A quick thing about fashion and femininity

because I’m too tired to add more to it tonight.


I only switched from wearing loose-fitting jeans with cargo pockets to tight-fitting low-rise flare jeans because I couldn’t fit into girls’ sizes anymore and the “juniors” (teen girls) department didn’t have straight-leg jeans. It was partly about discomfort with the idea of looking sexy (or calling attention to myself in general), but also partly about trouble adjusting to new things & not enjoying having the fit of my jeans suddenly radically change. When I finally found a store that had juniors’ jeans options beyond “low” and “super low”, I tried the least-low option by reflex but I’d gotten used to the whole low-rise thing by then and the higher-waisted jeans felt wrong.

I couldn’t/didn’t wear the main style of top that was in style while I was a teenager, because it required a bunch of layers and I didn’t like the feeling of having lots of layers of clothing shifting over each other.

More about femininity

Ok I think I have some more feels about the posts I’ve seen that I need to set down before I can go into detail about myself. I’m going to go bullet-point style here for a bit.


  • For the people who like femininity it’s not just about safety/camouflage/being more socially acceptable. That’s definitely a factor for some people but also:
    • Some people just actually enjoy it and think it’s fun??? Like knitting is stereotypically feminine too but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for me to enjoy it on its own merits?
    • For some people, doing femme fashion in a way that makes it their own is sort of like reclaiming a slur. It’s taking something that was used against you and taking back control of it.
    • Femininity is simultaneously required and devalued. Some people want to push back against that by showing that it has value, that e.g. makeup takes skill and artistic talent.
    • Believe it or not there are afab people in the world who were discouraged from being feminine (in one sense of the word or another) by their culture/their parents/etc. For some of us, being feminine is a rebellion and a rejection of limits put on us.
  • The idea that femininity (or makeup in particular) is inherently tied to body shame is another thing I don’t get.
    • Like obviously I get the straightforward connection that being expected to cover up/”fix” your skin is kind of inherently body shame
    • and obviously a lot of marketing towards girls/women takes advantage of body shame to make people think they Need various products to be acceptable
    • It’s just not what I experienced. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be feminine. I felt like I was so… just generically bad… that I couldn’t possibly wear makeup or really feminine clothes because I would obviously do it wrong and look bad and I would just be embarrassing myself.
  • “…the idea behind that skirt you bought in tenth grade (maybe if I stop wearing so many loose jeans the girls in my class will want to talk to me)” And this is why I experienced it differently. Something something my sins are too numerous to mention etc. etc.
  • The rhetoric that socially enforced femininity is an irresistible power, a death threat, “conform or die” is incredibly alienating for me and idk, I’ve now seen both straight femme women and butch lesbians use it so apparently I’m in the minority but I just don’t get it.
    • I’m not dead.
    • How am I supposed to describe my experiences and how my life fits into these ideas if the only position open for me is “dead or mostly dead”.
    • The thing where people assume that people like you are just too outside the norm to exist is really unpleasant. really disorienting. really saddening. Why would you want to focus on your deadness-to-society when you could do anything else.
    • This person probably doesn’t even mean that argh she probably means like actual harrassment and violence not rhetorical non-humanity
    • I am so! far! from being on the same page with anyone about this and btw this is why there’s no such thing as a single universal female socialization.

Makeup again

Looking back on it a while (like a month) later, I actually feel pretty good about this one comment I made on Tumblr. Nobody responded and I’m kind of disappointed, because I honestly think it’s a valid point?

If you’re going to talk about sexism and beauty standards and societal pressure to wear makeup and certain styles of clothes… there should be an opening in the conversation for women who DON’T wear makeup, who DON’T dress in respectable feminine ways (for whatever reason) and who are therefore probably experiencing firsthand exactly how much pressure there is to do those things.

The experience of being in the safe(ish) societally approved box and feeling trapped there, and the experience of failing to fit in that box and being punished for it, are both of them important to describing that societal pressure.

If the way you talk about that pressure is “women have No Choice Whatsoever about wearing makeup, it is Completely Impossible to have a genuine opinion about whether you want to wear makeup or not because sexism is Totally Irresistible”… what are women who don’t wear makeup supposed to think about that? Is it really not possible for you to describe your feelings of fear and trappedness without claiming that other people don’t exist?

Language confusion

I always interpreted the term “slut-shaming” as “making someone feel ashamed by calling them a slut”.

A lot of people are now trying to avoid that term because they see it as meaning “making someone, who is a slut, feel ashamed of it”.

I have been known to interpret language in weirdly convoluted ways, I know, but ??? It never would have occurred to me to interpret it that way.

More notes from interactions with drunk handsy dudes

All the men there (who were aware of it, as far as I know) were entertainingly angry on my behalf, later, although they acted normal and smoothed things over at the time.

The woman who was next to me for most of it smoothed things over both with the drunk dude, and with me when he was out of the room. “Well, he’s very drunk. And he thinks you’re cute, that’s nice. And I’ve had much worse drunk handsy dudes.”

I don’t think this reflects negatively on her at all, it’s just interesting as an example of different perspectives on sexism. It’s easy to be angry about something when it’s mostly hypothetical to you. When it happens to you a lot, on the other hand, you do your best to dismiss it and get on with your day.


The really tiresome thing about drunk people is that whatever you tell them doesn’t stick. It may be easy to distract them momentarily, but they keep coming back to the same ideas. Repeatedly moving away, saying No, you can’t touch me (calmly and neutrally in tone), even physically moving his hand off my leg, didn’t deter him at all. The really tiresome thing is that this common property of drunkenness means that if I had made a scene, even that wouldn’t have deterred him.


This is only semi-related, but– I guess it sometimes strikes people as weird, when I say rude or challenging or uncompromising things in my normal calm tone of voice? Like they find it hard to take what I’m saying seriously. The issue is, I do mean it seriously, I just don’t want to go too far in the opposite direction and sound really aggressive. I thought I was hitting about the right tone of friendly “no”, at least for some of it? I don’t know.

Bullshit of the day

(actually last week)

I’m sure this would be old news to me if I spent more time talking to people, men especially, but:

Dear Guy at the Party Last Week, why are you and other fat men so willing to call fat women gross and ugly?

He was talking about how he took massage classes when he was younger, hoping to get to massage attractive women, and how he was grossed out by having to touch women who were fat.  He put it like this: *mime poking finger into something soft and make “squoosh” sound effects*

Lots of anti-fat stuff harms men too. Men can have body image problems and eating disorders too. But sometimes, stuff that focuses on attractiveness seems to just go straight past men without touching them. I’m not sure how that happens. This guy didn’t seem to have any concern that I might not want to sit squished up against him on the couch while he was telling this story. (And I really didn’t mind, until he started telling this story, and mentioned his cock at every opportunity, and responded to CJ saying she hadn’t been on a date in a while by apparently-seriously offering to date her.)

Femininity- for Sparkly

Somebody want to explain to me what femininity is and how I might define myself as a woman?
Because there is literally no train that can be defined as “feminine” without excluding someone, and excluding people is bad.
So apparently there’s no difference between men and women anymore?

I don’t remember how much of this I actually said to you before (maybe none?) so congratulations and apologies here is a bunch of rambling.

The problem is:

If you define what it means to be a woman (or a man, or androgynous, or some other gender) in a firm, specific way, that hurts people. Because people feel obligated to be (whatever gender) “the right way” even if it’s not a good fit for them, or else they feel hurt and excluded because they aren’t capable of doing it “the right way”.

But if you don’t have any solid definition of what each gender is, then how can anyone have a gender, or know what gender they are?

I’m not a fan of the idea that the concept of gender should be gotten rid of entirely. Maybe in some hypothetical sci-fi future we’ll get there. At the moment, though, lots of people (almost everyone?) feel like their gender is a really important part of who they are. We can’t just ignore that. We can’t make everyone instantly forget the idea of gender, and that’s what it would take for it to stop being an issue.

I think the solution to the above problem is to let go of the idea that a gender has to have a totally solid, consistent definition.

Being a woman doesn’t have to mean exactly the same thing to everyone– and, I mean, it already doesn’t.

There’s sort of a loose constellation of things that are generally accepted as part of being a woman, but very few women fit all of them, of course, and many women consider their identity as a woman to contain things that aren’t part of the most common definition. Sometimes, different women even see directly opposite things as part of their identity as a woman. Like, some people see motherhood as being soft and caring enough to understand a child’s needs and treat them gently. Some people see it as being emotionally and physically tough enough to put their child/ren’s needs above their own. And then of course some women don’t see being a mother as part of their identity at all.

Being a woman already means very different things to different individual women. All of us already pick and choose among many stereotypes, and ideals, and traditions, and role models, to create a picture of what womanhood means to us. That’s how identity works most of the time. It’s based in culture, but it is personal. We take in messages about what it means to be women, or anything else– note that verb, we take them in. We make them part of us. We explore them and decide what they mean to us. We adapt them to fit us. It’s not a certification checklist that we go down and rigorously fulfill every item.


I know I go a little overboard on comparisons and similes sometimes, but I think this is useful as an example that other identities already work this way, too:

A lot of people feel that the place they were born, the place they grew up, the place they live, is an important part of their identity. They feel attached to a place and its specific culture.

But two different people’s perceptions of what it means to be from a certain place may be extremely different. That’s true even for a small town, and when it comes to identity as a citizen of a nation– that’s very important to a lot of people, but how in the world can we expect people from opposite ends of a continent, which are very different in everything from ethnic makeup to climate, to feel the same way about what it means to be American? Clearly we can’t, they don’t, there’s a huge amount of disagreement about what being American should mean and who should be included. Yet we don’t question that “I’m an American” can be a part of someone’s identity. We feel like we can still define it easily, because the government has a specific definition of citizenship, and this covers up the fact that “being an American” isn’t necessarily the same as citizenship and it very much lacks a specific definition.

Gender can be the same way– it should be the same way. The same word can have meaning to lots of people without having exactly the same meaning. No one has to be judged or excluded.


Not so much for Sparkly as for the hypothetical radical feminist in the back of the room:

“But OMG what does this mean for feminism, how can we advocate for women if we can’t define women?”

You may have noticed that we already have trouble advocating for women, because women already view their identities differently, have different perspectives and needs, and prioritize different things.

(By which I mean, you probably should have noticed, or you haven’t been paying attention– for instance, to the huge problems that black women often have with mainstream feminism.)

Feminism isn’t a monolith, it doesn’t need to be one, and it definitely doesn’t need tons of gatekeeping and concern about who’s really a woman. We can help women without expecting to help all women at once, or insisting that all women agree on what kind of help they need most. There is no way to make women into a monolith without harming women who fall outside of what you expect the monolith to be.

Seriously, where the fuck are these people who apparently cause so much trouble by calling themselves sex-positive feminists and then being shitty to people who don’t want to/don’t have sex?

I finally just googled “sex positive feminism”, and read everything in the first two pages that I hadn’t read before.  (With so many people I’ve heard of, it doesn’t seem like I’m in some little isolated community like I thought I was, does it?)  It all seems to be either not part of the problem, or people talking about the problem.  With only one specific example of someone doing a problematic thing: the Cliteracy project, the artist of which doesn’t seem to call herself sex-positive?  I mean, I don’t see the word in articles about it, I don’t see it on her website, she doesn’t mention it in the one of her videos that has a transcript, there are some people posting about it on Tumblr and describing it as sex-positive but that’s the extent of the connection as far as I can tell!

Seriously, somebody please tell me where these people are who are misusing sex-positive.  I want to go give them a piece of my mind.  But I honestly have not yet found any of them. 

(I’m going to bed and will delve deeper into the google results and possibly tumblr tomorrow.)

Things Ursula LeGuin is good at:

Making me cringe about discussions of gender.

In The Left Hand of Darkness, a genderless character from a species that’s biologically hermaphroditic asks a visiting human man what human women are like.  He flounders kind of hilariously through “people think they’re different, and in some ways they’re different, but they’re not actually so different…”  And, I mean, he tries his best, it’s just cringe-inducing for me.  Could anything be less “nothing about us without us” than trying to explain feminism when the nearest woman is seventeen light-years away?

And now I’m re-reading The Disposessed, in which a man from a very gender-egalitarian society, who has only the vaguest intellectual understanding of the concept of sexism, has to try and explain to a man from a very sexist society that yes, he considers women his intellectual equals.  And he’s so innocent, he has no idea what the society he’s being introduced to is like, he doesn’t know how to deal with it.

Can we lose the idea

 that people who don’t have uteruses “don’t have a stake” in birth control access, abortion access, family planning, etc.?

Obviously people who can get pregnant have more of a stake, and each individual pregnant person should get the final say in what happens with their body. 

But “birth control/abortion is a women’s issue” or even “birth control/abortion is about people with uteruses” rests on the assumption that the people getting us uterus-having people pregnant don’t care about us or their potential children at all.  Apparently they’re all one-night stands or “deadbeat dads” who disappear when they find out they might have to take care of a baby.  None of them might actually want to have children and help care for them.  None of them care about their partner’s health, physical and mental, and want to help them avoid a pregnancy they don’t want.  None of them apparently even care about paying child support, which is nothing close to giving birth but isn’t exactly a trivial obligation, either. 

Being a parent is a serious responsibility, and it should be obvious that being able to plan it carefully or avoid it entirely is an important concern for anyone who might become a parent, whether they’d be the one getting pregnant or not. 

If you are having or would like to have PIV sex, and if you have an opinion about whether, when, and how you’d like to be a parent, then the availability of reproductive health care affects you.