at 5:00 a.m. to go golfing or fishing or hunting) is because it’s “just the guys”.

    Amen.

  43. Tuomas
    Tuomas October 10, 2006 at 4:02 pm |

    Yet your initial post used language and tone to indicate that your personal preference was the right one, not to be confused with the misguided silliness of the unenlightened masses.

    :)

    Can I borrow that for future use? The tone was adopted in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, and it does also match the preferences of many other men I know.

  44. piny
    piny October 10, 2006 at 4:04 pm |

    It’s a bit more established case there, as fashion industry indeed does present that as the sole option for beauty.

    Which really wasn’t the argument Jill made, nu?

  45. Tuomas
    Tuomas October 10, 2006 at 4:07 pm |

    Hmm?

    I don’t understand. I didn’t claim she said it. I was pointing out why slender is not analogous to “guy’s girl”.

  46. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate October 10, 2006 at 4:12 pm |

    Which it wasn’t.

    Then disregard my previous comment. I understood

    If I like to watch football (which I don’t at all, but let’s pretend), then I’m a “guy’s girl” and that’s, like, totally hot.

    to mean that Jill thought men find women who watch football more attractive or desirable than those who don’t. What do you think it means?

    Yet your initial post used language and tone to indicate that your personal preference was the right one

    Well, so far it’s 2 – 0 for the “we don’t find it hot” team. But it’s just in the first quarter.

  47. Nomie
    Nomie October 10, 2006 at 4:19 pm |

    Have men expressed and admitted preference to “guy’s girls”, and when?

    You’ve never been in an American high school or college environment, have you? Guys loved hanging out with my roommate because she was pretty, blonde, thin, and loved video games and beer and sports.

    Jill, thank you for this post.

  48. Tuomas
    Tuomas October 10, 2006 at 4:24 pm |

    You’ve never been in an American high school or college environment, have you? Guys loved hanging out with my roommate because she was pretty, blonde, thin, and loved video games and beer and sports.

    Nope (the Americans and their silly obsession with high school and college sports!).

    Hmm… Why do I suspect the first three and the fifth are the relevant ones here? And the fact that she probably loved hanging out with the guys, too.

  49. Lizard
    Lizard October 10, 2006 at 4:31 pm |

    But it’s just in the first quarter.

    Oh, man, I totally get that joke! I guess you won’t find me attractive now!

    Not sure if this will change the score any, but I’m a sports-loving lesbian who’s not conventionally “pretty,” and straight guys regularly tell me that they wish they could find a date who would go to games and yell at ESPN with them. I think it’s due less to any perceived “hotness” factor than to a desire for a common interest (one that wouldn’t compromise their masculinity).

    None of this is the point. I initially reacted because Tuomas entered into a nuanced discussion with a sweeping and dismissive generalization, which he now says was “tongue-in-cheek.” That sort of thing irritates me. Tuomas, if I were Bob Gibson, you’d be getting a big-time brushback pitch.

  50. Justin K.
    Justin K. October 10, 2006 at 4:42 pm |

    I think the whole point about the “Guy’s Girl” remark was not that the guy’s girl is a type that men are universally attracted to, but rather that desirability and acceptance for women is made conditional on doing things that please men (or the larger apparatus of the patriarchy) and fit into their perconceptions. One could think of numerous examples in addition to the girl who watches football.

  51. Hugo
    Hugo October 10, 2006 at 4:49 pm |

    The key, I think, is to get rid of the feminist guilt, without losing the introspection and without arguing that just because something feels fun or powerful that it’s “feminist.”

    Jill, that’s exactly it. Perfect. When I’m responding to similar concerns I see in the journals of my female students, that’s what I am trying to do — make a clear distinction between unproductive, painful guilt (an emotion which women are encouraged to feel for virtually any choice they exercise) and serious introspection (which allows us to think critically about why we make the choices we do, and whether we should make other ones instead.) I just hadn’t seen anyone put it so succinctly until that phrase jumped out.

    Brava, and all that.

  52. Tuomas
    Tuomas October 10, 2006 at 4:55 pm |

    None of this is the point. I initially reacted because Tuomas entered into a nuanced discussion with a sweeping and dismissive generalization,

    Yeah, I’m THE generalizer.

    If I like to watch football (which I don’t at all, but let’s pretend), then I’m a “guy’s girl” and that’s, like, totally hot.

    Vs.

    Egad. Not really, but I suppose many “guy’s girls” think so.

    And obviously YMMV.

    (my emphases)

  53. zuzu
    zuzu October 10, 2006 at 4:57 pm |

    Okay, enough of the derail into Being All About Tuomas. Let’s get back to the topic.

  54. Tuomas
    Tuomas October 10, 2006 at 5:01 pm |

    Okay, enough of the derail into Being All About Tuomas.

    Which, of course, is totally my fault. Christ, I thought about just dropping one counterpoint in a humorous fashion.

  55. Maureen
    Maureen October 10, 2006 at 5:38 pm |

    I’m actually not the most femmy-dressing person out there (I live in jeans and flat shoes and I consider putting on lip gloss “dressing up”), but I’ve found myself thinking “Yeah, it’s easy to “be feminist” by wearing butch styles if that’s your bag.”

    And then I anticipate the response: “But the big fat mean world/my family/The Patriarchy(TM) wants me to dress girly! And I’m defying them! And it’s really hard!” Indeed, but isn’t it sort of cool to be a beleugered rebel or a style martyr? Doesn’t it give such a nice fuzzy glow? Yes, you may be an outcast, but at least you’re not a tool.

    And in the declaration that any woman wearing traditionally feminine clothing only do so because they are weak, the naturally masculine women set up their nice little hierarchy of feminist style with them at the top–because The Patriarchy(TM) hasn’t influenced their decision to be butch and associate pearls and lipstick with “weakness”. Of course not.

    (Associating crippling footwear and clothing with weakness is a different kettle of fish, as those actually do affect one’s physical abilities.)

  56. Em
    Em October 10, 2006 at 6:09 pm |

    The key, I think, is to get rid of the feminist guilt, without losing the introspection and without arguing that just because something feels fun or powerful that it’s “feminist.”

    make a clear distinction between unproductive, painful guilt (an emotion which women are encouraged to feel for virtually any choice they exercise) and serious introspection (which allows us to think critically about why we make the choices we do, and whether we should make other ones instead.)

    This is why I chose feminism over Catholicism.

  57. Em
    Em October 10, 2006 at 6:48 pm |

    And then I anticipate the response: “But the big fat mean world/my family/The Patriarchy(TM) wants me to dress girly! And I’m defying them! And it’s really hard!” Indeed, but isn’t it sort of cool to be a beleugered rebel or a style martyr? Doesn’t it give such a nice fuzzy glow? Yes, you may be an outcast, but at least you’re not a tool.

    And in the declaration that any woman wearing traditionally feminine clothing only do so because they are weak, the naturally masculine women set up their nice little hierarchy of feminist style with them at the top–because The Patriarchy(TM) hasn’t influenced their decision to be butch and associate pearls and lipstick with “weakness”. Of course not.

    Yes, b/c it’s just so fun to be degraded as an ugly butch stereotype when I dress and act in a way that makes me feel attractive and confident.

  58. exangelena
    exangelena October 10, 2006 at 8:03 pm |

    About the high heels – I think that Jill mentioned (maybe on the pants post?) that she’s short. I’m 5″4 and I like wearing heels sometimes because I feel taller and more physically imposing that way.
    I really don’t see makeup as a big deal. I guess it’s sort of time consuming and you can get styes from eye makeup, but I see it as fairly harmless in the grand scheme of things. (Although I do dislike the idea that women should have to wear makeup or they’re unfeminine, ugly, etc.) Also, makeup does not always conform to conventional ideas of beauty – punk or goth makeup could be received as badly (or worse) as no makeup.
    However, I’ll second what Morgan said, that I have big problems when conforming to femininity=painful or even dangerous. Especially with plastic surgery, that some women obviously feel such a need to conform to contemporary feminine aesthetics that they would undergo physical pain and risk death.
    I really dislike the whole bikini waxing paradigm. In my town – and I don’t even live in a big city – it costs about $60 to get a bikini wax, and you have to get it done every several months. Of course you can wax or shave at home, but then you worry about ingrowns, itching and razor burn, plus it takes a long time. Plus, the aesthetics of bikini waxing feed into the women’s bodies=gross or repulsive unless pruned cosmetically.
    As for the whole debate over approval for women who cross over into guy culture, it’s only ok if you’re pretty. I’m not conventionally pretty or feminine – nonwhite, strong features, 33-27-33 figure – and if I act “masculine” then people snicker or make uneasy jokes and nasty comments.

  59. piny
    piny October 10, 2006 at 8:07 pm |

    As for the whole debate over approval for women who cross over into guy culture, it’s only ok if you’re pretty. I’m not conventionally pretty or feminine – nonwhite, strong features, 33-27-33 figure – and if I act “masculine” then people snicker or make uneasy jokes and nasty comments.

    The checklist principle: Marlene Dietrich could wear a tux; Lea DeLaria, not so much.

  60. exangelena
    exangelena October 10, 2006 at 8:08 pm |

    That being said – I still wear makeup, nail polish, perfume, skirts, push-up bras, tight jeans, fitted blouses and heels and I shave, wax, tweeze and diet, but I don’t enjoy it, I do it mostly because they’re the only things that make me look “feminine.” And I hate that.

  61. Frumious B.
    Frumious B. October 10, 2006 at 8:52 pm |

    It doesn’t matter what you wear, either on your face or on your body, it’s always a statement. Wear a pretty dress, high heels, and make-up, and you get positive feedback from the patriarchy (if you are a woman). Wear masculine trousers, untailored shirts, and no make-up, and you get negative feedback from the patriarchy (likewise). The point is, you always get feedback from the patriarchy. You cannot opt out; you cannot turn off the male gaze. So why worry about it? I can’t help how men (or women) look at me. I am not going to beat myselfup b/c OMG I look really good in this blouse, oh no, I just destroyed my feminist street cred, I must burn it, burn it now! Forget that. I’m not trading the patriarchy’s rules for Twisty’s.

  62. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz October 10, 2006 at 9:03 pm |

    That being said – I still wear makeup, nail polish, perfume, skirts, push-up bras, tight jeans, fitted blouses and heels and I shave, wax, tweeze and diet, but I don’t enjoy it, I do it mostly because they’re the only things that make me look “feminine.” And I hate that.

    Oh thank you god, I am not alone in this.

  63. shannon
    shannon October 10, 2006 at 9:25 pm |

    Being feminine is too high matinence for me. I prefer things that actually have a function- such as clothes I can move in/are sensible for the weather, shoes that are fitted for the task at hand, etc. And the first thing that came to mind about the bikini wax was not “Twisty counterindicated it” but how Jill has enough money to blow a good 40 bucks on her pubes, while still in law school(down in TN some law schools require you not to work).

    I’ve given up on many of the white identified ideals of feminity, such as the holy grail of straight hair. I’m not spending $40-50 bucks a month on my hair and have it look a mess. I have some lipstick, but I always forget to wear any.

  64. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz October 10, 2006 at 9:33 pm |

    the holy grail of straight hair.

    Can someone tell me more about this? I’m not trying to be flip in any way, but I’ve missed out on this entirely. Straight hair is really the holy grail? (I’ve read a bit about this from Pam Spaulding, but it’s mostly off my radar.)

    Apologies for the blatant privilege floating around.

  65. syfr
    syfr October 10, 2006 at 10:41 pm |

    evil_fizz,

    Straight hair is where it’s at, right now. Like in the 80s, it was the big, poofy teased look, now it’s the long, straight, sleek look like the stuff on the Pantene website.

    In a few more years, it’ll be half shaved, or curly and all over the place, or something else that only a percentage of women have naturally, and the rest of us are “supposed” to shell out cash for and spend time perfecting.

    OT- but if you have curly hair and want to learn how to manage it, the book “Curly Girl” is a great source of information and does not cost two arms and a leg or a significant investment of time.

  66. exangelena
    exangelena October 10, 2006 at 10:55 pm |

    Re: straight vs. curly hair –

    I thought that straight hair was a bigger thing in the late 90s (think Gwyneth Paltrow with her hair extensions) and that wavy hair has been coming back in lately. Virtually all of the Victoria’s Secret models, as well as actresses (think the Simpson sisters, Scarlett Johansson …), have wavy hair. I have stick straight Asian hair so stiff it won’t even braid; I’ve been struggling to curl it since toddlerhood, therefore I’ve personally had wavy hair envy. But I know that a lot of women think their curly hair is unmanageable/frizzy/etc and prefer to straighten it … ah, the grass is always greener on the other side :)

  67. zuzu
    zuzu October 10, 2006 at 10:58 pm |

    Straight hair is different than straightened hair. A friend of mine from law school told me that she was completely freaked out that when she was in Paris, she was immediately identified as American because she straightened her hair (African-French women tend to braid).

    And the first thing that came to mind about the bikini wax was not “Twisty counterindicated it” but how Jill has enough money to blow a good 40 bucks on her pubes, while still in law school(down in TN some law schools require you not to work).

    Um, why? Seriously? Is she supposed to wear sackcloth and ashes while she’s in school, because law schools down in Tennessee do things differently wrt employment (and that’s usually just first year, when there’s good reason not to)? What does it matter to you how Jill decides to spend whatever money she has?

    That’s classism, too, as much as denigrating someone because they don’t have as much money as you do. And it’s every bit as counterproductive as arguing about what kind of shoes someone wears on the basis of class, as if your (general you) $100 Doc Martens are a more virtuous choice from the point of view of someone who has no shoes at all, than someone else’s $50 pair of marked-way-the-hell-down strappy Manolos.

  68. The Happy Feminist
    The Happy Feminist October 10, 2006 at 11:03 pm |

    I dunno, zuzu. It didn’t read as a denigrating comment to me. Just more of a “holy cow” observation — maybe not something people would say in person, but I think one of the nice things about the internets is the freedom to be a little looser and more blunt.

    And also, isn’t what-can-we-afford relevant to the discussion of how all this stuff plays out– our decisions about femininity and the reactions to how we present ourselves?

  69. Brett
    Brett October 11, 2006 at 4:34 am |

    It might just be me but I see a problem emerging. All of these feminisms are attributed to the patriarchy, yet they are controlled by women, employ women and are essentially financed by women.

    The fashion industry is run by women, very strong women and they dictate these “fashions” which some see as evil and not functional. Most males also think these fashions are stupid and non functional and cant understand why women wear heels or buy so many clothes (especially if they have to pay for them, thus the woman is perceived as “high maintenance”). Yet women continue to do it. They do it, not because men think it is a good idea (most men are all about practicality and logic, 7 inch heels are not logical), but because women at the top tell women at the bottom to wear these things. It is these same women that tell women to be thin and that thinness is the pinnacle and it is these women in the fashion advertising world that educate young boys that thin women are where its at.

    As for make-up, correct me if Im wrong, but for years I believe the wealthiest woman in the world was a make-up baroness. Make up is also run by women for women. If it is evil, then women are screwing women over, I dont see how it has anything to do with the patriarchy.

    Finally, hair. What is “in” right now, is dictated by women and hair dressers (who are predominately women). Ask a hundred men what they prefer in womens hair, and the majority will say, long, natural hair. Thus, straight, curly, short, blonde, brown, auburn, streaks and all the rest of that stuff is a product of women, not what the patriarchy prefers. You cant tell me that women do it to impress the patriarchy, as the only ones who really notice when women change their hair, is other women, hence the reason men need to be reminded to take note of womens hair and comment if it has changed. Once again hair is not a product of the patriarchy.

    So in my opinion, the patriarchy has little or nothing to do with these feminism “evils” that many of you seem to worry about. Of course men have worked out how to make money out of them all, we do live in a capitalist society after all, but even men know that women control the realm of womens products. So is it that the problem is the patriarchy or is it the non feminist women who serve to control the masses? If you want to topple the patriarchy, tell the women at the top to stop screwing their own sex over.

  70. Lya Kahlo
    Lya Kahlo October 11, 2006 at 6:13 am |

    “It doesn’t make sense for us to sit around wringing our hands about what bad, bad feminists we are for slapping on some lipgloss or taking off our clothes for money or having a big white wedding — but it also doesn’t make sense for us to try and sell these things as feminism, or to pretend that they aren’t relevant to feminist discourse.”

    This simple fact is always overlooked. Thank you for stating it plainly.

  71. Natalia
    Natalia October 11, 2006 at 8:14 am |

    Have men expressed and admitted preference to “guy’s girls”, and when?

    I can’t speak for all men but virtually all the guys I’ve ever dated liked the fact that one of my favourite pastimes involved watching footie. And that one of my other favourite pastimes involved action movies. This was the stuff my dad raised me on, and it’s what makes me happy, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever paid attention to anyone who might think that it was unattractive. I’m sure some people do. My mother thought it was “unfeminine,” but that didn’t faze me either, except when it came to awkward adolescence, when so many girls pretty much hate themselves no matter what.

    Funnily enough, one time, a guy asked me out because I knew what a Beretta was.

    My boyfriend of three years likes that sort of thing, as do his brothers and friends. They’re liberal Arabs, and I think they appreciate women who doesn’t buy into “women’s only” spaces and activities.

    Although I will have to agree with other people on this thread who say that the “guy’s girl” behaviour is really tempered by looks. I generally dress in a feminine fashion (minus those dratted high heels), and this is why I probably get away with screaming obscenities at the refs and such.

  72. shannon
    shannon October 11, 2006 at 8:46 am |

    I don’t get how you get from how does she have enough money to throw away on bikini waxes(to me, $40 is a lot of cash) to she has to wear sackcloth and ashes in law school. Not to mention, my boots are $11 boots from Marshalls. Not to mention, isn’t it usually rich people who have a lot of money to use? I concur with the person who said that a lot of our beauty standards are not about what is actually attactive, but what makes you look rich. It’s much cheaper to be natural than it is to pay someone to remove your pubes. It just goes to show how this standard of beauty crap hobbles women economically. A man has a lot more money to spend on things that make his life better and easier, while women are spending all their money on decoration. When being decorative is a requirement for employment, it’s even more unfair.

    Also, yes, straight hair is an obsession among blacks, but shockingly, it’s a big obsession among whites as well. Women with what I’d think was stick straight hair don’t think it’s straight enough. And no, black women’s actual hair hasn’t been in style for a long long time. Your hair isn’t good enough unless it’s straight, which is a big problem for us thick haired types.

  73. ACG
    ACG October 11, 2006 at 9:18 am |

    I know several guys who absolutely pant over a woman who likes football, although their requirement is usually that she also be traditionally attractive (i.e. the hot, skinny girl in tight t-shirt and long, wavy, blonde hair rather than the girl in the jersey and ponytail). I also know guys who prefer women who like football simply because those women are less likely to interfere with “guy time” by insisting he do something else or bugging him with questions about the game. The former tends to outnumber the latter, in my experience.

    The high heels thing is interesting to me. I’m actually rather tall (5’7″), and the reason I tend to walk around in 3″ heels is that they push me above the height of the average man. I kind of enjoy watching how men mentally adjust when they actually have to look upward to look a woman in the eye. I briefly dated a guy who was an inch shorter than me barefoot. On the first date, I wore flats, and I was uncomfortable with it the entire time. I finally realized that it was because I changed my preferred way of dressing so as to not make a guy feel inadequate and unmanly. After that, I started wearing my heels again, figuring that he could either get over the four-inch height difference or not get over it.

    He, um, didn’t get over it, but I figured no loss there. We’re still friends, though.

  74. zuzu
    zuzu October 11, 2006 at 9:20 am |

    I don’t get how you get from how does she have enough money to throw away on bikini waxes(to me, $40 is a lot of cash) to she has to wear sackcloth and ashes in law school.

    Because you’re making a judgment about Jill based on the fact that she has $40 to spend and chooses to spend it on bikini waxes. And yet later in the same comment, you said that you choose not to spend $40-50 a month on getting your hair straightened, without managing to question where the people who *do* spend that kind of money on their hair get the money to throw away on their hair, even in Tennessee. Just as it’s cheaper to leave your pubes natural than it is to wax it, it’s cheaper to leave your hair natural than to have it straightened. But do you make comments to your friends who straighten their hair similar to the comments you just made to Jill about waxing?

    What we “can” afford is often what we *want to* afford. I can afford to live in Manhattan, albeit in a shoebox. I choose to live in a spacious pre-war in Brooklyn for less money, because it’s just not that important to me to live in Manhattan. For other people it is, and they’ll pile on the roommates and eat ramen noodles to do it.

    Jill *wants to* afford bikini waxes, so she *can* afford them. Someone else *wants to* afford straightened hair, so she finds a way to afford it. You can certainly critique the fact that the individual treatments are expensive, and ephemeral, and get you set up for a lot of maintenance, but what good does it do to snark at Jill about where she gets the money to do this while she’s in law school, when you’re probably surrounded by people who drop the same kind of money on other processes and you don’t question them other than on a meta level (i.e., the “holy grail” nature of straight hair)?

  75. shannon
    shannon October 11, 2006 at 9:39 am |

    I’m a blunt person in general, so I question everyone, and so your words do not fit me. I don’t agree with the idea that people can afford what they want to afford. Otherwise everyone would be able to afford food, a car, and adequete housing, but that’s not the case. Some people were born in the wrong class, some people are disabled, etc. But I have misread you probably. Don’t you mean “people afford what they want to afford when they have a little class privilege”? That makes more sense to me.

    Not to mention, when people waste their money on straightening their hair, it’s actually a big hit on their finances sometimes. In TN, many black people are poor, and can ill afford beauty by the standards of society but feel required to do so. I feel that that is a big problem, as women are the foundation of the community. Many women here are making very little money, less than $7 an hour, and are raising children, their own and sometimes their relations.

    When women have an extra burden that men don’t, it’s not good for our community as a whole- espesically with the big gap in net worth that blacks have with whites, and not to mention the fact that black women don’t make as much as black men, although they are more likely to be employed, you know what I mean?

  76. Maureen
    Maureen October 11, 2006 at 10:08 am |

    Yes, b/c it’s just so fun to be degraded as an ugly butch stereotype when I dress and act in a way that makes me feel attractive and confident

    I am not attacking the way you dress. I am attacking the holier-than-thou attitude I sometimes see among some women (cough Twisty cough) who dress in a masculine or “gender neutral” fashion, and am merely pointing out that their preference for those clothes may not be entirely free of patriarchial dictates (see piny on the construction of masculinity in the next post) Hell, my preference for androgynous-yet-somewhat-body-conscious clothing is partially based on a desire to be seen as womanly, but not “feminine”. (Even though I’ve pretended that my clothing choices transcend society. Hah.)

    Additionally, my views are colored by the fact that I live in a liberal neighborhood in Chicago and I haven’t seen much overt degredation towards butch women (then again, that’s probably due to gender-conformity privilege. Maybe I should do an experiment this weekend…)

  77. Frumious B
    Frumious B October 11, 2006 at 10:23 am |

    All of these feminisms are attributed to the patriarchy, yet they are controlled by women, employ women and are essentially financed by women.

    A vagina is not a get-out-of-the-patriarchy-free card. Women can be tools or stooges of the patriarchy just as men can.

  78. jm
    jm October 11, 2006 at 10:54 am |

    This is longer than I intended, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately- I think it’s great that Jill brough this up.

    Brett maybe has more of a point than I’d like to give him credit for, and it ties into Shannon’s comments: there is a huge capitalist component to this whole thing that I think goes unexamined when we concentrate on female vs. male stuff. Capitalism upholds the patriarchy, and vice-versa. Why is wearing make-up a rebellion in some places? Because women want to fit into the dominant (Western) capitalist culture. Those women, whether in Kabul or Mississippi, see the ads. And the ads tell us that this femininity gives us power (somehow…); this version of femininity has been sold to us. And some women make money off it. It’s about power, not sex/gender.

    I think that Jill is right- that even if we don’t change our behaviours, we should acknowledge our use of the accepted trappings. Yeah, I’m wearing lipstick right now, but I’m not under the illusion that it makes me more powerful. Maybe you like performing in burlesque shows, and it makes you feel like your normal female body is accepted, but don’t fool yourself that it’s a feminist action. We’re still working within the dominant capitalist paradigm: woman as the sex class, participating in patriarchy-approved sexuality–consumptive, public displays of women’s bodies for men (and “guys’ girls”) to consume. If stripping was so empowering, why aren’t men doing it? If heels make us feel so strong, why don’t men wear them? Why are we the ones spending loads of money and time on waxing and straightening and lipstick? Because we are the sex class, and we’ve literally bought into that version of sexuality. Very few people can even imagine sexuality that doesn’t involve a woman in fishnets performing for a man (though I’m sure lots of people on this site can).

    This topic isn’t frivolous. I believe in cumulative effects. All the little actions that uphold the idea that women are the sex class are doing just that–and in the paradigm where women are the sex class, where they do the work of dressing up, pleasing me, it’s much easier to for us to accept rape or subjugation of women. Women are the ones who get raped on tv. They’re the ones who give oral sex. They’re the ones who are “teases” if they don’t put out–after all, their job is to put out. More emphasis put on pleasing men leaves less room for allowing women their own sexual satisfaction.

    Sure, there is a classist basis to this discussion, which also should be examined, but there is a place for analysis on all levels. Maybe some women have the leisure to come up with feminist theory and discuss lipstick, which seems abstract; but often, theory leads to activism. Activism can lead to social/legal change, which can concretely benefit all women, even those who only have time to get food on the table.

    I’m still going to wear lipstick tomorrow, and probably heels. But I’m not going to pretend that it makes me powerful. All it does is show that I can play the game, and that I think I can get more benefit from playing than not. I don’t think women should feel guilty about their choices, but I do think we should acknowledge where those choices came from.

  79. twf
    twf October 11, 2006 at 12:18 pm |

    One thing nobody has mentioned thus far is that conventional femininity is a skill set. One has to learn to apply makeup and to walk in heels. (If you doubt this, think of the comedy trope of a straight man walking in heels). I’m not entirely sure, but I think most women learn/practice these things with their friends in adolescence.

    I didn’t have friends in adolescence. I never learned to apply makeup, walk in heels, or any of those conventionally feminine behaviours. And since I don’t want to go through the stupid-looking teenage stage at the age of 28, I’m not going to learn those things.

    Most people attribute my lack of embracing of the beauty-trappings to my feminism or my nerdiness. I let them believe that, and it’s partly true. Luckily, in my field, only about half the women ever wear makeup, and I’m not sure which half of us is taken more seriously.

    I am extremely uncomfortable in any situation in which my lack of feminine skills/effort are emphasized. In particular, hairdressers completely boggle at the concept of a woman who doesn’t put at least an hour of work into her appearance every day. At my twice yearly haircut, they ask me what I do to my hair: I wash it. I brush it. Sometimes I put it up to keep it out of my eyes. What else, exactly, am I supposed to be doing to it? And then they tell me I should pluck my eyebrows. How does one even begin to know how to do such a thing?

  80. shannon
    shannon October 11, 2006 at 12:30 pm |

    Nod, I lack much of the feminine skill set, much to the amusement of my family members(who laugh because I can’t walk in heels and walk like a man(women are supposed to switch slightly- I just walk straight ahead), and the confusion of female friends. It’s a lot of work that could be put into skill sets that are a bit more practical, I think. Although some of the training starts in childhood, as children learn to play with doll hair and use toy makeup.

    Plucking your eyebrows? Ouch. You might as well pay someone to wax them if you want to have ‘pretty’ eyebrows. I almost never get mine arched, as I’m not a good person at paying attention to things. I think I missed out a lot of girl training as I never had an older sister. Female cousins and pals are all well and good, but for good femme training, one almost requires a sister, I think.

  81. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate October 11, 2006 at 12:37 pm |

    If stripping was so empowering, why aren’t men doing it?

    I’m guessing there isn’t the same demand for it. Where I live, it seems there’s about 200 strip joints for men, but only one for women. Somone opened a second one a few years ago, but it closed after a few months.

    I’m not saying stripping is (or isn’t) empowering, but I know a couple of women who make a ton of money doing it.

  82. twf
    twf October 11, 2006 at 1:07 pm |

    Shannon, I do have an older sister, close in age, and she embraces the whole feminine beauty thing, and I still didn’t get the skill set. This may be partially due to the fact that we fought all the time as teenagers, and partially due to our family assigning us the roles of “the pretty one” and “the smart one” despite the fact we look nearly identical and are both intellectually skilled.

    And yes, instead of learning to apply makeup, I was reading, programming in BASIC, and doing math for fun. My nerdy background has been a big help in getting into my field, and maybe there is something to be said for putting energy other places than into beauty learning. That said, I know of plenty of smart math and computer experts who also do the beauty thing, so they’re not mutually exclusive.

    I also wanted to comment on what Brett said:

    Most males also think these fashions are stupid and non functional and cant understand why women wear heels or buy so many clothes (especially if they have to pay for them, thus the woman is perceived as “high maintenance”). Yet women continue to do it. They do it, not because men think it is a good idea (most men are all about practicality and logic, 7 inch heels are not logical), but because women at the top tell women at the bottom to wear these things.

    I don’t know you personally, Brett, but in my experience the men who complain the most loudly about “high maintenance” women who do “ridiculous” things for their beauty and take an hour to be ready to go out are the same men who would never date a woman who didn’t fit into the conventional beauty mold. You’d think these men would be happy with my empty bathroom counters, but they never see them because they’d never get involved with a girl as “sloppy” as I am. It’s part of the whole femininity trope: not only must she be “beautiful,” it must appear effortless. Similar to this, many men say they like a woman who eats, who will really dig into her food on a date. But that woman had better also be thin. Many men who like women to fit society’s standards don’t like to see behind the curtain and watch what it takes to meet these standards. It ruins the image for them.

    And yes, there are certain men who like “guy’s girls,” the ones who drink and belch and watch football, but as others have mentioned, it only counts if she’s also conventionally beautiful and does the beauty work. Women can only defy one stereotype at a time and still be considered attractive by men socialized in a certain way.

  83. twf
    twf October 11, 2006 at 1:32 pm |

    Interesting… I’m the older one, and my younger sister (who is blonde and skinny) was always “the pretty one.” Yet I’m the one who tried much harder to fit into all the feminine shit, who wore more make-up and spent more time on her hair every morning. Overcompensation, perhaps?

    I’ve also read that older siblings tend to work harder to meet society’s expectations in general, so that may be part of it. Or it could just be that we’re different people, and react to similar situations differently. *shrug*

    What’s interesting in general, though, is that in both our cases one sister is “the pretty one.” There has to be one, and there can be only one. And that in least in my case, “smart” and “pretty” were treated as pretty much mutually exclusive.

    I hate watching my sister downplay her intelligence to attract a man. And she continues to insist that I am much smarter than she is, despite all the evidence that she is also near the top of the IQ scale. And yes, she is still “prettier” than I am, since she puts more work into staying slender, buying clothes, and all that other feminine stuff.

  84. Karolena
    Karolena October 11, 2006 at 1:35 pm |

    Aren’t we all forgetting to talk about the normalizing aspect of “doing feminininity”? I would *never* wear high heels or makeup if I knew even a few other women in my demographic. Likewise, tons of women feel pressured to wax their pussies – not necessarily because people are telling them too, but because they learn that it’s normal, that it’s expected, and that pussy hair is considered as “gross” as armpit hair.

    So, yes, I think “doing femininity” is, in its own way, damaging to other women. It normalizes certain behaviors, contributing to the pressure women feel to engage in them.

  85. shannon
    shannon October 11, 2006 at 1:40 pm |

    I’m the smart one in my family, and my middle brother is the pretty one. Everyone has different family dynamics.

  86. Tuomas
    Tuomas October 11, 2006 at 1:53 pm |

    Now that things have cooled down a bit and the thread is back on track, I think I ought to answer some things.

    It has been pointed out that being a “guys girl” is only acceptable for conventionally attractive and feminine women. There is lot of truth to that, and I agree. Being attractive/high status gives people a lot more options, including in gender roles.

    Natalia at #72:
    I don’t think having “manly” hobbies necessarily makes a woman unattractive (neither does it necessarily make a woman attractive) but it is usually the attitude that is “egad” behind it: Often the type of women who are into guy things because “that’s hot” have awful personalities, shallow and insecure (being the sole hot girl in a group of guys can be an ego-booster), or even downright nasty (“I’m not like those other stupid women”).

    It’s not just me: I know plenty of men who are fine with women doing male things, it’s the attention-whores* some despise. On the other hand, it’s not easy to make this sort of argument without going to the thing I despise: Denigrating other members of one’s gender for approval of the opposite gender (“men are pigs, but not me!”).

    Brett:

    Yet women continue to do it. They do it, not because men think it is a good idea (most men are all about practicality and logic, 7 inch heels are not logical), but because women at the top tell women at the bottom to wear these things.

    Talk is cheap. Try dating a conventionally unattractive, unfeminine woman and watch your social status go down the drain.Most the complainers won’t do that. Those men aren’t putting their peni where their mouths are, methinks.

    I also think that most things in modern world and society aren’t, in fact, practical or logical. Most are for fun, status, and other frivolous things.

    *: Quasi-trolling feminist blogs is, of course, totally different.

  87. anon
    anon October 11, 2006 at 1:54 pm |

    random question—does it not seem incongruous to rage against the patriarchy so much as to devote time and effort into a feminist blog, and yet conform to patriarchial demands by knowingly altering your appearance to benefit from the patricarchy’s approval of women who do so?

  88. Julie
    Julie October 11, 2006 at 2:05 pm |

    I’m actually the oldest of five girls and my next two youngest sisters wear way more make up than I do. I will very, very occasionally throw some mascara on, but that’s the extent of the makeup I wear. I also pretty much live in jeans and a t-shirt since I had kids. However, I am sucker for nice shower gel (jaqua’s stuff is amazing), lingerie, fun colored nail polish, etc… When we were growing up my sisters were constantly trying to get me to put on some make up, my sister actually insisted I wear some to my prom. I think they’ve given up on me now though. Honestly, it’s not that I don’t like it, it’s that it’s money I could spend on stuff I like more and I usually just roll out of bed in the morning and throw on some clothes, I am not a morning person at all. If they invented makeup you could put on the night before and it would look great in the morning, I’d probably wear more. I am also lucky that when I work (right now I am at home with the kids until I can find a new job) I work in human services and no one cares how much makeup you wear, or what your clothes look like. I went to work in jeans and a nice shirt most days. Every once in awhile I’d throw on a skirt. Also, my husband considers clean jeans and a nascar t-shirt dressed up, so I have no pressure from him either. He did buy me cotton candy body wash one time because he thought it “would be neat”, but that’s the extent of his caring about my hygiene or grooming.

  89. C. Diane
    C. Diane October 11, 2006 at 2:10 pm |

    twf, shannon: I *am* the older sister. I’ve never been arsed to deal with makeup and such, though I did give it a try back in the days of middle school (when I was a fat smart girl…) which mean attempting to pouf my thin, curly hair. I got my younger sister to help me with anything particularly girly — she’s the pretty one, the nice one, the ex-cheerleader. I’m the smart one, and the one who isn’t afraid to speak her mind.

    At some point, I decided I didn’t care what other people thought of what I look like. I had a phase of “act like I don’t care, but dress like the people I thought were cool” in high school (which is normal, I suppose), then I started wearing what I like. Though for my job, I have to conform to professional standards, which means I wear khakis or cords and a nice top (blouse, sweater, short-sleeved knit top) and Birks, because I stand a lot, working as a pharmacist.

  90. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon October 11, 2006 at 2:50 pm |

    I’m the smart one in my family, and my middle brother is the pretty one. Everyone has different family dynamics.

    hehe.. yeah like I’m the sane one in my family, lol! (we’re all smart and good looking in different ways)

  91. drumgurl
    drumgurl October 11, 2006 at 7:59 pm |

    And yes, there are certain men who like “guy’s girls,” the ones who drink and belch and watch football, but as others have mentioned, it only counts if she’s also conventionally beautiful and does the beauty work. Women can only defy one stereotype at a time and still be considered attractive by men socialized in a certain way.

    Oh crap, that’s me. And it’s something I never wanted to admit. The only reason it is acceptable for me to play drums, watch football, and belch obnoxiously is because guys think I’m attractive enough to get away with it. Being attractive can give you the freedom to do the things you really want to do – the “boy” things, that is. I think that’s why I can’t bring myself to cut my hair, even though I know it would make my life easier and would give me more time for all my manly hobbies.

  92. zuzu
    zuzu October 11, 2006 at 8:22 pm |

    Yeah, seriously. See how comfortable guys are with football lovin’, beer drinkin’, belchin’, scratchin’ bulldykes.

  93. Shawn
    Shawn October 11, 2006 at 8:43 pm |

    If you hate high heels, makeup and skirts – don’t wear them.

    If you love pink frilly expensive clothes and shaving your pubic area – have fun.

    The point is to know who you are, what you like, and enjoy your life. No explanations, no excuses.

    If anyone, male or female, has anything to say about it….
    tell them to go f*** themselves.

    Peace and love

  94. trishka
    trishka October 11, 2006 at 9:33 pm |

    i’ve been mulling this discussion over in my head for the last day or so. the thing i finally came to was a question:

    how does a woman dress so that she is clearly female without doing the “feminine” thing?

    i don’t know that there is such a thing as “gender neutral” when it comes to clothing & presentation. maybe my imagination is limited, but the clothing styles that i see a lot of the more butch lesbians around town wearing are simply “masculine” appearing to me, not neutral at all.

    i don’t wear high heels ever, period. i put on makeup maybe a couple of times per year, for special occasions like a wedding or a christmas party or something. i wear simple casual clothing, slightly more dressy for work, but i do wear skirts & dresses a lot because i think they’re comfortable. my shoes are flat & comfortable, but they’re also clearly “feminine” in that no manly-man type would be caught dead wearing them. i moisturize my skin not because i worry about wrinkles, but because i hate the way tight, dry skin feels. but moisturizing isn’t something any straight non-metrosexual male would ever do. (especially with cucumber or lavender scented lotions)

    the disclaimer is that i live in an small upper-middle class liberal college town on the left coast. so the way i dress fits in really well – all natural fibers, birkenstocks or other earthy type shoes, letting my hair go naturally grey, &c. the “natural” look is very in here, as the area has been a hippy enclave for generations.

    but i still choose clothes that fit well & flatter my figure, where i can. i don’t do anything to my hair other than wash-n-go, but i do spend an extra $20 to get a cut that is more attractive than the cheapest haircut i could get in town.

    so i’m still trying to work out how all this plays out, in terms of being a tool of the patrifarchy, and what would be better for me to do.

    i mean, the bottom line to me, it seems, is that we are in the patriarchy, and that is the context of our lives that we can’t remove ourselves from. so all of our decisions are made within that context, and a reflection of our relationship. to dress in a more masculine because of the belief that it somehow gives better feminist street-cred is, i think, self-deluding as believing that the feminine trappings of society are empowering.

    because whether one acts with the flow or against, the flow is always there & our actions are always going to be relational to it. and by it i mean the patriarchy.

    so (& it’s easy for me to say, i realise) i think the best anyone can do is find what works for them so that they feel most comfortable in their own skin.

    (disclaimer: the one patriarch-imposed beauty regime activity that i do engage in is shaving my legs & pits. but this is one area where i KNOW that what i’m doing is totally dictated by misogynistic beauty norms. but i do it anyway. i’ve tried a couple of times over the years to go the non-shaving route, & just couldn’t ever get comfortable with it. so i’ve been brainwashed into believing hairy=ugly, but i can’t just willfully disregard that programming)

  95. Nomie
    Nomie October 11, 2006 at 10:49 pm |

    This is making me think a lot about my sister, actually. She’s turning fifteen next week. She loves her sports – she’s a fierce basketball player, she ran cross-country, she loves softball, but her one true sport is Ultimate Frisbee. I have seen her hurl herself into the dirt to catch the disc, and she has proudly shown me her massive bruises the day after a game. She has cleats and a huge plethora of team t-shirts. She dreams of winning a national championship (our school district has consistently produced national champion teams).

    And yet she wakes up at 6 every morning so she can put on eyeliner and lip gloss. She wears ruffly miniskirts – not minding that her bruises are bared – and fitted shirts about as often as she wears her huge sweatpants and her Youth Basketball All-Stars t-shirts. She doesn’t wear high heels, but she has to have “cute” sneakers. She’s been bafffled during this, her first year in high school, because guys are noticing that she’s pretty. She has long hair and big eyes and a heart-shaped face, but she thinks she’s fat because she is all muscles and curves rather than an anorexic stick. When we talk, she’s much more worried about the next set of tryouts and her English homework – she’s great at math, but not so good at literary analysis – than what the boys think of her.

    I am doing my best to make sure that she can choose things for herself, that she doesn’t feel forced to do these norms. I wear jeans and plain shirts every day, and I never wear makeup. People above have noted the dynamics; I’m the “smart” one, she’s the “popular” one, but she’s so much more than that. I think she sees makeup and “pretty” clothes as things that are fun, but not things that are necessary. I just hope she retains that sense of strength and confidence as she gets older.

    (And trishka, just to make this not wildly OT, I shave my pits – but that’s mainly because I think deodorant in hair is really icky.)

  96. arwen
    arwen October 12, 2006 at 2:01 am |

    Whether it’s pubes or heels or surgery or gym memberships or the luxury of a high-nutrient, low-calorie diet, it’s about money. Yah; the requirements play out differently vis a vis gender, but style trends are inherently about being not-poor.

    You catagorically cannot work in a field all day in heels. I imagine the incidence of women standing all day in factories doing piecework in heels is pretty darn low. Working with one’s hands chips the hell out of a manicure.

    There IS something “powerful” about the trappings of the rich; it’s wearing the trappings of the rich. If you have fancy shoes that make it hard to walk, you’re probably not walking for a living.

    I agree that the discussion of style is intensely gendered: but I’m feeling like if we ignore the issues of class, we’re seeing a wee tiny bit of a picture. Because we’re not seeing how being rich enough to be hobbled by heels; or being able to afford good makeup and professional hair cuts; and having the time and funds to get the latest in streaking; or having the time, the lack of mess, and the funds to purchase and maintain must-be-drycleaned clothing is, in fact, more powerful than being a migrant worker or a nanny or a house cleaner who wears wash-and-wear until it turns grey with age.

    Of COURSE it makes us feel “professional”, or “put-together”, or “powerful” to walk out dressed in the uniform of the female upper classes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; but it seems not at all a mystery to me where the power stuff is coming from.

    Go ride the bus and count how many women over the age of 18 are wearing heels. Vastly fewer than at a black tie dinner.

    Holy hell. I saved like a mad fiend for my first lip gloss and mascara. My mom had the same makeup for years; she got “Opium” perfume one birthday and used it sparingly for a decade. We got cheap hair cuts. Our clothing was used, or made. Did a woman working a job, attending school, bussing and walking everywhere we went (including with 50 pound backpacks of groceries), parenting two small children alone, hanging laundry on the line, making meals from soaked beans and rice, and usually having about $10 extra every six months for mad money wear heels? God no. When she finally had some money after graduating, she put her tired feet into Birkenstocks, thank you very much. She’d never had the dream to look like Paris Hilton or the ingenues of the day, because those sorts of people were rich flibberty-jibbets who had (and quote with me now), “more money than sense”.

    But you bet your sweet cupcakes that she’s enjoying the hell, now, out of tailored jackets and beautiful skirts and pants. She recently got cashmere, and has gone to a spa. Does it make her feel “powerful”? Of COURSE. She IS more powerful, with money in her wallet.

  97. drumgurl
    drumgurl October 12, 2006 at 4:41 am |

    arwen, that is a very good point, and one I can relate to. I grew up working class and got pregnant as a teen, but managed to graduate from college last year with a BBA in economics. Now I have a good job, take my clothes to the cleaners, and wear low-but-stylish heels to work. I also just started an MBA program. I am certainly more powerful now than I was a year ago.

    Even as a working class feminist, though, looks mattered. Not only could I get away with having manly hobbies, I could also get away with being a feminist. This was mostly due to being skinny with long blonde hair. Guys still wanted to date me and even pretended to be feminists, just so they could parade around with a skinny chick who had ample boobage. I remember the first time I posted a feminist opinion on a message board and got all these hostile reactions. I couldn’t figure out why…. guys had always thought my feminist opinions were cool. Then I figured it out. These message board guys couldn’t see me. They assumed I was the hairy butch feminist and were therefore hostile to any feminist opinion I had.

  98. Brett
    Brett October 12, 2006 at 8:33 am |

    I will agree with Tuomas that social staus can dive with an “unnattractive” partner. But I didnt talk about attractivness, merely girly things. I dont really associate make up, hair and fashion to beauty. Indeed these things are often used as masks and facade. My girlfriend wears only a little eyeliner, no other makeup, and wears her hair natural, and I find her incredibly attractive, despite, or more so inspite, of her lack of traditional style or use of “girly” things.

    I find it a shame that we are conditioned to believe certain things to be normal and I sympathise with women as they cop this A LOT more than men.

    Ahh indeed the fashion houses are controlled by men, good call.
    My next question is (seriously, not trying to take a stab), whether or not these feminine things are controlled by men and the patriarchy and are tools to the perpetuation of their regime, it cannot be denied that they employ a VERY large sum of women. So if you are to topple the patriarchy, do you arrive at a catch 22, as you will be simultaneoulsy destroying jobs and a position in the workforce which your forebearers have worked so hard to achieve?

  99. Leo Petr
    Leo Petr October 12, 2006 at 9:19 am |

    I think you are missing the point a bit.

    A feminist is anyone who believes in the equality of the genders. Buf, if you don’t actually do anything to advance, role model, or advocate, you are casual, “Easter and Christmas church-going”, and apathetic. It’s not something to take pride in.

    You seem to be arguing for a need for fifth columnists that can fit in the reactionary crowd. That’s fine, but fifth columnists don’t win wars — uncamouflaged, beliefs-on-armsleeve folk do.

    You are a feminist, but your variety of feminism is not necessarily helping other people.

  100. exangelena
    exangelena October 12, 2006 at 9:48 am |

    Some more thoughts on class and beauty culture:
    Low-level, unskilled, “pink collar” jobs available to women with less social status and education often revolve around appearance. In high school, retail was the only field that I could get into with very limited education, where I would have a safe, well-lit and reasonably well-paying workplace. Well, in retail I did have to look “presentable” and “attractive” – read: feminine, with heels, nylons, makeup, etc. Ginmar had some thoughts on this issue a few days ago.

  101. Natalia
    Natalia October 12, 2006 at 9:53 am |

    it cannot be denied that they employ a VERY large sum of women.

    You know, you just reminded me of something. When I was a freshman in college, I took an academic writing course in the Women’s Studies Department.

    At one point, we started talking about models. In particular, Natalia Vodianova, the Russian model. A girl sitting next to me, a very well-off, pampered girl, started saying things like,

    “God, I can’t believe how she and those like her live with themselves. They’re just dolls for the patriarchy to play with. They ought to be ashamed. They make little girls feel bad about themselves. I don’t care if she’s from Eastern Europe or whatever, boo hoo, what a stupid…”

    I’m from Eastern Europe, and I have worked for a bit as a model while in my teens (that whole financial independence thing was really appealing), and I exploded at her.

    Someone from a rich family will never know what it’s like to sell pastries in the market for twenty bucks a week to support one’s family. It happens all over Eastern Europe. Anti-discrimination laws are not enforced. Corruption is rampant. Trafficking is a huge problem. Women are denied their basic rights left and right. This is why girls grow up wanting to be Natalia Vodianova. Because Natalia Vodianova is, at least, powerful now, while at the same time, feminine. A twisted notion of femininity is forced upon Eastern European women daily. It’s much, much worse over there.

    As for America, you see it here to. Women are rewarded for looks and not for talent or smarts. It’s almost unavoidable.

    Insulting women like that is not going to get the rest of the feminist movement anywhere.

    There has to be a more progressive approach.

  102. Maureen
    Maureen October 12, 2006 at 10:20 am |

    My girlfriend wears only a little eyeliner, no other makeup, and wears her hair natural, and I find her incredibly attractive, despite, or more so inspite, of her lack of traditional style or use of “girly” things.

    Yeah, she’s probably naturally “pretty”–that is to say, she was born with features that are seen as pretty in today’s society. If her features weren’t seen as “pretty”–buckteeth uncorrected by braces (also a class issue), bumpy nose, bad skin (also a class issue, to some extent), then you probably wouldn’t find her quite as attractive. Hell, I have “pretty” privilege, to a certain extent–I’m overweight, but my facial features have been assessed as “charming” and so I don’t get as much crap as a plain woman of the same size would.

    So if you are to topple the patriarchy, do you arrive at a catch 22, as you will be simultaneoulsy destroying jobs and a position in the workforce which your forebearers have worked so hard to achieve?

    Actually, no, I’d like for male designers who want to design clothes for skinny, boyish bodies to still keep doing it–and market them towards people who actually have skinny, boyish bodies, aka some men (and some women). I think a slender, willowy man would look quite good in a chiffon slipdress–certainly better than a muscular woman does.

  103. arwen
    arwen October 12, 2006 at 11:03 am |

    Even as a working class feminist, though, looks mattered. Not only could I get away with having manly hobbies, I could also get away with being a feminist.

    I totally agree that looks matter at any class and that women are trapped by/served by/judged on their looks. It’s the trappings I’m reacting to – the things you *buy* which Twisty criticizes. A lot of what goes on in the monied classes for beauty isn’t actually making people look gorgeous. Eg: Botox.
    A plain women with the best corrective makeup in the world is still plain. She’s just wearing a particular message, often expressed that she “cares for herself”, that has to do with money.

    Exangelena: I worked about 10 years of retail. If you’re doing clothing retail, it is true that heels and nylons are occasionally part of the package at high end stores. For class reasons. They are not necessary at Walmart, generally: although class issues may be way, way worse where you live. In Canada, you will not see heels very often on baristas, or bookstore clerks, or McDonald’s employees, or 7-11 servers, or cashiers, (or nannies, or the women who clean houses, or assembly line workers). It may happen in retail but more rarely, and will hardly happen at all in “back end” work. Being presentable: ie – possessing teeth, clean hair and nails, and some attempt at grooming which often translates to makeup – IS important even to Walmart, sure, and is ALSO about class. Retail is forward facing, and rich people buy at Walmart. Ditto reception and secretarial jobs. Job INTERVIEWS are also about a statement of class and values: I would *always* wear my finest to job interviews, as would my mom when she was impoverished. This is not necessarily what she would wear to work every day.

    I suggest if you’re living in a culture where Denny’s wait-staff are required to wear heels and nylons, you’re living in a place where *class* is a huge, huge issue; I would wonder who is the major underclass and what they wear.

    On top of that, you suggest that where you worked was “well-lit, and safe and reasonably well paying.” Those are class issues. That suggests to me that class was a very big part of why you may have needed to wear heels.

  104. Feministe » Who I Am
    Feministe » Who I Am October 12, 2006 at 11:06 am |

    [...] stion why feminist women do things that don’t fit into the Perfect Feminist mold. My Fun Feminist post wasn’t meant to imply that I don’t [...]

  105. antiprincess
    antiprincess October 12, 2006 at 11:07 am |

    how much of this is mixing up womanhood with ladyhood?

  106. Shawn
    Shawn October 12, 2006 at 12:10 pm |

    #102 “You are a feminist, but your variety of feminism is not necessarily helping other people.”

    I’m not sure who exactly you are addressing here, if it is all of us or a particular reply, but if you are a man, Leo, I don’t appreciate your judgment of anyone on this thread.

    I understand that men have their opinions, and like all of us, they are entitled to them, and entitled to share them. However, I certainly don’t see the legitimacy of a man telling a woman whether or not she is a helpful feminist or an “apathetic” feminist, which is implied in your entry. You have no more idea what it is to be woman and react like a woman and have the experiences of a woman than I have of being a man. I would never tell a man how he should react to social pressure to love sports, not show emotion, or be able to fist-fight. I would never judge a man’s reaction or lack of reaction. I can try to sympathize, but that’s all I feel qualified to do.

    All of the entries made here by women are justified and reasonable. That’s why we make them. I know I am new to these boards, but I could not help but notice your post.

  107. ks
    ks October 12, 2006 at 2:25 pm |

    The high heels thing is interesting to me. I’m actually rather tall (5′7″), and the reason I tend to walk around in 3″ heels is that they push me above the height of the average man. I kind of enjoy watching how men mentally adjust when they actually have to look upward to look a woman in the eye. I briefly dated a guy who was an inch shorter than me barefoot. On the first date, I wore flats, and I was uncomfortable with it the entire time. I finally realized that it was because I changed my preferred way of dressing so as to not make a guy feel inadequate and unmanly. After that, I started wearing my heels again, figuring that he could either get over the four-inch height difference or not get over it.

    That is exactly why I like wearing heels. At just under 5’11” I’m about the height of the average American male when I’m barefoot, when I wear heels I tower over most of the men I know and practically all of the women. It is really fun for me to present as an ‘Amazon.’ Especially as I tend to be shy and nonconfrontational in general. However, until I met the husband, I would only date men who were taller than me, as most of the shorter men I knew were intimidated by my height or they felt they had to overcompensate by being assholes about it. My husband is 5’6″ and my height was never an issue for him. He’s confident in himself and never felt the need to overcompensate for his lack of height. And in fact, after 9 years together, I hardly even notice that he’s shorter than me anymore, although we do get lots of odd looks whenever we go out. But I guess the combination of short, very dark, Sri Lankan man with tall, white woman tends to throw some people off.

  108. AndyS
    AndyS October 12, 2006 at 3:27 pm |

    Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a society where we all spent as much time caring for each other as we did worrying about how we looked? Funny (sad-funny) that even as society has moved (in general) away from judging a person by the color their skin we remain as judgmental as ever about the superficial choices around clothes, hair, makeup, and jewerly. While the details may differ between genders, it’s a significant issue for both women and men — and a tremendously frustrating, annoying burden for many.

    I’ve been pissed off about this for 40 years. It’s not enough to work hard, study, and treat people as you wish to be treated. No, you have to “dress for success” *and* dress for the group (or groups) you wish to be a member of. I guess the former is a case of the latter.

    Whether it is bikini waxes for women or hair plugs for balding men, it is still a form of insanity. I take the stories of the working class people who after rising to a new economic level start spending on luxury goods to be tales of woe. How is it smart (or ethical) to use your new found wealth to support a negative cultural norm?

    I don’t expect many people to share my view. We all have to make a living and everyone has their indulgences. But those of us who have “made it” financially would do well to remember those who are struggling.

  109. Lisa
    Lisa October 12, 2006 at 6:04 pm |

    Isn’t hair removal an ethnic thing as much as a fashion statement? Maybe that Korean-American lady with hairless legs enjoyed shaving that morning, maybe she doesn’t grow leg hair in the first place, etc. Maybe that Iranian-American lady with beard and moustache stubble doesn’t care about male-dominated fashion standards, maybe she did shave several hours ago and it’s grown back, etc.

  110. Leo Petr
    Leo Petr October 12, 2006 at 6:41 pm |

    #109.

    Shawn, philosophical quibbles aside, you are right that I went too far in the wrong direction in my comment. I didn’t read the original post properly. I was reacting to a discussion of it at Molly’s blog. Mea culpa.

  111. Shawn
    Shawn October 12, 2006 at 7:33 pm |

    #113
    Thanks for your entry. It means a lot.

  112. trishka
    trishka October 12, 2006 at 7:58 pm |

    I agree that the discussion of style is intensely gendered: but I’m feeling like if we ignore the issues of class, we’re seeing a wee tiny bit of a picture. …Of COURSE it makes us feel “professional”, or “put-together”, or “powerful” to walk out dressed in the uniform of the female upper classes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; but it seems not at all a mystery to me where the power stuff is coming from.

    arwen, i’m so glad you wrote this. you really nailed something that was bugging me about twisty’s assertion that it is strictly about “survival” skills when a woman dresses for success, as they say. for some feminist women who are fortunate enough to belong to the professional classes, it can be about a lot more than just minimal survival, but about getting ahead.

    we do live in a capitalist/consumptive society in addition to a patriarchal one, and when it comes to the choices we make about things to buy, as women, it can often become nigh on impossible to decouple the two.

    women who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, college professors, politicians, stockbrokers, or members of other professions whose memberships were previously restricted to men only, will be making choices that enable them to be taken seriously and therefore advance in those professions. and it’s a balancing act, between being feminine enough to be non-threatening to the status quo (and not therefore being bounced out on your ear for being a non-conformist), and not so overly done up with the makeup, hair, heels, sexy clothing &c that one is not considered “professional”.

    it’s what jill calls “playing the game”. and yes kudos do come of it, more than just being able to pay rent & put food on the table. power comes of it. power & choices &, sometimes, to a certain extent, the opportunity to effect large-scale change — on behalf of women. so i don’t see this as necessarily a bad thing at all.

    and i realise that there was a disclaimer included by molly that said something to the effect of “if you need to do it for a job, that’s one thing, but…”

    but the thing is, yes upper-class professional women need to do these things for their jobs, but they also choose those jobs knowing what the stakes are, and what the rules are. and (IME) it’s very difficult to completely compartmentalize one’s self in terms of “professional” self vs. “personal” self. if a woman’s natural inclination is to not feel comfortable with the clothing/grooming requirements of one’s chosen professional setting, then — it’s going to be hard to lead a successful fulfilling life in that profession.

    speaking as a woman in a traditionally-male dominated profession (engineering), i have to say that putting on panty-hose has been the least of my difficulties when it comes to establishing a successful career.

    and it’s a point worth making that upper-class professional women are usually in a position to be able to make choices about their jobs & careers in a way that their working class sisters do not. i can’t speak for all professional women, obviously, but again, IME & of the other professional women i’ve known in my life, it’s not about “put on the panty-hose or starve”. i think for most women in this class, even if given their druthers they wouldn’t wear makeup, heels, shave, put on a skirt, whatever they do to be successful at their careers, noone is holding a gun to their heads.

    but that doesn’t mean they’re not feminists, and it doesn’t mean that some or many of them aren’t doing a lot of good work for women — even if it’s just being a role model in showing that women can in fact do these jobs after all.

  113. exangelena
    exangelena October 12, 2006 at 8:09 pm |

    Arwen – I’ve identified myself elsewhere as lower middle class – I live in a cheap section of a nice suburb. I guess I should have said “skilled” instead of class, because when I started I had *zero* experience and my looks and manners were my qualifications. I’m currently in college and I see a high status job, where my employers will care more about my grades, degree and letters of recommendation, as one in which my looks are going to be much less of an issue.

  114. Edith
    Edith October 12, 2006 at 8:49 pm |

    Reading through the comments, it appears to be pretty simple, to me. If you’re young, thin and “pretty” enough to benefit from adhering to the feminine patriarchal-rules, most of you will. If you’re older, fatter, and/or “not pretty” enough so that adhering to patriarchal rituals won’t “do much” for you, you’re more likely to question them and possibly abstain from them.

    It’s pretty pathetic, but it really just seems to be all there is to it. Maybe any of us who are older/fatter/”not pretty” should stop giving a shit about the “to be feminine or not be feminine” debates of the younger/thinner/”pretty” women. And maybe the younger/thinner/”pretty” women should think a bit more about the relative luxury and privilege they have to even engage in such a debate, a debate that cannot be approached at all or at least in the same way by the non-beautiful.

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  116. trishka
    trishka October 12, 2006 at 11:49 pm |

    edith, i’ve been thinking about your post, and i don’t agree entirely.

    it seems to me that women who are not young/thin/pretty, stand to lose more by opting out of traditional beauty rituals than women who are any or all of those things. with this huge disclaimer: it’s highly dependent on where you live.

    the acceptable standards of presentation vary greatly from region to region in this country. i live in the PNW, where the standards are probably as lax as they come; Shannon writes about expectations where she lives in the South and really it sounds like two different planets. that’s an observation, not a judgment btw.

    i think it’s a different way of looking at it — what does a given woman stand to lose by opting out as opposed to what does she stand to gain if she opts in? and the bottom line is that if you are young enough, thin enough, and pretty enough, you can get away with wearing anything, no makeup, no fancy hairstyle, no extra work at all, and you will still get kudos from society. because those are the attributes that are valued, rightly or wrongly.

    of course, i don’t doubt that there is the opposite extreme — that there is a point where it doesn’t matter how much effort she puts in to complying with expected beauty rituals, she still will be ignored or dissed due to age/weight/attractiveness.

    i think most women fall somewhere in the middle, though, in that doing some work to go conform with societally imposed standards results in direct gains, and i think that the gains are inversely proportional to the womans age/thinness/prettiness.

    that also doesn’t mean that those who are young/thin/pretty enough to do less are going to, because of all the advertising telling them that they don’t dare risk it.

  117. trishka
    trishka October 12, 2006 at 11:54 pm |

    but i’d like to add (again) that i arwen is spot on when she says it’s about class & money. i think those factors have much more influence than age, weight, or prettiness.

    i remember back in the 80’s there was this movie called “working girl” that examined exactly this issue. melanie griffith played a young woman from staten island who worked as a secretary for some big fortune 500 company in manhattan. she was going to business school at night, she was smart, ambitious, hardworking, & she really wanted to succeed & break out of the pink collar ghetto & into management.

    she also wore lots of makeup, had big hair, long sparkly fingernails, and spoke with a heavey staten island accent.

    and the bottom line of the plot was that it didn’t matter that she spent a great deal of time & money in grooming herself in the traditional femme-y manner; in fact it was actually a hindrance because her choices (which were reasonable for her, given her background) communicated that she was from the wrong social class. and that’s what was holding her back.

    so yeah. i think it’s definitely about social class more than anything. and the only way that ties into what you said about young/thin/pretty is the thin bit — because it does cost money to be thin in our society.

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  119. exangelena
    exangelena October 13, 2006 at 9:09 am |

    Edith –
    OMG I was meaning to write a post expressing the same sentiments, but you did it in a much more articulate way than I ever could have – thank you thank you thank you :)

  120. shannon
    shannon October 13, 2006 at 9:20 am |

    I was raised in the South as well, and white girls started wearing makeup at like age 11, and shaving their legs and armpits and worrying about how fat they were at ages 12/13. That’s where I grew up, and that is where I stay now.That shapes my feelings on beauty. Also, I interact with a lot of nonfeminists on a daily basis.

  121. Edith
    Edith October 13, 2006 at 10:04 am |

    trishka, I think you make a strong point about “pretty” women perhaps being MORE likely to opt out of beauty rituals since they’re already “beautiful” enough without them. A young, smooth-skinned, thin woman hardly “needs” layers of makeup and foundation garments in order to be considered “pretty.” And it does seem that most women fall — or at least perceive themselves as falling in — the middle of “pretty” and “not pretty,” therefore likely to choose beauty rituals in order to make themselves be edged somewhat closer to the “pretty” category.

    That said, I STILL think that, even including that, age, weight, and relative prettiness is still a bigger indicator in whether or not a woman partakes in beauty rituals (or how many of them she partakes in) than class. Different classes have a different cultural uniform, very true, but women tend to conform to that cultural uniform within their class. Unfortunately, that almost always includes beauty rituals, at least in the West, albeit different ones for different classes.

    And exangelena:

  122. Edith
    Edith October 13, 2006 at 10:05 am |

    Oops, I was just gonna say, exangelena, thank you!!!

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  125. Bitch | Lab
    Bitch | Lab October 13, 2006 at 11:49 pm |

    That’s classism, too, as much as denigrating someone because they don’t have as much money as you do. And it’s every bit as counterproductive as arguing about what kind of shoes someone wears on the basis of class, as if your (general you) $100 Doc Martens are a more virtuous choice from the point of view of someone who has no shoes at all, than someone else’s $50 pair of marked-way-the-hell-down strappy Manolos.

    late to this, but: horse shit. it’s like playing the reverse racism card. doesn’t work that way for class, either.

  126. Sally
    Sally October 14, 2006 at 11:29 am |

    I’m with Bitch Lab on this one.

    I think the relationship between class and femininity is actually kind of complicated, and I’d have to think about it a bit more to tease it out. I definitely think that a lot of Jill’s specific trappings of femininity are class-specific. (Mine, too, although I have to do some fudging to accomplish that, because I don’t have much money right now. For instance, I get my hair cut for free by students at a fancy salon. Ergo, expensive-looking hair that is, in fact, very cheap.) But I also agree that it’s a matter of the kind of femininity, rather than the extent. My grandmother, who is definitely working-class, considers herself middle-class in part because she doesn’t look “trashy.” “Trashy” isn’t a matter of not wearing makeup: it’s wearing the wrong makeup. (And my grandmother wears a ton of makeup, but it’s the right kind of makeup.) My grandmother has achieved a kind of respectability because she’s mastered a feminine presentation that is perceived as middle-class. That takes a lot of effort, and it has tangible rewards. But I don’t think she necessarily puts in more work than working-class women who don’t present as middle-class.

    What I do think is that I have a lot more options than my grandmother does. When push comes to shove, it matters a whole hell of a lot whether my grandmother presents as “trashy” or middle class. People who count are going to take me seriously because I have credentials. My grandmother has nothing to go on but her self-presentation. If I show up at the doctor in sweats and no makeup, the doctor will look at my chart and see that I’m a grad student at a prestigious university and talk to me like I have a brain, even though I’m a slob. If my grandmother does the same, the doctor will assume she’s stupid and make decisions for her. There’s not as much at stake for me.

  127. zuzu
    zuzu October 14, 2006 at 12:06 pm |

    late to this, but: horse shit. it’s like playing the reverse racism card. doesn’t work that way for class, either.

    And why is it okay for Shannon to demand to know how Jill affords bikini waxes when she doesn’t appear to question how other women afford spending the exact same amount on their hair? What is the point of that, other than shaming Jill?

    The problem is not how Jill affords a particular bit of beautification, it’s that she feels pressure to beautify herself at all. She would feel the same pressure to beautify herself if she were on food stamps, she just wouldn’t be able to afford the same means of accomplishing that goal.

  128. shannon
    shannon October 14, 2006 at 1:05 pm |

    I didn’t mean to demand. They ‘afford’ to because they pretty much have to be be ‘professional’. but my understanding was that Jill did not have a job with that requirement about the waxing. And nothing I say or do has a point.

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  130. st.
    st. October 15, 2006 at 1:44 pm |

    In light of all of this discussion about what you can “get away with”, why isn’t one of them the approval itself? Isn’t there some way to escape being dominated by the quest for feedback? (really, not a rhetorical question)

    I understand more that you need to dress the part for working life. I would never wear a suit and tie (coming from a poverty background I hate the whole idea that uniforms exist that grant people instant power and respect) — except I am a young lawyer and I need to pick my battles.

    But why compromise when it comes to the people in your life who are closest to you, who out of everyone else we expect to give us unconditional love? If we absolutely must have approval, why surround yourself with people who are going to enforce patriarchical norms that you comply with only because of overwhelming social power? Why even try to date people who are going to either grant or withhold recognition of your quality and worth based on the height of your heel or the impeccability of your makeup?

    There are spaces in our lives where we aren’t completely determined by patriarchy, and within that space we can invent new ways of living. I think requiring support from those in our inner circles that is not conditioned on cosmetics is a humble start. There are genuinely caring people who can empathize with the bullshit we all put up with, and who have a sincere interest in unburdening ourselves from as much of it as we can. The more we put up with people who undervalue us (or have no idea what a proper way to value a person is) the more strength is given to patriarchy.

  131. Bitch | Lab
    Bitch | Lab October 15, 2006 at 2:18 pm |

    i think you’re ignoring the issue. there’s no such thing as reverse classism, just as there’s no such thing as reverse racism or reverse sexism. it’s an attempt to pretend there’s is a ground of social, cultural, and economic equality by pretneding that people lower down on the social class ladder actually have as much power — can have their views about anything reign supreme — as those who are white and upper-middle class.

    Responding to Shannon by suggesting that she could be engaged in participating in some system of oppression that harms people with money? Fuck me dead. (harder and faster please.)

    As I said elsewhere, I really could not care less how much fun people have in the name of feminism. Nice things that are joyful and beautiful — that is what we should all have. But we should want them for everyone, not just those who can afford them under the rules of the current game. Jill may not lead the charge in terms of feminist blogs that make clear they care about race and class issues, but she’s way far fucking ahead of the crowd and that counts in my book. She’ll actually *post* about poverty, etc. That’s what matters to me, not that she sports $100 shoes or spends money on pube fashion. And what matters to me is that she and piny have listened and made serious attempts to change things. Just the act of listening, in this situation when many non-mainstream feminists feel silenced and unheard, make acting like a human being nearly saint-like.

    It’s pretty sad when you stop and think about it.

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  133. zuzu
    zuzu October 15, 2006 at 7:04 pm |

    Responding to Shannon by suggesting that she could be engaged in participating in some system of oppression that harms people with money? Fuck me dead. (harder and faster please.)

    Oh, give me a fucking break. fSuuuuuure, I think she’s engaging in some kind of “system of oppression.” Look, Shannon made several comments about Jill “throwing away” money on waxing, wondering where she got the money for waxing, and assessing whether Jill needed to wax for her job. There’s really no point in bringing up Jill’s finances except to make Jill feel guilty for having money to “throw away” on waxing. And silencing her.

    I’ve been reading various class-based analyses of this whole kerfuffle, and they basically boil down to “oh, those silly middle-class white women, arguing about trivial stuff again.” And the whole reason for that is that people are getting hung up on the specific processes that Jill’s been discussing and not on the fact that ALL women in this culture are under pressure to beautify themselves, regardless of class. They respond to this pressure in varying ways, according to their resources. Because the pressure is there, regardless of the resources available.

    The pressure to take on feminine trappings is a constant. What varies by class is the specific trappings that one can afford. Lipstick is lipstick, whether it costs 99 cents from the drugstore or $36 from the Chanel counter. I’ve really been utterly mystified at this notion that’s been floating around out there that working-class women somehow are exempt from being subject to patriarchal beautification pressure just because they don’t have the cash to match the middle-class beauty standards.

  134. drumgurl
    drumgurl October 15, 2006 at 7:56 pm |

    In response to comment 133:
    It’s not that I think we should put up with people who demand that we’re beautiful, and especially not those close to us. My fiance couldn’t care less whether I shave my legs, he thinks it would be cool if I cut off my hair, and he’s not impressed with heels or makeup. He is the only person I consider to be truly close to me. My family has patriarchal expectations of me, but I can’t seem to get rid of them.

    But I don’t think a job is any more of an “excuse” to be hot than, say, a hobby. Take my hobby of drumming, for example. I want the chance to play in a band. Looks matter much less for a chick drummer than a chick singer (I’ve been both) but they do still matter for a drummer. So if I want the chance to play, I’ve gotta be hawt. Sure, I’m playing the game. I’m putting up with bar owners who sometimes treat me like crap. But I love to play, and that’s why I do it. Plus you never know, I could inspire more women and girls to pick up the sticks. And that would be a good thing.

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