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The Husband Stitch | Carmen Maria Machado | Granta Magazine
‘I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them.’ Carmen Maria Machado’s ‘The Husband Stitch’.
fiction  short-story  gender  horror  literature  femininity 
9 hours ago by alexpbrown
How I feel when you ask me to perform femininity | Girl on the Net
I’m not the kind of woman you’d describe as ‘petite.’ Or ‘dainty’ or ‘pretty’ or ‘feminine.’ In fact, I’m a little bit sensitive to the idea of being ‘feminine’, and any suggestion from helpful friends and family if they recommend I get my hair cut more often or try on a pretty dress: it’s not just that I don’t want to be feminine, it’s that I truly don’t think that I can. What came first: my refusal to perform femininity, or the knowledge that I’ll never be able to?

The other day I listened to a Jo Caulfield stand-up set on Radio 4 in which she talks about how as a taller woman, in a group of ‘girly girls’ she often gets pushed into masculine roles, like carrying heavy bags or what have you. And I’m going to apologise in advance for the language and attitudes in this post: equating certain traits with certain genders, and weighing the value of things like ‘femininity’ as if a person’s worth can be reduced to such simplistic concepts. It’s not a matter of life and death for me, though I know it is for many whose relationship with this stuff is much more difficult. You might not want to read on if this sort of thing distresses you, or even if you just find the idea of dissecting these concepts tedious and frustrating.

Femininity and masculinity are both complex topics, and I don’t like the idea that there is such a thing as a ‘real man‘ or a ‘real woman‘, as measured by stereotypes, body shapes and the cut and colour of our clothes. Nor do I want to perpetrate the idea that there’s intrinsic value, for women, in being feminine – it’s reductive and shitty and harmful. But as with a lot of this gendered, damaging bullshit, sometimes you’ve got to state it to slate it. I’ve grown up in a world that’s told me my value lies in beauty, beauty lies in femininity, and for women like me, neither of these things are achievable.

And honestly? It has sort of fucked me up.
What does femininity mean?

I’m a bit like Jo Caulfield: often seen as the ‘boy’ of the group when I’m in a group of girls. In the past I’ve noticed myself doing odd things at hen nights or during women’s-only nights out, like performing notions of chivalry: holding doors for more feminine women, or offering them my seat.

When I heard Jo’s set, I was reminded of an incident which happened when I was about fifteen. A friend of mine – Amy – asked me to walk her home from a house party to keep her safe. I used to worship Amy, and also feel a little frightened of her at the same time. She was the girliest of girly girls, but like me she was also tall. Broad-shouldered and big and brash and all that powerful stuff. But she was also far better at doing ‘feminine’ things than I was – she loved make-up and perfume and dresses and skirts, and she’d often try to give me makeovers to get me involved too.

I desperately wanted them to work. I hoped that a touch of eyeshadow and a nice top and a spritz of hairspray would transform me – you know, the way they always did in teen movies. I always looked shite, of course, but Amy did her best, and I hid my disappointment behind jokes about how long it had taken and how I couldn’t possibly be bothered to attempt this every day. We’d laugh about the results together over a bottle of Lambrini and some gleeful gossip about boys. The boys who would end up snogging Amy instead of me, because the makeover I’d hoped would be magic turned out not to be.

Anyway. One night she asked me to walk her home from a house party. This was in the days before mobile phones, so even a short journey of 15 minutes could be scary for a teenage girl in the dark.

“Can you walk me home,” she asked “so I don’t get raped? I have to go through the alley.”

I said yes and started to get my coat. Fifteen minutes would be just enough to catch up on all our gossip before I made my way back to the party. It was only as we were leaving that it occurred to me to ask:

“What about me? Once I’ve dropped you off I’ll have to walk back through the alley on my own.”

She looked me up and down and told me: “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.”

Fine like not rapeable. Fine like not beautiful. Fine like not feminine.

Being feminine, then, was both desirable and also something that might mark me as a target. Did I really want to be feminine anyway? My thirty-five-year-old self could write a thesis-length rant about everything that’s wrong with that incident: from Amy’s assumption that only certain kinds of women get raped to my own sickening need to be ‘desirable’ enough that she’d never have said it. And all the subsequent times when I made similar statements to others – wrapping my humiliation in a spiky, ignorant pride: “I’ll walk alone, thanks. I’ll be fine. I can take care of myself – just look at me haha!”
Wanting to be feminine

I haven’t always been the least feminine woman in the group. Long before Amy, when I was really young, I was a proper (hate this phrase but I don’t really know of a better one) ‘girly girl.’ As a really little kid I liked dolls and My Little Ponies. Sparkly, twirly pink dresses and dainty shoes and those fake make-up kits which were just made of plastic so you could pretend to paint your face without actually making a mess. My sister was the one who couldn’t be arsed with that stuff, and to this day she still takes the piss out of me by sarcastically singing a sickly song with which I used to serenade my doll.

I wanted to be a ballerina, too. I was pretty good at ballet – I even passed my grade 4 exam. Or was it grade 3? One of the ones which is easy enough for smallish kids to do without having to put much work in. I used to adore everything about the classes: the delicate poses, the pointing of feet, and don’t get me started on the clothing! I was seven or eight years old, and tights and tutus were The Dream.

I had to quit ballet in the end. Not because I fell out of love with it, but because my ballet teacher at the time pointed out that I probably wasn’t on track for a be-tutued curtain call, because I was built like a brick shithouse. Not in so many words – she’ll have said something like ‘too tall’ or ‘big boned’ or ‘broad shoulders’ – but enough that I remember it as the first time I realised my body would never be dainty, like I wanted it to be.
When you ask me to perform femininity

It’s far from the end of the world, of course. Gender, appearance, whether you’re ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’: for some people these things are literally a matter of life and death. I’m one of the lucky ones for whom it’s just a source of occasional tears and a bi-annual moan in a blog post. After I finished doing ballet I started embracing my inner tomboy, and then my inner goth, and then eventually settling on the scruffy slag I inconsistently look like today.

But alongside trying to make peace with my physical appearance, I also work hard to cultivate the attitude that I don’t really care.

I don’t care about make-up: it takes too much time. I don’t care about haircuts: they’re far too expensive. I don’t care about high heels: trainers are far more practical. And if you think I’m going to waste money on a spa day when I could go to Alton Towers for half the price, you’ve got another think coming, my friend. I reject things I’m told are feminine, and focus instead on what’s comfortable and practical for me.

Do I do this because I prefer it? Because it’s easier? Both. But there’s another reason I do it too: defensively, instinctively, I reject femininity because I know that I will never achieve it, and the realisation that I can’t achieve it hurts far more than occasionally being told I’m ‘the man of the group’.

At every stage of my life, I’ve been reminded that I will never be properly feminine. Not just by Amy and my ballet teacher, but by boyfriends who’ve made gentle suggestions about what I might like to wear. By relatives who’ve heavily hinted that I might want to buy a new dress for so-and-so’s wedding, because I always look so drab in photos. The men I went on dates with who made uncomfortable jokes about my height. The one who asked me to wear flats when I saw him in future. The lover who told me that when I raced to meet him in the dance tent at a festival, his heart sank when I arrived because I looked so disappointing. I had my jeans rolled up and mud on my face and my hair was a mess. I thought my beaming smile and excitement to see him would be enough, but he’d been dancing with another girl, and by comparison I seemed so plain. So uncool. So embarrassing to be seen with in front of the cool kids in the dance tent.

I know in my heart that femininity does not equal beauty – I have known many beautiful masculine people, and many people who sit elsewhere on whatever this spectrum or graph or sphere actually is. But knowing that this is bullshit in my rational brain doesn’t make life easier for my emotions. I am still not feminine, and therefore I will never feel beautiful, and I will hate myself for not being beautiful almost as much as I hate myself for wanting to be.

When I’m nudged towards femininity, I cannot work out if I’m rejecting it so forcefully because I genuinely don’t want to perform it, or if my rejection is there to protect me from publicly admitting that I can’t.

If you don’t try, then you can’t fail.

And I tried, then I failed: so I stopped.
femininity  gender-roles 
june 2019 by thegrandnarrative
Rebecca Solnit: When the Hero is the Problem | Literary Hub
"Positive social change results mostly from connecting more deeply to the people around you than rising above them, from coordinated rather than solo action. Among the virtues that matter are those traditionally considered feminine rather than masculine, more nerd than jock: listening, respect, patience, negotiation, strategic planning, storytelling. But we like our lone and exceptional heroes, and the drama of violence and virtue of muscle, or at least that’s what we get, over and over, and in the course of getting them we don’t get much of a picture of how change happens and what our role in it might be, or how ordinary people matter. “Unhappy the land that needs heroes” is a line of Bertold Brecht’s I’ve gone to dozens of times, but now I’m more inclined to think, pity the land that thinks it needs a hero, or doesn’t know it has lots and what they look like."

"William James said of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, “Surely the cutting edge of all our usual misfortunes comes from their character of loneliness.” That is, if I lose my home, I’m cast out among those who remain comfortable, but if we all lose our homes in the earthquake, we’re in this together. One of my favorite sentences from a 1906 survivor is this: “Then when the dynamite explosions were making the night noisy and keeping everybody awake and anxious, the girls or some of the refugees would start playing the piano, and Billy Delaney and other folks would start singing; so that the place became quite homey and sociable, considering it was on the sidewalk, outside the high school, and the town all around it was on fire.”

I don’t know what Billy Delaney or the girls sang, or what stories the oat gatherers Le Guin writes about might have told. But I do have a metaphor, which is itself a kind of carrier bag and metaphor literally means to carry something beyond, carrying being the basic thing language does, language being great nets we weave to hold meaning. Jonathan Jones, an indigenous Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi Australian artist, has an installation—a great infinity-loop figure eight of feathered objects on a curving wall in the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane that mimics a murmuration, one of those great flocks of birds in flight that seems to swell and contract and shift as the myriad individual creatures climb and bank and turn together, not crashing into each other, not drifting apart.

From a distance Jones’s objects look like birds; up close they are traditional tools of stick and stone with feathers attached, tools of making taking flight. The feathers were given to him by hundreds who responded to the call he put out, a murmuration of gatherers. “I’m interested in this idea of collective thinking,” he told a journalist. “How the formation of really beautiful patterns and arrangements in the sky can help us potentially start to understand how we exist in this country, how we operate together, how we can all call ourselves Australians. That we all have our own little ideas which can somehow come together to make something bigger.”

What are human murmurations, I wondered? They are, speaking of choruses, in Horton Hears a Who, the tiny Whos of Whoville, who find that if every last one of them raises their voice, they become loud enough to save their home. They are a million and a half young people across the globe on March 15 protesting climate change, coalitions led by Native people holding back fossil fuel pipelines across Canada, the lawyers and others who converged on airports all over the US on January 29, 2017, to protest the Muslim ban.

They are the hundreds who turned out in Victoria, BC, to protect a mosque there during Friday prayers the week after the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. My cousin Jessica was one of them, and she wrote about how deeply moving it was for her, “At the end, when prayers were over, and the mosque was emptying onto the street, if felt like a wedding, a celebration of love and joy. We all shook hands and hugged and spoke kindly to each other—Muslim, Jew, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, atheist…” We don’t have enough art to make us see and prize these human murmurations even when they are all around us, even when they are doing the most important work on earth."
rebeccasolnit  heroes  change  democracy  collectivism  multitudes  2019  robertmueller  gretathunberg  society  movements  murmurations  relationships  connection  femininity  masculinity  leadership  patience  negotiation  listening  strategy  planning  storytelling  bertoldbrecht  violence  attention  ursulaleguin  williamjames  1906  sanfrancisco  loneliness  comfort  billdelaney  jonathanjones  art  humans  humanism  scale  activism  action 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Some women think they can escape the long, dark, puffy coat. But many have succumbed - The Boston Globe
Come winter, there seem to be just two kinds of women in Boston: Those who have succumbed to the long, dark puffer coat, and those who are naive enough to think they can escape its clutches.
fashion  femininity 
february 2019 by yiqing
The Misogyny of the Modern Slasher Film
COMMENTER: Anonymous4:43 AM
I wrote my final thesis on Gender and Sexuality in slasher films, and viewed well over 500 in preparation for it (was exhausting!)

Carol Clover was my go-to reference, but unfortunately she began her famous essay 'Her Body, Himself' on the genre with a mistruth, saying the slasher film victims are 'mostly female,' before going on to reference a list of films where male victims outnumbered females by some margin.

While I appreciate, from my arduous research, that the early films were heavy on the T&A and protracted sequences of girls being tormented over and above those afforded to their boyfriends etc., this tied in well with Clover's assertion that terror is 'gendered feminine' - which is why most slasher movie artwork and DVD cover features a girl in peril, even if it doesn't match the content of the film.

The 'apologetic' notion of the final girl is one I explored also, and arrived at the conclusion that, yeah, in some ways she serves as a get out clause for all her dead gal-pals over the last 75 minutes, but at the same time I'd rather watch Jamie Lee Curtis or Neve Campbell fighting off a psycho than wasted in the role of wife/girlfriend to a guy on a spy adventure.

The main crutch of my research was that male victims outnumbered females BIG TIME. The eventual difference was almost 20%. So while some filmmakers were engaging in a possible punish-the-women exercise, I'd say a lot of those films were just box ticking exercises made for profit, with little thought going into the script. 'T&A = asses on seats', despite the fact - in the book Blood Money - that 55% of under-17s who bought tickets for Halloween & Friday the 13th were girls!

I feel there's a male myth that needs to be cracked, the one of the man who won't scream or run away from the killer. As it would be perceived as a weakness, male victims are normally done in quickly and without the option to physically retaliate, at the risk of men in the audience yelling 'pussy!' if he shrieked and bolted into the woods, an action "perfectly acceptable" for a teenage girl to do.

It's an argument impossible to conclude one way or another given the sheer amount of films that exist these days, though I would say that, in the early 80s, taking Halloween, Friday the 13th Parts 1-2, Prom Night, Terror Train, Hell Night, Happy Birthday to Me, and My Bloody Valentine, these films don't strike me as having any vicious anti-feminist sentiment in them - and they're probably the best examples of the genre at the time.
horror  misogyny  male-gaze  slasher  film  feminism  femininity 
december 2018 by StJohnBosco
The “Jewish American Princess” is our most complex Jewish stereotype - Vox
JAP is rarely used outside the Jewish world — only by goyim in very Jewish cities, and usually playfully so. A second-degree ethnic slur, it is far too acute to be useful in places where people don’t know many actual Jews. On those milk-and-meat main streets, Jews don’t have midlevel designer handbags or custom window treatments; they have horns. There, the top-level pejorative is “Jew.”
december 2018 by yiqing
Untouchable | Autostraddle
It somehow never occurred to me that I looked like anything at all, no matter what I wore. Well into adolescence, I maintained an aggressively childlike ignorance of the fact that the world saw me and, in seeing me, judged me. I clad myself in a protective exoskeleton of not-thinking-about-it. And so I quite happily wore elastic-waist boys’ jeans, and polo shirts of indeterminate gender from the 80s, and all manner of other clothing, the type of clothing that exists despite the fact that no one ever seems to buy it – that simply shows up in giant garbage bags, sorted by size and season, from some other family, who themselves received it in much the same way some years earlier.

I put them on. They fit. They fit in every way I had never known that other clothing didn’t. They fit in the way that frilly, muddy dresses fit my sister; the way that a black cocktail dress fit Audrey Hepburn; the way that pillbox hats fit Jackie Onassis. They were iconic – for me, at least. I wore them to school the next day, and I bloomed. I knew what I wanted to look like, now, and I knew where to start. I knew what I wanted womanhood to feel like, for me, or at least I started to know.
fashion  personal_essay  lesbian  gay  lgbt  femininity 
december 2018 by yiqing
“Princess Qajar” and the Problem with Junk History Memes | A Bit of History
In their own time, ‘Esmat and Taj were not defined by their appearance. Their accomplishments were not the result of either setting or copying cultural standards of beauty. They were women of merit and substance whose stories deserve to be told and perpetuated in a respectful and meaningful way, not diminished and ridiculed.

In writing of the women of the Qajar court, like ‘Esmat and Taj, whose pictures hold so much historical meaning and significance, Dr. Scheiwiller poignantly wrote, “The photograph of oneself was able to transform one from being meaningless, whose story would not be told, to one of a face etched in time.”[12]

It would be a travesty to sit back and let a fatuous meme mar the true beauty and historical importance of these women and their images.
iran  persia  women  femininity  beauty  body-image  internet  memes  history  humbug 
september 2018 by StJohnBosco
The Rise of the Ironic Man-Hater
There’s another reason that the once ubiquitous “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” T-shirt has officially been usurped by a cheeky “Ban Men.” Sincere feminist identification can sometimes feel like more trouble than it’s worth. When women don’t identify as feminists, they’re scolded that feminism simply means equality between men and women, and they’d have to be ignorant to reject the label. But women who do embrace the term find that feminist identification is not so simple: They stand to see every little personal choice dissected and critiqued from a feminist perspective, from the color of their wedding dresses to the filters on their selfies. It can be freeing, then, to instead adopt an ironic stance that allows women to identify against what they clearly are not: A cartoonish man-hater bent on total male destruction. And by squarely targeting anti-feminists, ironic misandry avoids dwelling on what feminists themselves are doing right or wrong. As Zimmerman puts it, it allows women to criticize “patriarchal ideals without also shitting on other gal-identified types”
feminism  femininity  misandry  sexism  internet  humor  from instapaper
august 2018 by StJohnBosco

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