Tuesday, 22 November 2011

On femininity

A few nights ago I was coming home from work, feeling fairly unremarkable. Walking up the escalator at Paddington station, I couldn't help noticing the legs of the person in front of me, which were right in my eye-line. The legs were clad in knee-high white socks with some kind of repeating red design - little cherries or hearts or something. They had a red ribbon at the top which tied at the back of the leg, and on the feet at the bottom of the legs were little shiny red shoes with round toes.

It was a charming get-up, and I absolutely despised it. I don't mean I thought, 'wow, I would never wear that', although I did. What I thought was not exactly clear - I'm not sure there were any comprehensible words. There may have been a sneer on my face. I felt hatred. I hated the things themselves, I hated the person wearing them, I felt disgust for the obvious care which had been taken in the choosing of the things.  What I felt was hatred of femininity.

I know very well how utterly wrong this is. Fine, don't choose femininity (or whatever) for yourself, don't find it attractive, don't feel drawn to it in yourself or others - but don't hate it. Don't fall into that trap, because a trap it most certainly is. Like to think of yourself as liberal, progressive, feminist (gods forbid), open-minded? Don't be reduced to a knee-jerk, femme-phobic, misogynist, reactionary puddle of loathing. It's (dare I say it?) not big and it's not clever. It's stupid, small, petty, insulting, sexist.

It's what we've taught ourselves.

For my own part, in trying to look a little deeper, I came up with an excuse for my pathetic meanness of spirit, and here it is. It's not all that exciting, and it's also pop psychology at its finest. What I think is that my reaction is a leftover of hatred of femininity in myself. Now, I don't always hate my own femininity. Sometimes I adore it; sometimes I'm perfectly fine with it, sometimes it'll do. Sometimes, in the words of delisubthefemmecub, "it's all I have". But sometimes I want to run like hell away from it. Sometimes it's the thorn in my side, when my side is basically all thorn. Sometimes I hate the bits of myself that can be called 'feminine', whether that's clothing or make-up or my own body. Sometimes I want to cut those bits off. And sometimes, when I'm not feeling strong, that hatred turns on those who express femininity willingly (or what I perceive to be willingly - their reality might be entirely different).

I know this isn't right. It's cruel and hurtful to myself and others. Does it make me feel good to denigrate others in my head? No. For a moment it gives me a feeling of superiority, but it's a nasty, mean-minded feeling, and it doesn't feel good even to me. Even at the time. It's damaging and I don't want to engage in it. When will I stop engaging in it? Will I ever?


  1. That was fascinating - thank you for writing it. I have similar moments of instinctive revulsion towards femininity and find it a really difficult habit to shake.

    1. Thanks for reading - and for commenting :-)