Feminine Feminism? Part II: Challenging Perceptions

November 24, 2009

Here it is! This is Part 2 of 2 on challenging our conceptions of feminism and femininity. Part 1 may be found here.

In Part 1, we discussed how femininity and feminism are not antithetical to one another, as inspired by this Feministing post. Here, I want to discuss the image and presentation of femininity, and how it influences our perceptions.

One of the tumblrs that I follow is La Douleur Exquise by Miss Wallflower that is basically a celebration of all things feminine. Every day dozens of pictures are uploaded that reflect the general theme, emphasizing fashion photography, bon bons, woodland creatures, books, tea and inspirational quotes. I am acutely aware of its flaws. The majority of women featured are white and waif-like. It emphasizes traditional gender roles and promotes women’s sexuality and aesthetic appeal as their primary quality. But for its artistic merit, it also forces me to confront these images, and question how their meaning is received today.

My feminist theory professor was also really into art, so receiving the presentation and questioning the meaning of these images goes hand in hand with cultural feminism for me. For example, here are a few photographs that piqued my interest:

Girl kissing boy on bench Read the rest of this entry »


Feminine Feminism? Part I: Challenging Definitions

November 17, 2009

This is Part 1 of 2 on challenging our conceptions of feminism and femininity. Stay tuned for Part 2 in the next day or so…

I read an article the other day that I found through Feministing that has brought to mind a lot of questions about femininity. The article written by Karen Salmansohn is titled ‘Are You a Feminist, or a Feminine-ist?’. The title of the article immediately set off some warning bells, but I gamely read on. Salmansohn is basically highlighting her theory behind and solution for the modern discomfort with the word feminism. Here’s how I read the article:

“…Almost from the introduction of the word “feminism” into our world, the definition has become corroded to mean something less than complimentary than its original intent. Somewhere along the line, to be a feminist started to mean a woman who’s basically unattractive both in looks and spirit.”

Okay, I would strongly disagree, but I understand that this perception exists…

“I find this negative connotation to be shameful and highly unhelpful. Women could truly benefit from finding a more inspiring word than “feminism” to stand by, as well as stand for, when seeking to become our most powerful and successful selves.”

Really? I agree with the unhelpful negative connotation, but ‘feminism’ is pretty damn inspiring to me…

“We don’t have to make a choice between feminine or powerful and successful. We can be all those things.”

OOH! OOH! Bingo! I definitely agree with this point! Okay keep going…

“With this in mind, I’d like to put forth that starting today, the word ‘feminism’ be updated to become the new word ‘feminine-ism.’”

Wait, WHAT!?!? Eff that.

And so the article goes on. I mean, I understand where the writer is coming from. In our exploration of independence as women, the sacrifice/rejection of traditionally feminine things was necessary at times in order to challenge society to redefine its norms. It also opened up incredible new avenues for women who felt restricted by these gendered roles and images. Today, we are in a much better place to reclaim some of these so-called ‘feminine’ practices. Read the rest of this entry »


In Case You Needed More Reason to Love Johann Hari

September 22, 2009

We’re having a few hiccups getting post authorization set up, so the following post is by Val:

I can’t say that I love the vitriol apparent in his voice when describing emaciated models (who are, in fact, some of the primary victims here), but his anger seems to be directed more at the men who enforce that particular “aesthetic” than at the women themselves.  In any case, he makes some damn good points. In drawing on Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth (one of my personal favorites), he says:

Wolf points out something remarkable in the shifting tides of the fashion world. Whenever women become stronger in the real world, fashion models — our collective vision of Beauty Incarnate — become weaker and scrawnier. In the 1910s, it was considered beautiful for women to have soft, rounded hips, thighs and bellies: most women’s natural shape. In the 1920s, when women got the vote, the idea of what was beautiful shrank. Suddenly models became bonier and feeble — and women started to starve themselves. In the 1950s, when women’s rights receded, women could be curvy and eat again. With the 1960s and the rise of feminism, models became smaller and smaller — until today, when women are breaking glass ceilings, and emaciated models are the norm.

Read the entire article here.