Femininity, Masochism, and Boyzillians
My mother recently challenged me to explore an interesting topic in feminism. She asked if it was possible for feminine feminists to exist. Let me tell you, this is not a simple discussion, nor does it ever resolve in to a simple answer. Many women get super defensive about their choice to act in a stereotypically ‘girly’ way; to dress ‘provocatively’, or live their life according to traditional gender roles. The issue of choice presents itself as a complex, multifaceted predicament in the realm of feminism. When are our choices no longer our own? How do patriarchal and capitalist systems influence our choices? How do we evaluate women’s choices regarding fashion and beauty? Let’s consider the often ridiculously expensive choices of hyper-feminized procedures and products such as piercings, stiletto heels, body waxing, or other painful, seemingly masochistic rituals women take part in daily: who exactly are these women doing it for? Themselves?
Don’t get me wrong – I find myself participating in the capitalist machine that is the beauty industry more often than not. Whether it is the latest fashions (if you don’t know this about me, I’m addicted to ALL THE CLOTHES), some makeup and beauty products, and my occasional visits to my salon for hair care and waxing, I buy in to stereotypical feminine expectation. Although these are MY choices to partake in such activities, can I really claim agency when I’m getting my leg hair ripped from its follicles or when I’m spending $100 on new shoes that destroy my feet? Did our feminist sisters who came before us really fight as hard as they did so we could be hairless monkeys (more or less) resembling the physical appearance of a prepubescent tween?
There is a sociological explanation for the current social construction that is femininity (as well as masculinity). Despite popular belief, the femininity we have come to know and love (or hate) is not in any way an innate or biological fact. Women don’t wax all their body hair because it’s in their DNA to be hairless, nor do women seek surgical manipulation because it’s more natural for them to have large breasts and tiny waists. No, no, my friends. These standards and norms are complete and utter fabrications; merely creative innovations from the human mind that have been around for centuries. With all this said, as social agents, being resilient to all the propaganda is almost impossible. We were all born and raised in a social world, thus adhere to social phenomena rather thoughtlessly. Sorry kids, it’s true, we’re all just a bunch of mindless consumers waiting for someone to tell us what’s “in” and what’s “out”.
I don’t believe it is unreasonable for men and women to participate in these generally regarded futile and vain practices as long as they’re aware that these standards are social constructions. The key to being a proactive social agent in this messed-up patriarchal, capitalist world we call a society, is to be informed and aware of the social implications that govern our everyday lives. As humans, we have the capacity and the right to individually express ourselves however we choose. Even if these choices comply with the societal mainstream standard or if they completely bend the expected “rules”, I say, go for it! Get your Brazilian waxed! Pierce both your nipples! Do whatever feels right! Although according to Caitlin Moran in a recent Hairpin interview, she disagrees: “…I feel that anything that's normal that involves pain and costs a lot of money that boys aren't doing is something that I would really urgently want to have some kind of massive inquest into.” Good argument Caitlin, but haven’t you heard of boyzillians? Case in point. Gender aside, we’re all nuts.