Subversive Femme

Fifties, Feminism and Femininity

Thinking more a feminism/femininity – I love Gertie’s post about her love of fashion from an oppressive (for women) era.

In fact, I think i’m in femme-crush with Gertie. She raises some really great ideas/discussions (i.e. race and retro with Beyonce’s latest clip) that alot of people wouldnt think about. Plus she sews too, so there is crafting content!

(oh god, I just posted a Beyonce song on my blog, will wonders never cease. Kinda weird that she’s a republican)

So, go read it. I may not agree wholeheartedly with everything she writes, but it still gets the brain cells moving.

Also – if you want to have a massive laugh go read Effing Dykes. Explaining dykes, one hilarious blog post at a time.

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  • Reply
    May 28, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Thanks for sharing Gertie's site. Thought-provoking. I guess where I keep running into a brick wall is statements like: “I wear vintage stuff because it suits my figure, looks sexy, and makes me feel feminine.” I just honestly don't understand that. I mean, I don't comprehend it. What does it mean to “suit one's figure”? I certainly think people shouldn't wear things that are comfortable or don't fit right. But if you say a person's clothing looks good, really you mean they conform to some sort of silhouette or style. I've been told wrap dresses suit me (and other busty, curvy women). But why? Because they de-emphasize my stomach and highlight my tits. But WHY is that considered suitable? Because those are the things that men value right now. It's not like fashion is judged like modern art, on pure aesthetics. (Not saying there aren't avant garde designers who design clothes meant to be works of art, but 99.9% of the clothing in the world isn't.)

    And what about femininity? If I say something makes me feel feminine, what the hell does that mean? I'm a woman. However I feel is feminine. Why would a pencil skirt make me feel MORE feminine? And of course it does. A pencil skirt feels more feminine than blue jeans. But if I really examine why that is, I think it has more to do with men's privilege to be comfortable, with ideas that only women wear skirts, with historical references to idealised women wearing these clothes.

    That's what I mean when I say I don't get it. I don't get how people define femininity and sexiness through fashion/makeup WITHOUT reference to the thousands of years of shared Western social history of gender relationships. There's nothing intrinsically feminine about a wiggle skirt other than the cultural baggage we bring to it. (Obviously, since there are plenty of cultures on earth where “feminine” dress looks entirely different to how it does to us as Westerners.)

    Hmm. However. The corset. See, I can almost see that, given that what it does is exaggerate the ratio of waist to hip, which signifies female fertility. So maybe a corset can be objectively feminine. Still, nowadays it's hard to divorce the aesthetics of it from the cultural connotation. I'd argue that a corset is never just a corset in 2010.

    I'm rambling again. Feel free to tell me to GYOBF (“Get Your Own Blog, Fuckwit”). Oh wait! I have one! 🙂

  • Reply
    May 28, 2010 at 3:02 am

    This my 2 cents 😉 – and I’m talking about a Queer Femme view here, not a Hetero-Female view, of which I can’t comment cos I’m not! Hehe.

    I think you're raising two issues here – (1) why do we associate certain 'looks' with feminine, and (2) and what the hell is femininity.

    (1) everything is subjective. If I feel something suits my figure, then it does. Fashion is about conforming, even if its conforming to your own notion and not everyone elses. The studies done show that humans prefer a certain waist/hip ratio, symmetry, certain colours don’t highlight your spots etc etc. Men AND women prefer these things – so if you wear something that accentuates those attributes you are following a style, that’s right. I do believe fashion is about aesthetics, however, I agree that different cultures have their own brand of what is ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, and aesthetically pleasing. I’ve also not studied enough fashion history to answer your question.

    (2) “If I say something makes me feel feminine, what the hell does that mean? I'm a woman. However I feel is feminine.”
    Thats saying that femininity only belongs to women (and masculinity belongs to men) and i'd like to argue that it doesnt.

    Some women are not feminine (butches), and can out-masculine any guy I know. Ditto for my faggy-brethren. Just because someone is born in a female body doesnt mean they own the rights to ‘feminine’ or can fully express it naturally (I’m not saying you can’t! ;D)
    I’d like to say that being feminine is not about being female, that it goes further than that and bypasses gender – its not the ‘condition of being female’ or some crap. (For me) its about accentuating different aspects of who I am, and perhaps even taking it to the ironic territory of performance – i.e. over-doing sometimes, being highly visible, being loud, not being the passive pretty-girl. It’s the polar opposite of the masculine women I adore, and it comes naturally for me when men arn’t around – so it can’t be related to men/male gaze?

    “I don't get how people define femininity and sexiness through fashion/makeup WITHOUT reference to the thousands of years of shared Western social history of gender relationships” – I’m not sure how you would have people reference that everyday? I can only add this quote from Sublime Femme
    “historically femininity has been ridiculed, demeaned, and treated as an emblem of passivity and subordination. I think it’s a feminist act of resistance to reclaim femininity and separate it from the male gaze–to show the world that women can be strong and smart and beautiful, all at the same time. And, as I’ve said here before, we need to recognize femme as a lesbian gender and source of power and pleasure for queer women. From this perspective, femme performance is quite different from conforming to traditional scripts of femininity (e.g. the “dumb blonde”) in order to attract men or bolster the male ego”


    I admit that I’m not the most articulate person around, I struggle expressing a lot of concepts that I know are true (for me). I’m struggling with responding to your comment because I’m coming from a queer-femme area, trying to answer for feminine women – it’s like me speaking for all lesbians because I’m same-sex attracted. Just not possible.

    Ha – and you know you're welcome to bomb my blog anytime matey 😉

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