Strength in cupcakes

“Women are girly. Again,” she says. And apparently, that sucks.

Writing for the Huffington Post, Peg Aloi bemoans the death of the “tough gal,” as evidenced by blogs about cupcakes, gardening, Hello Kitty, and knitting. Women write about cuddly kitties. BUST is sponsoring a craft fair, holy shit! Feminism has not only come to an end but is actually regressing, and it’s all because of heirloom fucking tomatoes. Thanks, ladies.

It would appear that the world, as seen through Ms. Aloi’s TV, has become squishy, pink, and birthday cake-scented. (Oh, my God, how cool would a birthday cake world be, at least for a few hours?) The view from my window looks nothing like delicious baked goods, though, so I thought I’d share some of that view with Ms. Aloi.

Before we begin: Ms. Aloi, most of the examples of “tough gals” you provide hit somewhere around the mid- to late-’80s. Blogs, in the form we enjoy today, didn’t really come into popularity until the late ’90s. Women in the Age of Ripley still were knitting and baking cupcakes–they just weren’t blogging about it, because, y’know, no blogs.

Moving on:

Those “tough gal” examples cover a fairly vast range: leather-wearing rock rebels like Joan Jett and Courtney Love*; supernatural kickers of ass like Xena, Buffy, and Ellen Ripley**; iron-spirited fighters for right like Norma Rae and Erin Brockovich. You identify them as “strong, sexy, and take no crap.”

If that’s your standard for “tough gal”–if leather or a spine of steel or a shoulder-high side kick is all it takes–where do you see a lack of them in the world today? Do Shirley Manson, Deborah Dyer, Bif Naked, and/or the assorted Donnas not qualify as rocking and rebellious? Did half the female cast of Battlestar Galactica or Firefly find their strength in Pilates? Are Treme and The Good Wife but beds of wilting hothouse flowers?

You celebrate the new “tough gal role models” on TV: Jemma from Sons of Anarchy; Sarah Linden from The Killing; the detestably whiny, determinedly naive, completely-lacking-in-any-sense-of-self-preservation Sookeh Stackhouse. And that’s great. It’s also nothing new. Sarah Linden, quietly courageous as she might be, is following in the footsteps of The Closer’s Brenda Leigh Johnson, Castle’s Kate Beckett, Fringe’s Olivia Dunham, (personal favorite) In Plain Sight’s Mary Shannon, and a host of others. Hard, smart, flawed, brave, awesome–and attainable, something that women not only can admire but can achieve.

Why are we looking for our “tough gal” role models in pop culture anyway? Being tough on TV is easy–the bad guy folds like a lawn chair under your stony glare because the script tells him to. What about the women who fight for the right to go out on the front lines of combat, without the comfort of knowing that the bullets flying their way are CGI? What about the women who have to prove themselves in the boardroom, the courtroom, the classroom, and/or the living room without writers feeding them the perfect, compelling things to say? If we want tough role models to raise tough girls (and inspire tough women), Buffy is great, but so is a woman who bravely fights real-life demons.

To you, writing about cupcakes and drinking “vintage cocktails” is a sign that we’ve left badassery behind. To me–to many of us–badassery and toughness aren’t mutually exclusive with cupcakes. A woman can go home from her power-suit-wearing corporate job and unwind in front of Cute Overload. A “supermom” can enjoy a vintage cocktail–and even wear a vintage apron, if she wants to–without becoming squishy and ineffective. Hell, Laila Ali gives her favorite hobbies as cooking and interior design. You can tell her she’s retreated from a “reign of awesomeness,” but you might want to do it over the phone.

One of the goals (of many) of the “suffragettes [pejorative], bra-burners [urban legend], free love artists [it’s an art?],” and other feminist activists was to get us to a place where we are able to define the way we live. When the imposed standard was traditional femininity, the boldest act of rebellion was to present masculinity–leather pants and rock music, power suits with linebacker shoulder pads. In a time when simply being a woman was the ultimate insult, being not like a woman was the only way to gain power and respect.

Their hard work has put us in a place where we can wear our rebellion on our backs, but we don’t have to. While some level of femininity remains the standard, the rest has been downgraded from “rebellious” to “fun.” Leather pants are a trendy fashion statement, corporate leaders lead their corporations in bitchin’ heels, and top cancer researchers cook for their families in the evening to relax. The progress of feminism has given us the ability to be tough without having to sacrifice the less-tough pastimes we enjoy. Maybe your “woman-who-wanted-and-got-it-all” also really wants, when she gets home, knitting and Hello Kitty jammies. Does that lessen what she did for the rest of the day? And why do you think it should?

“Take it from me, ladies: We’re not fully equal yet.” We don’t actually have to take it from you, but thanks for the offer. While you’re mourning the cancellation of Xena: Warrior Princess, the women you aren’t looking at are pushing through lines of angry protesters to get to the clinics where they work every day. They’re marching, speaking, and sacrificing to eke out funding for women’s health care. They’re fighting crime in the streets and sexual harassment on the job at the same time. They’re campaigning for equal rights and respect for every oppressed or underrepresented population. They’re struggling their way to the top so they can guide other women up behind them. They’re telling their painful stories, over and over and over, to save other women from the same experiences. Sometimes they even blog about it. And the fact that you’re ignoring them because some chick is blogging about Jane Austen is, frankly, kind of insulting.

The reason you’re not seeing a satisfactory number of “tough gal role models” isn’t that they no longer exist–it’s that you don’t recognize them, and you aren’t really looking. It’s confirmation bias: A couple of cat blogs are enough to convince you that feminism is dead, and so you stop looking for evidence of its continued existence. When called upon to name someone tough and admirable, you’re stuck digging through your memories of the 1980s and thinking, “Meryl Streep***? I guess?”

Allow yourself to look past the cupcakes, knitting, and cocktails. Realize that when you look us in the eye and call us complacent, what you’re really telling us is that we can’t be tough, that the strong women we idolize aren’t tough because they’re also soft. Realize that real tough women do have flaws, don’t have scripts, do show weakness, and don’t disappear when the TV goes dark. Realize that any chick can wear bike chains and sling an axe, but real toughness can’t be put on, and it can’t be taken off in exchange for Hello Kitty PJs.

*Courtney Love with a Hello Kitty guitar

**While Sigourney Weaver herself does kick ass, she has never, to my knowledge, faced down an actual goo-drooling alien.

***And again: Meryl Streep is a badass actress; Karen Silkwood is a real-life badass.

83 comments for “Strength in cupcakes

  1. Chinook
    August 24, 2011 at 1:09 am

    Over on cancerculturenow.blogspot.com/ there is another great rebuttal of the argument.

  2. August 24, 2011 at 1:15 am

    The over-idealizing of the “tough girl” image created by a male-dominated entertainment industry just re-enforces goofy gender stereotypes. If all women felt like they absolutely had to live up to the societal image of masculinity, how far would we really have gone?

    In much the same way, it would also be wrong to make men feel embarrassed about liking things thought of as masculine. Would the equivalent pejorative to “girly” be “frat boy?” How depressing that it is has to be more specific for men, but it works in my case.

    I was raised with 6 sisters, had mostly female friends in high school. I watched Gilmore Girls and read Jane Austen. I went to college, joined a fraternity, and found that I also liked beer pong and action movies.

    Did this destroy my credibility as a man who can empathize with women, who can support feminist causes? Of course not. To say so would make about as much sense as that vapid HuffPo nonsense.

  3. Jenae
    August 24, 2011 at 1:17 am

    THANK YOU for this. It drives me crazy that ppl bemoan women being “girly” and don’t see how sexist that is (ie, that ‘girly’=bad).

  4. August 24, 2011 at 1:36 am

    As someone who has worked for 8+ years to get women’s traditional crafts seen through a feminist lens, her article really got my stitches in a twist. Discounting things that people do for fun is dismissive and dangerous. She’s not criticizing men who enjoy watching NASCAR, but criticizing women who enjoy knitting is okay? She obviously hasn’t bothered to check out Betsy Greer’s http://www.craftivism.com site which is one of the most righteously feminist sites around. And many thanks to Caperton for creating a great argument and writing a much-better piece than the Aloi did.

  5. August 24, 2011 at 1:38 am

    While I agree there’s nothing inherently *wrong* with baking, making things, being self-sufficient, etc. (I for one, make a fuckawesome double-dark chocolate truffle cake), I do despair at the ‘fun feminism’ it so often suggests. That is to say, people who put flowers in their hair, take their clothes off and call it ‘activism’ (such as those who organised “World Femininity Day” in the UK a couple of months ago). I also have a HUGE problem with the fetishisation of the 1950s that goes on. The 1950s were AWFUL for women, we should not be trying to emulate them. Also, cupcakes are not a substitute for a personality… just saying.

  6. Kite
    August 24, 2011 at 1:40 am

    Can we have more men who are into cupcakes & knitting, please? My feminism at least wishes there to be less essentialism around the terms “femininity” and “masculinity”. Mix it up folks – it’s okay to be both/all/neither/other. I’m glad women are doing this more, c’mon guys.

    Also, semi-unrelated, I wish there were more tough women in visual fiction who weren’t “sexy” as in appeal-to-the-traditional-straight-male. How many butch women on tv? How many? Tough women as portrayed too often fulfil a dominatrix archetype fetish for men, and butch women, well, don’t. Especially if they aren’t fucking men – “there’s no use for em”. And most women don’t find them “aspirational” like they did, say, Sarah in Terminator.

  7. Jackie
    August 24, 2011 at 1:52 am

    Feministe says your not a good feminist if you like any girly things. Guess us women have to “man up” and not fall into patterns of liking things, like Hello Kitty and cupcakes, right?

  8. August 24, 2011 at 2:20 am

    is it Opposite Day or something? that’s the only way i can fathom anyone calling Sookie Stackhouse a “tough gal role model”.

  9. August 24, 2011 at 3:52 am

    My daughter is a blacksmith. She’s a self employed farrier – a blacksmith who shoes horses. She went from skinny goth waif to tanned Action Woman and has two beautiful kids and a loving husband in a small house on 20 rural acres where her mare and filly live at home.

    She knits and spins in the evenings to relax. Both she and my son in law love to cook, so that became a shared hobby.

    My granddaughter is a hoot. In my childhood she’d have been called a tomboy. She loves dinosaurs and bugs and robots. She likes to draw and she loves soccer, she’s a serious young jock. But she’s not a tomboy. She’s girly – extremely so. She likes Barbie and she chose the pink Barbie bicycle, she likes shoes, she likes fancy clothes – those things all have a place in her life. She really liked her pink and purple soccer ball.

    There are plenty of strong women in the world and little girls are growing up to become strong women in their turn. This is something beautiful.

  10. Medea
    August 24, 2011 at 5:17 am

    tree:
    is it Opposite Day or something? that’s the only way i can fathom anyone calling Sookie Stackhouse a “tough gal role model”.

    I think it’s just wishful thinking. Fans want a protagonist who isn’t cold, selfish and as thick as two short planks, so many of them try to rework every episode in their minds to give it a better outcome.

  11. LC
    August 24, 2011 at 6:50 am

    Kite: Can we have more men who are into cupcakes & knitting, please?

    I deeply suck at knitting, but I’m still working on adapting my pouding chômeur recipe into cupcake form.

  12. August 24, 2011 at 6:55 am

    YES to those arguing that the proffered “tough gal” role models are essentially fetishist images dreamed up in a male-dominated and film industry. And please – the movies they’re in? Surely we aren’t arguing they’re in it to promote any feminist agenda?

    I am deeply grateful for those in the world – like you – who are arguing that soft & badass are not mutually exclusive. If we try & pretend they are, then we negate much that is the source of female strength.

  13. kariface
    August 24, 2011 at 8:15 am

    I pull her out at every possible opportunity, but Hermione Granger. You want a girl/woman in pop culture who is badass without being sexualized, it’s her (she’s been one of my heroes for about 13 years now). I love the moments when she is soft and cuddly, because it makes her more realistic. She’s way smarter than the two boys she hangs out with, she can hold her own in a fight, and she looks great in an evening gown.
    And taking again from the same series: Molly Weasely. She is a total badass who is also one of the best moms (in my opinion) in fiction. She cooks, she cleans, she kicks Death Eater butt!
    And who knows? Maybe all of those “badass” girls/women want to sit at home and bake cupcakes and knit, but can’t because they have to rock out/save a town who’s water was poisoned/fight demons/take down genocidal maniacs.
    These “badass” women aren’t gone from culture, they have just become better!

    I watched Harry Potter last night, can you tell? lol.

  14. August 24, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Realize that real tough women do have flaws, don’t have scripts, do show weakness, and don’t disappear when the TV goes dark. Realize that any chick can wear bike chains and sling an axe, but real toughness can’t be put on, and it can’t be taken off in exchange for Hello Kitty PJs.

    Yeah, and maybe also realize that holding women to an impossible, universal standard of toughness is just as sexist as locking us all in endless loops of pink frills, childcare, and baking. Not only should the axe-slingers get to enjoy Hello Kitty if they want, but those not inclined (or able!) to pick up the axe in the first place should not be shamed for it. We’re not all tough-as-nails. We shouldn’t have to be. We’re people, and that’s what feminism is about.

  15. August 24, 2011 at 8:17 am

    TheNatFantastic:
    While I agree there’s nothing inherently *wrong* with baking, making things, being self-sufficient, etc. (I for one, make a fuckawesome double-dark chocolate truffle cake), I do despair at the ‘fun feminism’ it so often suggests. That is to say, people who put flowers in their hair, take their clothes off and call it ‘activism’ (such as those who organised “World Femininity Day” in the UK a couple of months ago).

    I read so much on this site about what activism isn’t. What exactly do you think it should be? I’m not familiar with World Feminity Day but is it possible these people wanted to show that you could be a feminist, be an activist, and still wear flowers? Because that sounds like a pretty cool event to me. But maybe I’m not doing activism right enough for you.

  16. Ladeeda
    August 24, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Would it be possible to get a list of acceptable feminist hobbies and diversions?

    Also: The world would be a damn boring place if we’d nothing but utilitarian pursuits. Absolutely we should examine and recognize the politics of our frivolity, but I’d argue that it’s far more feminist to knit your own knickknacks and bake your own cupcakes than it is to expect others to do it for you. Glamorizing a time when those avenues weren’t frivolous options is certainly problematic, though.

  17. August 24, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Kite:
    Can we have more men who are into cupcakes & knitting, please? My feminism at least wishes there to be less essentialism around the terms “femininity” and “masculinity”. Mix it up folks – it’s okay to be both/all/neither/other. I’m glad women are doing this more, c’mon guys.

    Also, semi-unrelated, I wish there were more tough women in visual fiction who weren’t “sexy” as in appeal-to-the-traditional-straight-male. How many butch women on tv? How many? Tough women as portrayed too often fulfil a dominatrix archetype fetish for men, and butch women, well, don’t. Especially if they aren’t fucking men – “there’s no use for em”. And most women don’t find them “aspirational” like they did, say, Sarah in Terminator.

    I love cupcakes and make the daintiest french macarons, but sorry, knitting just sounds so boring. But I love cats and wear pink and purple more than any dude I know so I’m trying to bridge the gap, Kite, I swear, I’m trying!!!

    P.S. To the OP, wasn’t the main character in The Killing called Sarah Lund? (you have Sarah Linden)

  18. LC
    August 24, 2011 at 8:26 am

    kariface: And who knows? Maybe all of those “badass” girls/women want to sit at home and bake cupcakes and knit, but can’t because they have to rock out/save a town who’s water was poisoned/fight demons/take down genocidal maniacs.

    Actually, isn’t that a recurring thing in Buffy? She kind of just wants to not have to be Slaying all the time?

    Fat Steve: I love cupcakes and make the daintiest french macarons, but sorry, knitting just sounds so boring.

    I just don’t have the manual dexterity/patience for knitting. I used to hang around the knitting circle at the store my friend worked at because the conversation was fun, but if I actually tried to knit I just got frustrated.

  19. August 24, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Nice post!

    you might like this post … turns out Peg Aloi blogs about … cupcakes and gardening LOL!

  20. August 24, 2011 at 8:41 am

    I loved, loved, LOVED this article. I’ve never been a fan of the ‘if-you-perform-femininity-in-any-way-you-are-a-bad-bad-bad-horrible-feminist-and-supporter-of-the-patriarchy’ school of feminism, because it does the same thing mysogyny does.. it devalues those things considered ‘feminine’ and deems them bad. And what the hell good is THAT?

    I agree with the commenters that have stated what we really need is less genderizing of hobbies, colors.. hell, ANYTHING. Forget thinking that there are things that are ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’. Some women might like straight whiskey. Some guys might like umbrella-laden strawberry daquiris. Some one may just want water.

    Why do we need to label one drink ‘manly’ and one drink ‘girly’… or apply a value based on their perceived ‘manliness’ and ‘girliness’?

    And hell.. sometimes just surviving day-to-day is a form of severe kickassery. Doesn’t need to involve round-housing bad dudes or carrying a big gun (hello.. little phallic here?).

    I’m rambling so yeah.. excellent post, Caperton.

  21. August 24, 2011 at 8:58 am

    **While Sigourney Weaver herself does kick ass, she has never, to my knowledge, faced down an actual goo-drooling alien.

    Oh, but she does! On a number of occasions. Just off the top of my head: remember at the end of the first movie when she blew the alien out of the airlock? Or, how about at the end of the second movie when she fought an alien while she was in a power loader?

    (Yes indeed, I do own copies of all of the Alien movies.)

    Does being feminine really exclude being strong and kick-ass? I’ve known a lot of tough, powerful women who were pretty darned feminine. I really think the author isn’t clear on the concept.

    My pet peeve isn’t that there aren’t enough tough, powerful women, but that there aren’t enough people (women and men both) who really push common boundaries of gender expression. I wish we lived in a society where there was more of an even distribution of personal expression between the dichotomy of “feminine” and “masculine.” Perhaps this is a personal thing for me, but as I walk down the street on any given day, I find the average person’s expression of gender to be kind of bland. It’s so often stuck in either the “pink box” or the “blue box.” It’s as though we are all pushing ourselves out of the same set of templates. (Notice that I said “we” and thus, am including myself here as well.)

    While women are allowed a far greater latitude of expression than several decades ago, there’s still a widespread beauty standard put out by the media that entails a generally feminine presentation. Since so much of women’s worth in patriarchy is based upon fitting into a certain standard of beauty, we are all effected by this. For guys, there’s still the specter of heteronormative masculinity that has to be lived up to lest someone question his sexuality and his worth as a human being.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there is something wrong with being a masculine man or a feminine woman, but it we are still weighed down and restricted by society-wide expectations of normative gender expression that seek to dichotomize everyone. And while the style in which one dresses is superficial in nature, the restrictions upon how we dress and present ourselves to the world are easily visible reminders that the deeper expectations surrounding patriarchal gender roles are still very much alive. We are still expected to occupy clearly delineated categories of “male”, “female”, “feminine”, and “masculine”. Personal expression via clothing and beauty products serve as a means of visually signifying those boundaries.

    Nevertheless, being an androgynous/butch woman doesn’t mean that one is tough and being an androgynous/femme man doesn’t mean one is weak. Those things do not necessarily correlate.

  22. Kristen J
    August 24, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Arrgghhh…shit like that frustrates the hell out of me. Just a few days ago a female colleague told me I would never make it as a manager because I’m “too soft” and manage “like a girl”. I held my temper but it was so enraging. Cluestick: Listening to people and not treating them like dirt under your shoe is not “feminine” or “girlie” its freaking humane.

  23. thinksnake
    August 24, 2011 at 9:18 am

    timberwraith: Oh, but she does! On a number of occasions. Just off the top of my head: remember at the end of the first movie when she blew the alien out of the airlock? Or, how about at the end of the second movie when she fought an alien while she was in a power loader?

    I think the point there was that while the character of Ellen Ripley does those things, the actor Sigourney Weaver hasn’t.

    Male-bodied genderqueer here. I’ve never tried knitting, but I do a mean longstitch. Would like to cook cupcakes more, but finances at the moment don’t allow so much.

  24. Casey
    August 24, 2011 at 9:33 am

    It really pisses me off when people devalue women who do fiber work/take pride in their cooking.

    Like it says in the Bible, “Fuck your fascist creativity standards.” Traditional crafts (including cooking) are artforms.

  25. August 24, 2011 at 9:49 am

    GAH. I hate these arguments. I’m a badass chemist and most chemists that I know love to cook, men as well. I can’t find clothing that fits my body, so I am learning how to sew. Eating organic and local is a priority for me, so I’m learning to garden (I’m also fucking amazed every time a tiny seed that I put into the ground turns into a big, freaking EDIBLE PLANT. Nature, you are awesome.)

    Whenever someone asks me to sew a button for them, it always occurs to me that the feminist answer to Home Ec requirements for girls wasn’t to do away with Home Ec, it was to require it for everyone. Because being able to sew and cook and do household things for oneself is totally useful.

    And, yeah, a big recurring theme in Buffy was that she really didn’t want to be slaying all the time. In fact, there was an episode early on where she ran for homecoming queen.

    Also, my favorite kids series was Animorphs, which had badass Rachel who loved fashion and whatnot and did gymnastics. And Cassie who was not as much a badass but could also get shit done.

  26. Caperton
    August 24, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Jackie: Feministe says your not a good feminist if you like any girly things. Guess us women have to “man up” and not fall into patterns of liking things, like Hello Kitty and cupcakes, right?

    … I suppose that’s one way of reading it.

    Ladeeda: Would it be possible to get a list of acceptable feminist hobbies and diversions?

    Automotive repair, carbureted American domestics only
    Tearing phonebooks in half (cities of 200,000+)
    Caber tossing
    Ball-scratching (bantamweight division)
    American Gladiators
    Carpentry

    Fat Steve: P.S. To the OP, wasn’t the main character in The Killing called Sarah Lund? (you have Sarah Linden)

    In the original Danish (not Swedish, Peg) version, she’s Sarah Lund, but the U.S. version calls her Sarah Linden because… they do.

  27. August 24, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Caperton: … I suppose that’s one way of reading it.

    Automotive repair, carbureted American domestics only
    Tearing phonebooks in half (cities of 200,000+)
    Caber tossing
    Ball-scratching (bantamweight division)
    American Gladiators
    Carpentry

    In the original Danish (not Swedish, Peg) version, she’s Sarah Lund, but the U.S. version calls her Sarah Linden, because… they do.

    Oh, I forgot about the American remake…any good?

  28. Caperton
    August 24, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Incidentally: This post really does need illustration, so I will give $10US to anyone who can provide an undoctored photo of Katee Sackhoff holding a kitten.

  29. Casey
    August 24, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I can’t let it go. I have so many male friends who are considered serious artists because they work in metal, stained glass, blown glass, printing, etc; but my female friends who knit, sew, and, yes, make some amazing looking cupcakes are just considered cute with their little retro hobbies. Oh, the little women doing their little women things. Fuck that.

    Learning a craft is tough. I think anyone who has spent the hours required to master one would agree.

  30. debbie
    August 24, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Jackie:
    Feministe says your not a good feminist if you like any girly things. Guess us women have to “man up” and not fall into patterns of liking things, like Hello Kitty and cupcakes, right?

    It’s definitely opposite day.

  31. August 24, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Jackie: Feministe says your not a good feminist if you like any girly things. Guess us women have to “man up” and not fall into patterns of liking things, like Hello Kitty and cupcakes, right?

    Caperton: … I suppose that’s one very bizarre way of reading it.

    There, I fixed it for you.

  32. JPum
    August 24, 2011 at 10:21 am

    You want tough? A couple weeks ago I embroidered for eight and a half hours straight!

    I happen to be good at, and interested in, crafty things. That a lot of them are traditionally feminine is neither here nor there, and doesn’t stop me from desperately wanting to go take this course: http://bit.ly/o4abUU

  33. Rare Vos
    August 24, 2011 at 10:23 am

    but sorry, knitting just sounds so boring.

    My roomie runs her own lil biz where she makes knit and sewn things to order. She’s very into the whole one-of-a-kind thing. The stuff she produces is nothing short of amazing.

    The amount of time – as in YEARS – that it took her to get to that point is what turns people off. Most people who slam knitting (or crochet or quilting, etc.) lack that level of determination and stamina, and automatically assume therefore it’s boring. Like I did before I moved in with her.

    Given how zen-like it makes her, boring is about the last thing I would call it, though I’m totally one of those people who lack the determination to learn.

    I have never understood though why a “tradionally female” skill is anti-feminist. Why shouldn’t feminists embrace these things? I don’t get it.

  34. Daisy
    August 24, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Caperton: Incidentally: This post really does need illustration, so I will give $10US to anyone who can provide an undoctored photo of Katee Sackhoff holding a kitten.

    Will a playing with a small cat do?

  35. Casey
    August 24, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I want to clarify that my previous comments weren’t in response to anyone here, but to this kind of shit in the linked article:

    “And now that so many women have seemingly retreated from our reign of awesomeness to immerse themselves in the feminine past-times of yesteryear, it does indeed appear that we’ve lost sight of what it means to be a badass, strong, tough woman.”

    Never forget: Gardeners are wimps. Farmers are badass, strong, and tough.

  36. Esti
    August 24, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Sarah@PingsAndNeedles: Nice post! you might like this post … turns out Peg Aloi blogs about … cupcakes and gardening LOL!

    This cognitive dissonance is such a perfect illustration of the tendency to stereotype others based on a single facet of their personality. It’s okay for ME to bake cupcakes/knit/garden because I do lots of other stuff as well, but all of those cupcake/knitting/gardening bloggers are obviously ONLY baking cupcakes/knitting/gardening and are not working or taking care of their family or thinking deep thoughts about feminism.

    At least, I assume that’s what’s going through her head. Because otherwise someone needs to explain hypocrisy to her using very small words.

  37. DouglasG
    August 24, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Poor Miss Austen. She should be kept out of this argument entirely. It’s bad enough to be chosen as an example for a weak argument, but to be an inaccurate choice for such an example adds insult to injury, or injury to insult, as it might be.

  38. scrumby
    August 24, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Is it a good time to point out that knitting was originally a man’s occupation until the women started doing it as a cottage craft and the menfolk dropped it like hot, girly, lead?

  39. August 24, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Slight tangent, but it makes me immeasurably sad that all of the women given as examples of various things here (or at least all of them I’m familiar with, which is most of them because I am a TV glutton), are white ladies who are for the most part straight, TAB, etc.

    Sadface.

  40. DouglasG
    August 24, 2011 at 10:48 am

    As for knitting, I for one should never dare speak against the favourite pastime of my role model Miss Marple.

    As for those who so enthuse about cupcakes, though – well, cupcakes are the sort of thing they like. It may depend on in which part of the exercise one prefers the endeavour. When I baked regularly, I personally found shortbread and madeleines the most aesthaetically pleasing to produce. But one wants a variety of goods to set up shop.

  41. bpbetsy
    August 24, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Thanks for this. That article was inane. I’m personally not a fan of knitting or baking (nor do I excel at either) but I do have other stereotypically “feminine” attributes, and I don’t like having to downplay or hide them in order to be taken seriously.

    Much of this is related to my (invisible) disabilities. I’m not tough, strong, independent, or athletic. I’m emotionally hypersensitive and physically fragile and delicate. I cry a lot. I frequently ask other people to help me carry and lift things.

    Also: I’m low-income, so yeah, I like it when my dates pay for stuff if they make more money than me. And, I’m submissive in bed. There’s also the fact that, when I have the energy, I love to dress “high femme.”

    I don’t feel particularly “judged” by feminists for these things, and seldom have, but I do feel like society in general assumes I’m an incompetent, entitled, melodramatic weakling.

  42. Beauzeaux
    August 24, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I don’t knit but my husband is an incredibly bad-ass knitter. He last made a guernsey sweater that is so beautiful it brings a tear
    to the eye. He’s also a pretty good cook and wears pink.
    I’ve not made cupcakes in 30 years but I make a Blackout Cake that can actually cause blackouts.

    We both do what we like. This gets easier when you get older — especially for men, I think. Somewhere around 50, if you haven’t already, you stop giving a fuck.

  43. Caperton
    August 24, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I don’t even consider myself a “tough gal.” I’m pretty strong, I think, and resilient, but there’s just a certain bravery, boldness, determination, and badassitude that I don’t think I can claim. I dream of being a badass. I’m just indignant on behalf of all the women I know whom I admire for their toughness and are being denigrated for liking a freaking cupcake.

    My aunt is a woman in a “man’s field,” a backpacker, and a poker ace who also does intricate beadcraft. My great-grandmother (God rest her) raised two daughters solo, without alimony, after divorcing her abusive husband and was never without the right hat. My mother can pound a fencepost, pound a backhand lob, seemingly take care of everyone but herself, keep her composure in the face of assholery (and feel free to lose it at home), and sew and knit and cook. My grandmother (Dog rest her) was a published history scholar, backpacker, (occasionally obnoxious) hardnose, cook, and knitter.

    I knit and I’m kind of squishy. They’re tough, and if you have anything to say about them, I will summon what toughness I have and take you to the fucking mat.

  44. August 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Fuuuuuck that noise. I love baking cupcakes (and will happily resume doing so when the weather gets chill), I make mean chocolate chip cookies, my mom taught me an appreciation for gardening (which includes dirt and bugs…soooo girly), and I like crafts and stickers and other cutesy shit. None of these things makes me less tough. Though for the record, it really doesn’t matter if I’m tough. Toughness is not a prerequisite for awesomeness.

  45. August 24, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Last week, I made a splendid chicken dinner. It started at about 3pm when I picked up an axe, cut the head off a chicken, swirled it for a moment in a tub of hot water, plucked it, gutted it, washed it, coated it in a nice paprika-based rub, and put it into the oven. While it was cooking, I installed new RAM in a neighbor’s computer. She was making pie, having spent most of her day thus far fixing a tractor. We invited our other neighbor, the doctor, as well. She showed up in a hot pink knitted cardigan she’d made herself, and brought some garlic bread. Our husbands all went outside to complain about how bad the tomatoes were doing this year, while we played rockband.

    But it’s nice to know that because we cook, bake, and do yarn crafts, we are just soft little girls who spend our days simpering.

  46. anonymousbob
    August 24, 2011 at 11:37 am

    /deferentially delurk

    ok, please help me out here. I was under the impression that one of the points of feminism was so that women could define themselves in whatever manner they wished. Now, if that is wrong, please correct me. If that is correct, though, then wtf is this HuffPo blogger talking about? My sister has been in charge of multimillion dollar projects, directing drillers, construction workers, etc. She also makes some awesome cupcakes and cakes. She loves pink. It goes with all of the black that she wears. She’s a gamer (and a damn good one). She does belly dance for exercise. She is also into roller derby (we hope she makes the team next year). Who is anyone but her to decide whether she is “feminine enough” or not? She does what the hell she wants. And I thought THAT was the idea.

    Someone mentioned a dearth of women of color getting credit for “badass” roles. I would mention anything that Gina Torres has ever done (but I love Zoe Wash the most). There was also Tina Turner in that crappy Mad Max movie. Does Michelle Rodriguez in Resident Evil count?

    /relurk

  47. August 24, 2011 at 11:56 am
  48. LC
    August 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    scrumby: Is it a good time to point out that knitting was originally a man’s occupation until the women started doing it as a cottage craft and the menfolk dropped it like hot, girly, lead?

    Yes, just because that only happens like… ALWAYS.

  49. Isotope_238
    August 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Toughness, awesomeness, and other positive descriptors do not hinge on gendered pursuits.
    I know a 96-year-old lady who does the most beautiful hand embroidery I’ve ever seen. If I’m still alive at 96, I’ll count myself lucky. Her daughter owns her own business, with stores in two states. My mother quilts, sews, and gardens. She was also a software engineer in the ’80s and earned a master’s degree while working full-time. I wear pink and sequins. I’m majoring in computer science, where the men in my classes outnumber me ten to one. I don’t think of myself as “tough” just for studying a field I find interesting.

  50. August 24, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    anonymousbob: Does Michelle Rodriguez in Resident Evil count?

    Michelle Rodriguez in *everything* counts.

  51. August 24, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    WithinThisMind:
    Last week, I made a splendid chicken dinner.It started at about 3pm when I picked up an axe, cut the head off a chicken, swirled it for a moment in a tub of hot water, plucked it, gutted it, washed it, coated it in a nice paprika-based rub, and put it into the oven.While it was cooking, I installed new RAM in a neighbor’s computer.She was making pie, having spent most of her day thus far fixing a tractor.We invited our other neighbor, the doctor, as well.She showed up in a hot pink knitted cardigan she’d made herself, and brought some garlic bread.Our husbands all went outside to complain about how bad the tomatoes were doing this year, while we played rockband.

    But it’s nice to know that because we cook, bake, and do yarn crafts, we are just soft little girls who spend our days simpering.

    Can I come live in your neighborhood?

  52. reluctant alchemist
    August 24, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    So gardening is girly and weak, but farming is tough and manly. My vegetable garden is located on a farm and is about a quarter acre in size. I spend my weekends covered in dirt, shoveling and pushing around wheelbarrows of compost and hauling huge baskets of vegetables up a hill. I think that puts me in the tough badass farmer category, but if I had access to less land I’d be a silly girly gardener? Or am I too girly anyway because all the hard outdoor labor is really just so I can cook fancy heirloom vegetables?

  53. August 24, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Heather: Can I come live in your neighborhood?

    There is a house for sale, but the adjacent neighbor keeps pigs and when the wind blows wrong……

    The folks that lived there never complained though. Probably because at least once a month they got a slab of bacon or a ham.

    Of course…it’s the wife that runs the smokehouse… is that cooking and thus weak, or because it’s bacon does it qualify as suitably tough? I’m so confused, my poor weak little woman brain just can’t handle these kinds of questions. I should go make some muffins and tea. Muffins and tea will make it all better.

  54. Nobody
    August 24, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Jackie:
    Feministe says your not a good feminist if you like any girly things. Guess us women have to “man up” and not fall into patterns of liking things, like Hello Kitty and cupcakes, right?

    Actually I believe that the official Feministe position is that you’re not a good feminist unless you personally have faced down an exoskeleton encased goo dripping alien.

  55. August 24, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Nobody: Actually I believe that the official Feministe position is that you’re not a good feminist unless you personally have faced down an exoskeleton encased goo dripping alien.

    Oh thank GOODNESS, because I was starting to worry.

  56. August 24, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    There’s nothing wrong if online dominated by feminism. Loving cuddly, cute and sweets doesn’t reduce your masculinity.

  57. LC
    August 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Nobody: Actually I believe that the official Feministe position is that you’re not a good feminist unless you personally have faced down an exoskeleton encased goo dripping alien.

    Dammit, my partner handles all the alien-facing. I do the running around yelling quirky things distracting everyone until the sonic screwdriver comes into play.

  58. Mr. Siegal
    August 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    HuffPo has the worst views of gender issues of any publication you’d care to name.

  59. August 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Being raised liberal in the “gender doesn’t mean anything” sense, it wasn’t until I started reading feminist blogs as an adult that I realized, ironically, men have way less flexibility about gender-type stuff than women do, in many ways.

  60. Mr. Siegal
    August 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Well, besides awful “men’s rights” blogs, that is.

  61. LC
    August 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    LoveCupcakes: There’s nothing wrong if online dominated by feminism.

    I think there is a word missing in that first sentence?

  62. JetGirl
    August 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    If I’m not allowed to love cupcakes, I want no part of your revolution.

  63. Asinknits
    August 24, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    I knit, sew, and love vegetarian cooking. And I am a degree qualified chemist who loves the gym, especially doing weights (which do not make you bulk up, despite what everyone tells you – you need testosterone to be properly bulky). Am I a feminist or not ;)

  64. August 24, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Asinknits: I knit, sew, and love vegetarian cooking. And I am a degree qualified chemist who loves the gym, especially doing weights (which do not make you bulk up, despite what everyone tells you – you need testosterone to be properly bulky). Am I a feminist or not ;)

    Me too! I have so much love for lifting weights and for all those things that you listed. :-D

  65. chava
    August 24, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Yep, me too. Well, not the knitting. The last knitting party I tried I gave up and just ate everyone else’s cupcake while they knit….something.

    I cook, sew, and bake. I wish I were better at things like home dec, fashion, and makeup, but the force is not in me, much to my mother-in-law’s dismay.

    I also scuba dive, thru-hike solo, and run. I’ve started with the weight lifting recently, and I agree, it rocks.

    That said, I was kind of dismayed that Runners World this month has a whole feature on fashion and running. Apparently the era of just throwing on the most purposeful clothes for the job, even if you have a vagina, is gone. Oh well. I’ll always have trekking.

    Shoshie: Me too!I have so much love for lifting weights and for all those things that you listed.:-D

  66. Vigée
    August 24, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    That article was infuriating. I write a cooking blog because I love to cook. And I don’t think that just because an activity is traditionally done by women it should be devalued BECAUSE it’s traditionally done by women.

    Oh, I’ve also finished 4 Ironmans, so, you know, maybe women don’t actually have to chose one or the other?

  67. August 25, 2011 at 4:09 am

    DouglasG: As for knitting, I for one should never dare speak against the favourite pastime of my role model Miss Marple.

    She is totally badass.

    Anyway. I honestly don’t understand why on earth I should be doing things that I don’t find enjoyable instead of things that I enjoy. I enjoy knitting, so what? I have tried carving wood too and I like it. But knitting isn’t any less valuable than carving.

    I rather wish we would stop undervaluing the great art that women create thru knitting, sewing, crocheting, quiting and other little lady hobbies.

  68. August 25, 2011 at 7:04 am

    This article royally pissed me off as well, although I wouldn’t so much argue that women can bake *and* be tough, but ask instead, why is “hot-wiring a car” considered “tough” and baking isn’t? And why is “tough” an ideal? Is it because we consider “masculine” traits to be the ideal, and “feminine” traits to be always always lesser-than? (my response here: http://www.bust.com/blog/2011/08/12/huffpo-blogger-to-women-everything-girly-is-weak.html)

    This change in thinking–the reclaiming of certain “feminine” qualities and activities and recognizing that they can be a part of feminism — came about in the 90s with riot grrrl (and was inspired by the queer rights movement), and is a central idea of third-wave feminism. But I guess some folks didn’t get the memo.

    What’s more surprising, however, is that Peg Aloi most certainly DID get the memo, as she, herself, is a feminist, baker, and gardener, as I uncover in the following blog post: http://www.bust.com/blog/2011/08/23/breaking-huffpo-blogger-who-hates-women-who-bake-cupcakes-and-gardenbakes-cupcakes-and-gardens.html

    In other words, I think we, and our cupcake-baking asses, have been had.

  69. Jess
    August 25, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Thanks for this!

    I work in a traditionally male field; I have been in the Army for nearly 15 years. It took the better part of a decade for me to become comfortable with who I am. I thought that to be a soldier I had to squash everything feminine out of myself. I truly believed that if one of my soldiers saw me in a dress, I would NEVER be taken seriously again. If someone I worked with saw me in makeup, nobody would ever obey an order I gave or trust me to save their life.

    You know what it got me? Mental health issues. Physical health issues. More stress than I needed. Luckily I figured things out. I belly dance, which saved me physically (if you hold your body completely stiff, allowing no sway to your hips, if you never relax your spine for fear that some motion will cause your breasts to bounce, you can end up with damage to your joints.) I had to re-learn how to move. I took up some of my childhood hobbies of sewing and embroidery. On my last deployment I literally sat in a bunker embroidering a pillow case during a massive mortar attack on our base.

    Surprise surprise, everyone still obeys my orders. Every now and then I run across a (usually very young male) soldier who thinks he shouldn’t have to listen to me. It’s not hard to set them straight. They might dislike me, they might say things behind my back, but to my face they WILL be respectful to their toenails.

    It’s all about balance, and the world likes to make it hard. I figure every time I find and maintain a healthy balance in my life, I win. And, hopefully, make it easier for other women who want the same thing.

  70. August 25, 2011 at 11:34 am

    First, thanks so much for this!

    Part of the problem of the perceived genderization of certain crafts is that most of the broader culture’s perception of such crafts is rooted in their being “old-fashioned” and harkening back to a time with stricter gender roles. There’s a fair amount of overlap between people with progressive ideas about gender roles and the burgeoning DIY/maker movement, and hopefully, this can help create a more modern perception of crafts that disentangles them from archaic gender roles.

    One of the larger challenges of contemporary feminism is breaking down the wall between expected gender roles, and allowing fluidity in all directions, such that we are unfazed by someone who’s into both carpentry and knitting (which rely on similar spatial skills!) or cupcakes and UFC. I hope I am helping to break down these walls in my role as a (woman) math teacher who is equally likely to bring in information about my knitting, cooking or woodworking projects as examples of practical math.

  71. August 25, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I forgot to mention I love kitties. I consider myself as someone with good, if rather snobbish, tastes, but I will buy the tackiest shit if it has a cute cat on it.

  72. Caperton
    August 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Let me just say that y’all are some of the most awesome people. Really. This one in particular:

    Jess: On my last deployment I literally sat in a bunker embroidering a pillow case during a massive mortar attack on our base.

    cracked my shit up.

    Let me also say that if you don’t know the difference between a cat or a puppy and a kitten, you are the worst hyper-domesticated girly-girl fake feminist ever. Kitten, people. This isn’t a difficult concept.

  73. CassandraSays
    August 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    The anecdotes here, I love. The original article makes me want to go punch the author. (It sounds like she would actually find that impressive rather than inappropriate.)

    So I have this friend who I’ve known for years, and we kind of illustrated the stupidity of the OP’s mindset. I’m the one who looks conventionally feminine – heels, makeup, hourglassy figure, long hair – but I’m also the jock, and the one who studied martial arts. She’s more butch looking, but she’s the one who sends me links to adorable kitty pictures and who grew up loving frilly panties and Hello Kitty. I’m the one who loves to cook, but she’s the one who’s learning to weave. Neither of us bake – not because we don’t like baked goods, we just don’t know how (and I maintain that certain baked goods, like baklava, are best left to professionals, because I am way too fucking lazy to even attempt that).

    We’re both queer, but she’s the only one who gets verbal gaybashing. Guess which one of us has actually slept with a woman in the past year? Hint – not the one who gets gaybashed.

    It’s all just so fucking stupid. Also, anti-femme does not equal feminist. It would be really great if more people could wrap their heads around that idea.

  74. Annaleigh
    August 26, 2011 at 12:17 am

    This is one issue that bothers me a lot. I consider myself very femme, and always have. I love to make jewelry, sew, crochet, cook, and I am an avid genealogist. A lot of my hobbies and interests are in tune with those that are expected of non-feminist Evangelical and Mormon women, but not intentionally and I am still a feminist.

    I often feel like I am being judged by fellow feminists, and at the same time, if I were to mention my status as a feminist to women on sites related to my hobbies, there’s a good chance that anti-feminist conservative women there will lambast me for being an evil feminist. It’s not fun.

    I have a feeling that men with “masculine” interests who are a bit more liberal in their politics or are even pro-feminist may find themselves bumping heads with conservative men over the differences too.

  75. Sonja
    August 28, 2011 at 4:59 am

    Thanks so much for this article! As a kid I was a tomboy, mostly read boys books and played being a cowboy or pirate. I tried to maintain this “toughness” when I grew up, but after several years of suffering from psychosomatic pain, I realized that I was destroying myself if I didn’t learn to accept myself like I am, including the more soft and vulnerable parts. I’m in therapy now, and I’ve realized that a part of my tomboy-personality originates from the wish of pleasing my father, who does not seem to “get” girlyness. My therapist encourages me to experiment with my more feminine side, so I’ve found out that I really like make-up, heels and skirts on some days. On other days it’s jeans and sneakers, and that’s totally okay. And I have accepted the fact that I love to cook and knit – or at least I’m working at it! ;-) But I’m also totally decided to show my little niece that not everything in a girl’s (=future woman’s) life has to be pink and frilly and that women CAN wear their hair short – in spite of what my brother in law may think!

  76. Peg
    September 17, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Gosh. I had no idea this would stir up such anonymity. For the record, I am a feminist, a professional gardener and a professional baker (cupcakes my specialty in fact)! I was hired to write this piece for a website I work for (not HuffPo) and was given a topic and slant the editors wished me to use. I suppose my intentions were misconstrued as I was hoping there was plenty of tongue-in-cheek attitude to balance out my complaining. Also, my bio for the piece originally mentioned I was a professional gardener and baker, but that was edited out by the PR guy who gave it to HuffPo, so the irony was not there to help folks discern my stance, I guess.
    Gardening is definitely for for wusses! I work my ass off at it and come home sweaty, dirty and tired from my professional landscaping gigs. I do everything on my own, no male helpers of big equipment. Maybe I should blog about that instead??? And for the record, Cupcakes Take the Cake and Garden Rant are two of my favorite blogs.
    Anyway, mea culpa! I meant no offense to anyone who is a badass gardener, baker, knitter, fashionista or otherwise engaged in some artful domestic pursuit. I am one of you…

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