Part II: Femininity & The Secret Underworld of Girls

I hit my girly peak this past summer. Bouncy hair, a tan, red lipstick. Done and done.

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These days, my hair is growing out from donating the bulk of it to someone with cancer. It sticks straight up if I don’t do something about it. I wear red lipstick with sweat pants sometimes. And there is a lot of flannel going on around these parts.

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I use colorful and passionate language. I pull out the big guns when I communicate.

It takes so much self-control to not put my feet on chairs if I have to sit for more than twenty minutes.

I shower infrequently.

I argue like the dickens.

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And I still mostly feel like a hot lady on a daily basis.

Femininity is defined so linearly. And I hate it. And I’m officially declaring war on it.

Men are also held to unfair standards. I acknowledge that in full. But that is an experience I know nothing about, so to talk about it a bunch would be futile and silly. Declare a war too gentlemen!!

There are moments where I feel the depths of my unladylikeness. When I am eating soup, when I am arguing about genocide over dinner in pajamas while devouring whatever is before me, when I am picking popcorn out of the teeth (the WORST thing all humans equally do and are utterly disgusted by).

About once a week I wish my Mom would have sent me to one of those schools with an evil headmaster where I would be tied to a chair until I ate a meal in radio silence while keeping a book balanced on my head.

But alas, here I am. Arguably a bit of a mess, but still really cool with who I am as a woman. Cuss words, pajama pants and all. I can cook and sew and sing hymns. I read good books. I am fun. I like my legs. Every woman is her own woman.  And every woman is feminine uniquely and on her own terms. And that is really good news.

As much as men have frequent commentary on this, I get the most judgment from fellow women. Because we exist in a culture that says if you like things about yourself you are a conceded b word or c word or s word. If you don’t work hard to comprise this set of stereotypical attributes yet continue to constantly bash yourself, you are not womanly or feminine.

If you haven’t seen Mean Girls, for shame. Educate yourself on Tina Fey’s brilliantly mastered reality of the society of women.

Until then, I give you this gem that perfectly expresses this whole mess:

Karen: God. My hips are huge!
Gretchen: Oh please. I hate my calves.
Regina: At least you guys can wear halters. I’ve got man shoulders.
Cady: I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there’s a lot of things that can be wrong with your body. 
Gretchen: My hairline is so weird
Regina: My pores are huge.
Karen: My nail buds suck.
[pause. All look at Cady]
Cady: I have really bad breath in the morning.
Karen: Ew!

If you don’t hate yourself, you aren’t welcome here.

Seriously uncool, extremely detrimental, and all too familiar. Women need each other. We need to support and uplift and work together. Like an awesome bra! We are still making less money than men. Some of us rape easy. Millions of us are missing. These are big issues to face, we need to do so together.

How do we overcome such a deeply rooted issue? How do we stop this endless cycle?

We start with ourselves.

Growing up, whenever I would say something negative about myself, my Dad would combat it with “don’t say that about my girl”. Every time I complained about how I looked or how I was bad at something or how inadequate I was he fought me. He reminded me of the good things.

Now that he’s gone I find myself yelling ‘don’t say that about my girl!!’ frequently.

No matter who are, you are the Creator’s girl. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. That is a fact. No one can take that away from you ever. That truth, if you let it soak in, establishes the best and truest form of self worth.

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So consciously stop competing. Start celebrating. And celebrate celebrating.

And remember, whenever anyone tries to tell you that you don’t fit their ideals of womanhood, you can tell them swiftly and plainly:

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*A big thanks for Dani Cason for coining that awesome second part of my title many moons ago. It stuck with me because of its hilarious raw truth. 

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Part I: Modest is Hottest!

I would frequently say this in jest to my scandalous twin, as we laid, appropriately scantily, bikinis untied to avoid tan lines, duh!

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This confusion with the female reserve, or plain aversion to it, came from two distinct sources:

  1. Growing up in Hawaii where the bikini is suitable for most activities.
  2. Consistently sleeping near/running around poorly covered with men who had no interest other than being brothers, implying to me that men had no trouble ignoring me as a woman.

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Those male brothers explained to me that men could imagine anything, or not imagine anything they wanted to. Whether I was braless or in a burka, their minds would wander where they wanted.

The sixteen-year-old liberated girl presumed: who are we kidding? Modesty is a joke.

So away with it.

I am going to wear slips as dresses and never wear a bra again.

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Until I grew up a little, and acquired good and bad boyfriends who made me think about things a little more.

But something in me was always mad at the idea of having to dress a certain way to swim in the ocean. Or go out on the town. Or grocery shop.

This subject is tough to navigate and there is so much subjectivity.

One thing is clear: women have to stop blaming themselves for the actions of men. Which we still do all the time. From lust to rape, there are subtle and not so subtle messages to women that their sexy bodies are to blame. Even the best intentioned efforts reinforce the idea that women dress to impress/attract/draw attention from men. Which is sexist malarkey. Sure. We have all worn our Sunday’s best on a first date with a stud. But on the daily, most women I know, as they should, dress for themselves.

Through many discussions with men and women, I have formulated one concrete idea. Here it is:

Be considerate and wise but remember everyone is ultimately individually responsible for what they do. Our intentions are the issue.

If you are going around trying to get men to think you are a hotter than their wives, you are clearly in the wrong.

If you are wearing a pretty dress and lipstick to go celebrate a night with your girls, feel no need to get down on yourself, you foxy lady.

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