Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Important News: I'm Packing Nail Polish For My Vacation

A few days ago, Flavia Dzodan let everyone within twittershot know that Julie Bindel's had just written a piece for the Guardian attacking femininity. I'm not going to link to it, because the world would be a better place if people stopped pretending that Bindel has anything to bring to the table.

I'm not going to set up a straw-feminist, but this is hardly the first time I've heard would be progressive ladies bad mouthing femininity.

I'm also not going to claim that feminine women are uniquely oppressed by society. Indeed, society does pressure some women (especially the ones born without penises) to display culturally-accepted levels of femininity. Transgressing these gendered expectations will get you in trouble.

However, those of us who display feminine traits do catch grief from two sides. First, there are folks who argue that femininity is a sign of weakness, in that it's associated with being a woman. Second, there are our supposed allies who argue that femininity is a sign of weakness, in that it shows signs of being corrupted by the patriarchy and corporate interests.

Both of these philosophies of marginalization assume that femininity is an artifice (unlike, say, masculinity), and that femininity is weak.

No, and no.

I am who I am: me. Women come in different flavors (That's what she said!). We are all real. We are all natural. We are all strong.

I'm feminine because that's who I am. If I can't be me, I'm not happy.

My gender expression is about me, not anyone else.

So, I'm going on vacation tomorrow. If you're in Syracuse, don't touch my stuff. My family's going to the mountains*. I'm bringing the nail polish.

Honestly, vacation is one of the few times where I get to do my nails. Most days my nails are pretty ratty looking. I'm frequently "at" work, whether I'm in my office or not. Three or more nights a week I'm busy with roller derby. I tend to our garden. We have a daughter. She makes messes (although to be truthful, my partner does the bulk of the picking up).

I've recently begun to militantly set aside time just to read.

As much as I'd like to end each day with a nice long soak in a clawfoot tub, shave my legs a few times a week, trim and polish my nails, and drift off to sleep (or thereabouts), that's not my reality. Most nights, I take a sleeping pill to quiet my mind, get to bed when I can, and (hopefully) wake up at the last conceivable second, with just enough time to throw on some a t-shirt and jeans, brush my teeth, shave my face, and head out the door.

So, you'll excuse me if I laugh at the occasional assertion that wearing pretty clothes and hair and makeup is work. For me, it's something I get to do if I'm lucky, and it makes me happy.

I'm not denying that society doesn't make the display of femininity a de-facto requirement for a lot of women, for whom these requirements are, in fact, an oppressive burden. And yes, we should continue to fight that oppression.

However, I'm not on board with the idea of replacing one type of conformity with another. Shave your legs. Or don't. Either way, you'll look great. Diversity is beautiful.

*As defined by New Yorkers