Femininity Is NOT a Negative Trait
[Image] A young girl with long dark hair, wearing glasses. She is holding a blanket wrapped around herself like a cape.
[Caption] As I child I felt like a superhero.
[Image] A closeup of the girl’s face, just above the blanket. She looks determined and focused and is smiling.
[Image] A silhouette of the girl against a bright, explosive background. Her fist is raised and her cape flows behind her.
[Image] Four versions of the girl, each in the same position – fist raised and cape flowing behind her.
In the first version she is wearing a pantsuit. In the second she is wearing a dress over a striped shirt, and holding rolls of drafting paper. In the third, she is in a suit with a skirt and tie. In the fourth she is wearing a loose dress and has a baby strapped to her torso. She is holding a pacifier in her raised hand.
[Caption] At age 7 I was everything…sometimes all at once! Politician, Fashion Designer, CEO, SuperMom
[Image] The girl standing in between three men in suits holding briefcases. She is wearing a school uniform and looks pleased with herself.
[Caption] As I child those around me applauded my boldness.
[Image] The girl, a teenager now,standing with a female friend in front of a male teacher. The two girls are smiling, and hands over their mounts indicate they are laughing.
[Caption] But once I hit puberty, everything changed… I remember the moment…
[Image] The two girls still standing in front of the teacher, looking shocked and upset. The teacher looks angry and is pointing at them.
Teacher: Hey! Stop giggling!
[Image] The dark-haired girl’s face in closeup, looking upward. She looks confused.
[Text bubble – from the Teacher in the previous panel] Girls like you are the reason women get no respect
[Image] The dark-haired girl’s face in closeup. She is looking down, as if about to cry.
[Continued Text Bubble] I bet you do it just for attention from boys…
[Caption] I always imagined being an adult mean that I could be my authentic self. But instead, my love makeup, clothing, and having a bubbly personality suddenly became an embarrassment…Even though keeping a positive outlook was my way of dealing with depression. Everywhere, people just judged me as shallow without getting to know me.
[Image] The girl is now grown up. She is sitting at a computer screen facing the reader. She is wearing a floral blouse, a necklace, and earrings. Her face looks sad. In the background, two women, also at computer screens, are leaning in to speak to each other. Both are facing the dark-haired woman.
[Caption] Even the most career-driven, “empowered” women colleagues would say the most antiquated, ridiculous things about me. Just because of the way I am.
Background woman: She’s husband hunting, look at her. Why would you put THAT much effort day?
[Caption] It shouldn’t be so difficult to understand. I can be girly, intelligent, ambitious, and sincere…all at the same time.
On a regular basis I am inspired by incredible people. Those who are great artists, or amazing speakers. People who can embrace their authentic selves.
Growing up I loved all things pretty and idolized Princesses. I loved to dance, and beautiful clothing, accessories, makeup, all that stereotypical stuff. But I also was reading and comprehending at a college level while in elementary school. I got mostly high grades and was very socially active. Before I was 10 I dreamed of founding businesses and charities, of changing the world! I was going to be an actor, lawyer, politician, a mother, wife and fashion designer! I could do it all!
And as a child those around me applauded my boldness. It was cute, sweet, and even inspiring. I was so brave, so smart and I was unstoppable. I felt like a super hero, like Sailor Moon, able to be a Princess and a force for good, but still be quirky and cute. I was intelligent, it was never something I tried to hide or rub in anyone’s face, I had my interests and performed well academically, but I was also undeniably feminine. Girly to the extreme, I cried if anyone tried to make me wear pants, even though I loved to go hiking…I just wanted to wear something nice while I did.
I was 13 or 14 when a male teacher informed me, in front of the entire woodworking class that I was the reason people had a hard time respecting women. Because I was too feminine, because I didn’t try to be good at “trades classes” (something the school made us take as a “sample class” before we could choose our own electives). For the first time my bubbly, warm….girly personality, my natural authentic state, was not only called into question but was cruelly put down. He even stated that I was likely behaving that way for attention.
I always imagined being an adult that I could be my authentic self and it would be welcomed. And why not? As I got older I saw articles and TV specials about men wearing women’s dresses and being cheered on, about two women in love and starting a family. Surely my natural feminine self could be accepted… Except it wasn’t.
Instead, I came across many career-driven women who scoffed at the concept that I could be ambitious and feminine, that I might have an opinion yet be capable of giggling. While men’s responses to “femininity” could fill a thesis of analysis, this particular reaction is something I largely noticed from other women. Even those who were concerned with “empowering women” often had an idea of what that almost, “had to look like”.
My love of makeup or clothing was now shallow, distracting and again perpetuated a negative stereotype against my own gender. It was implied at more than one job that I dressed up so I could “Husband hunt” which was as antiquated as it was ridiculous. I was good at my job, I didn’t date in the workplace; I just liked to wear clothing that I enjoyed.
None of them asked why I had such a bubbly personality. None of them asked whether keeping a positive outlook was my guard against depression or other challenges (it was and is). None of them asked what I thought, or what I liked. And none of them questioned why being “masculine” was always okay, but being “feminine” was weak, distracting, and somehow embarrassing for my gender.
I like to be feminine and feel feminine. I do it for myself.
These days people are becoming more open to those who are different than ourselves, and that’s great. Those “empowered women” do good work to bring women into spaces we have not historically been allowed into. But they are not (yet) completely inclusive of all women – and I am an example. I just don’t understand why it’s so hard to wrap people’s minds around the notion that I can be girly, intelligent, ambitious and sincere – all at the same time.
Illustrated by Dallas Conte