Can You Be Feminine AND a Feminist?

I know I’m not the first to address this topic, nor will I be the last. But my friend Cheyanne’s post got me thinking about gender, especially as a woman who is going to be giving birth to a little baby boy soon. 

I’ve been afraid of my femininity before, because I don’t want people to think that I am subscribing to traditional gender roles and styles solely because they are traditional. I love hair bows and all things pink and wearing high heels. My domestic approach to the home could also be considered traditional, as I prefer to do the cooking and much of the cleaning while my husband has been the breadwinner as of late. Does that make me any less of a feminist because of that? I don’t think so. 

See, it’s all about choice. I would be just as supported by my family if I had decided to get into the corporate world, but that’s not my passion. Being a homemaker was never expected of me – if anything, my husband (then boyfriend) was horrified when I mentioned that I would love to stay at home with our children some day. After years of getting used to the idea, my husband is fully on board with me taking on as much or as little work as I need to in order to care for my home and my family. These things make me happy. They are the things that I am passionate about (yes, even hair bows). How can that be a bad thing?

I read a lot of homemaking blogs and websites, mainly for the tips. A lot of these happen to be Christian websites as well, which is fine! Until I get to the parts where they say they are raising “future homemakers.” That makes me slightly ill. Because it should be about choice, and all people should be given the option to explore what they truly want to do with their lives. 

My son will be put in adorable bow ties and sweet plaid coveralls in blues and greens when he is a baby. Eventually, he will decide what his style is, and whether it is more “masculine” or “feminine” – and that is completely up to him! The nursery, however, was decided long before I knew whether we were having a boy or a girl – to me, it didn’t matter if the theme and colors “matched” my baby’s prescribed sex. 

So yes, I will continue to wear my skirts and red lipstick proudly. But I will also challenge myself to explore the dichotomy between feminism and femininity, and encourage others to determine what makes them feel best. Femininity is just a word, really. And that’s what the Refine Challenge is all about – to explore your own definition and apply it to your own life. 

13 Comments

    1. Couldn’t agree with you more. I think feminism is about choice NOT being anti “traditional”. As long as women are getting to make their own choice. . .Stay at home with the kids, work outside the home, wear dresses, don’t wear dresses. . .whatever the decision is as long as you are doing what you want and are comfortable with, I say go for it. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with being feminine and appreciating pretty things. I love this blog, and I love your perspective on things. :D

      1. Absolutely. It makes me so angry when I see people shaming women for choosing to stay at home, just as much as it does when I hear that women aren’t paid as much as men for equal work!

    1. YES!! Lately I’ve been seeing things like strong is the new pretty and anti-barbie and so on and I’m just like but you can be a pretty pretty princess and still want equality, I mean look at the Princess Diaries 2 movie? She got entire antiquated laws changed while still looking gorgeous and being herself.

      I think a lot of feminists feel they need to act like men to get the same rights as men and I feel like that defeats the point. Personally I think feminism is getting equal rights no matter who you are or which gender, or lack of that you identify with.

      1. Amen :) It’s really about being who you are, whatever that means to you. We can’t control how others act or think around us, but we can stand our ground. That’s the most important!

    1. Of course we should all have a choice to live our lives and express ourselves as we see fit and this is the “point” of feminism. But what about if/when femininity makes you a target for violence? Or interferes with your ability to get a job or a promotion because you’re not taken seriously? Or someone makes a snide comment about you being “just” a homemaker as if that wasn’t a completely valid and important job in and of itself? None of this is acceptable and it’s all designed to marginalize women, women’s work and men that are feminine.

      ABSOLUTELY you can be feminine and a feminist. There are no “rules” that you must live by. Just as I am every bit of a woman if I never do anything with my hair or wear makeup, you are every bit of a feminist if you’re feminine. It’s all about being true to yourself and doing what you think is best to fight patriarchy :)

      1. You know I agree Cheyanne ;) Unfortunately, there’s much more that goes into feminism than just the choice of how we act – we can’t control how others will react or think. There will always be dissidents, but the best we can do is be true to ourselves and not back down when others try to shame us for our choices.

      1. “But what about if/when femininity makes you a target for violence? Or interferes with your ability to get a job or a promotion because you’re not taken seriously? Or someone makes a snide comment about you being “just” a homemaker as if that wasn’t a completely valid and important job in and of itself? None of this is acceptable and it’s all designed to marginalize women, women’s work and men that are feminine.”

        The entire first half of your comment seems to have nothing to do with the other half, so I’m terribly confused as to what you meant by it or what its purpose even was; part of dismantling the Power Structure that oppresses Women inherently includes dismantling any and all social ideals which devalue Women and Feminine people, professions, and activities [sic]… Ideals which are the direct result of that system in the first place… So I’m not sure why there’s a “But” attached to “Of course we should all have a choice to live our lives and express ourselves as we see fit and this is the “point” of feminism”.

    1. Feminism though, isn’t about “choice”, or interpreting every move you make as being a feminist one. Feminism seeks to liberate women from oppressive power structures – patriarchy. Femininity, at least the way it is seen now and for thousands of years, is not a choice. Femininity is a weapon wielded under patriarchy. Femininity is enforced upon all young girls from the time we are born and put in a pink blankie and told to not play rough because “young ladies don’t behave that way.” It is not a choice, it is how we are trained to be. It doesn’t just come in the form of makeup or pretty pink bows, it comes with being submissive, subservient and keeping your voice quiet. Femininity to me and so many millions of girls around the world, was never a choice – it was the law by which we acted and conformed to the oppressive gender role we were assigned because of our sex. Feminism should seek to liberate women from femininity, which encompasses our gender (roles).

      1. I completely agree that it isn’t a choice for many girls and women, and that is where the issue begins. But as a grown woman who does have the choice to be feminine, whatever that means to them, it is about choice. I think it’s just as damaging to say a woman can’t be feminine because it’s not feminist as the other way around.

      1. ” Femininity is a weapon wielded under patriarchy. Femininity is enforced upon all young girls from the time we are born”

        I disagree with you. It is certainly a tool which is used to further the oppression of Women. But I have never experienced what you say all Women have. Exceptions exist to the rule. To say “all” is incorrect and ridiculous. Furthermore, it is often centric to the White experience; plenty of Minorities are specifically taught to downplay their femininity due to the direct role it plays in the sexualization of minority bodies and other problems- meaning their experiences are often anti-feminine in many ways… Which is, of course, the complete antithesis to the assertion that all Women experience forced Feminization.

        “Feminism should seek to liberate women from femininity, which encompasses our gender (roles).”

        Yep. Still in disagreement. “Feminism should seek to liberate people from Gender Based / Gender Specific Oppression- obtaining and maintaining Gender Equality between all sexes” is the phrase you are looking for. Because that’s what Feminism was created for. That’s what the movement started from. That is its purpose: To bestow upon Women equal rights and opportunities allotted to men, which have traditionally been withheld because Women are not considered capable, rational, or equal members of society. And while that has now extended to also include dismantling a power structure that inherently views anything “feminine” as inferior (thereby allowing the participation of all Genders in every aspect or role of society) and less valued? That does not erase the explicit purpose of dismantling that power structure in the first place.

        “Feminism isn’t about Choice”

        I have to disagree with you here as well. Traditionally, a Patriarchal institution oppresses Women predominantly by limiting their choices through social conditioning, law, and other modes of enforcement. This includes baring them from education, baring them from access to medicine (or forcing medical procedures on them), forcing them in to singular societal roles (nurse, housewife, schoolteacher, wife, librarian, mother, etc- all of which are traditionally female occupied roles, or are otherwise less valued because they are viewed as “Feminine”), and a plethora of other things which effectively limit their choices in life.

        The removal of choice is the quintessential essence and core of oppression; it limits the choices of the oppressed, thereby keeping the group contained, controlled, and often impoverished [sic]. To bestow equality on a group of people absolutely and inherently means bestowing choice upon the people you are bestowing equality on.

        For Women, that choice inherently includes the ability to reclaim and participate in Femininity. That choice may not be a “Feminist” one depending on what view of Feminism you subscribe to (there are, after all, thousands of schools of Feminist thought; Feminism is not a monolithic entity)… But their reclamation of Femininity as a symbol of power (or even their participation in it because “they like it”) should be respected and upheld in a truly equal society. To not do so is blatant hypocrisy on the part of Feminism.

    1. This is a great post and I totally agree with you. It’s all about the freedom of being able to choose what you want for yourself. I think it’s horrible, and like you said, it makes me sick to the stomach when parents shape their children one way or another without first considering the child’s choice.
      We can definitely be feminine and feminist! If you ask me, everyone on this planet (with their mind intact) should call themselves a feminist – because who in their riht mind doesn’t want equal rights for everyone?

      1. AMEN! You would think it would be easy to call yourself a feminist – I mean, who DOESN’T want equality of the sexes? Unfortunately I’ve seen quite a few bloggers that groom their daughters into being homemakers and see feminism as the enemy. It just makes me sad, really.

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