Archive | August, 2012

Why Everyone Secretly Hates Femininity. But Tolerates Squirrels.

2 Aug

Wow. Four days in a row. I’ve never had this level of output consistency. …Oh I missed writing yesterday :-p so business as usual it seems. I appreciate the commendations my posts have been getting, despite the fact that my thoughts simply tumble onto the page a*rse first like a text-based Top Gear stunt. Your pc may decide to explode like one of their abused caravans. It may not. Onto the post. I can’t illustrate this post really with anything relevant, so  instead I’m going to punctuate with it pictures of unusual stuff that has gloriously no relevance to the actual post.

This post combines a bit of the usual bloody gender stuff….but also with a discussion on how femininity may have been & may be perceived using the Japanese Lolita street-fashion as an example towards the end. I’ve had my perspectives shifted alot during the past two years of crossdressing & filming Lolita fashion & it’s followers. It’s highlighted certain ways of thinking by males and females & society at large about how expressions of femininity are understood & interpreted. And, to be honest, I feel that femininity has been utterly corrupted in recent times. Masculinity has no’t come off well either. It’s as if both expressions have been warped & have been caricatured into grotesque versions of what they were. Femininity is either exploited or mis-interpreted I feel. Naturally, there is no clear answer to this and this is just my very much none academic opinion.

Our time is not the first time in history that genders and gender expression has been skewed, so I guess it’s business as usual for the human race. In the mid-Victorian era in particular women were seen as the deviant sex, the sex most likely to be corrupted & prone to corrupting others. (Medical journals of the time proclaim such statements). Hence females were viewed with a quiet suspicion & as a result were restricted in society in order to protect society. In Shakespearean times, this was also the general consensus. Femininity was led by the devil and men would be corrupted by feminine wiles. It’s almost hilarious to imagine such thinking but existed. These days I feel that femininity is still negative but it’s changed into a different negative. People are less afraid. More just dismissive.

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Only briefly in the early 19th century came almost….almost…a friggin’ almost a balance and a clarity of thought about the genders & how masculinity and femininity were two states to be more openly appreciated. Women became more integrated into the lives of men (who of course still outwardly ruled the world) & were viewed with less suspicion (partly evident by the comparative freedom of dress that they were allowed to wear). Corsets & stays were largely discarded & clothes were not as restrictive as they had been. Women were not in fabric and steel cages as they had been before. Part of the Roman inspired fashions of the Regency period were of course alot to do with reflecting the changing political attitudes of Europe towards more democratic & progressive aspirations & attitudes. The ancient republics were drawn upon to symbolise this and of course fashion followed – hence the overt classical references in women’s dress. Oh and of course, as ever, 90% of the rest of the population just went along with it as it was simply in fashion, never mind the multiple overtones. I wonder if Primark would ever get that deep? Emmm…no.

Anywho, this is all relevant, so bare with me. A bit more. My point is that femininity was something to be appreciated without having to be scared of it or feel the need to box it off, or wanting to sexualise it to the point of caricature as is what has happened. In tandem to this, unlike today, there wasn’t this need to define someone by a stereotyped sex from birth. Boys wore dresses and wore bows till they were around 5-7 years of age. The idea behind this form of parenting apparently was to simply celebrate the softness & latent power of youth as expressed through feminine overtones of the clothing. Men (and of course I mean society gents as working class people could hardly were anything but rags whilst tilling fields or oiling early stationary steam engines) also wore clothes that referenced the feminine silhouette.

Why? well…. i guess they were biased that an hourglass figure does look better than a figure that resembles a 80’s Volvo Estate or a standard cardboard box. And I agree.  But also, once again it was to with expressing more of a balance between femininity and masculinity. So the theory goes, and it is backed up to some degree by accounts of how males and females could have more integrated lives than later in the century & both femininity and masculinity were still respected. Of course women still didn’t have any rights, and men still held all the cards, but the important thing was – both femininity and masculinity were respected and they had their place. And that place wasn’t fixed. Thus there wasn’t as much negativity or strict segregation and identification of the genders.

ImageBy the mid 19th century however, mindsets were changing fast. There had been a recession in Europe, and when that happens, morale lowers and sh*t hits the fan. The masses tend to retreat into what they know. What feels safe. What feels controllable. Males and females began being separated further into distinct and immovable gender roles, not just by law and by physical gender but, crucially, in the mindset of the public. The old stereotype of un-emotional men in their sober suits who worked, only socialised with their male friends, whilst women became encased in increasingly ridiculous (though bloody pretty to look at I have to confess) fabric & steel based caricatures of their form & be severely regulated.

Femininity in men would become associated with solely negative connotations – homosexuality, effeminacy, weakness and foppishness. And dodgy cravats. Femininity in women to be associated with – sexual submissiveness, perversion, hysteria, weakness, & a tendency to faint constantly in period dramas. Femininity in children….well that was OK. For a bit. Until for boys – they turned into MEN at a grand old age of perhaps 10. And girls – femininity was to attract a chap. The earlier the better.

So whilst masculinity kicked ass and was something to be admired, femininity kind of just reserved for f*cking or being f*cked with. And that is how it’s remained. No seriously. It has. And this is where it gets controversial 🙂 (unless of course you are a qualified historian and also think what I’ve written so far has been complete bollocks. In which case correct me in private pretty please).

So, on to why things haven’t changed since back in the days when the sun was lit by gas-light and steam trains weren’t called Thomas:

Whilst feminism has empowered women, it’s distanced empowerment of women away from the concept of femininity as a positive attribute of a female. Femininity in a woman is still seen as weak and in danger of submission. So women can be strong. But femininity still weak. (there deserves a whole paragraph on this clarification but then this post would be a mammoth length, so you’ll have to trust me that I’m aware as much as any vaguely switched-on person that there are many different interpretations of femininity, however as you’ll see further down, aping masculinity’s blunt aggression is not one of them).

Whilst men now on the whole seem to respect women, femininity still simply equals sex or submissive weakness on the whole (though I must admit, there seem to be alot more young males out there that seem to be far more open-minded to the idea of equal sexes). Bows, frills, perfume, flowers, softness. All equal sex generally however, especially in the media & in marketing. Femininity in men is also still seen as well, like, totally gay yeh? And whilst homosexuality is tolerated now and even celebrated, it’s not still not exactly accepted as a positive lifestyle choice. And ultimately…it all comes down to sex & being seen as submissive.

So once again – in 2012. Femininity seems to be all about sex and submission and all that jazz. Way to go.

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But how do I know this? Well, I can’t whip out a history degree or a social degree. But I feel this to be largely the case in general because of the reactions I witnessed whenever I come out as a crossdresser and increasingly as someone who feels I may be a  bit more than that.

The first reaction I get when I say I want to explore my femininity…and I kid ye not, this is the number one comment;  “so you want to date men, then”.  This comment of course that basically boils down to….yep, sex. And submission.

The second reaction is that I notice that respect for me instantly lowers much of the time. As if I’ve suddenly whipped out a signed Justin Bieber CD collection & asked them to play it. There’s no denying it. And it’s most likely happening subcontiously in their minds. Probably, because they may have been conditioned to read femininity as weak. I’ve now become a fairy, someone who isn’t being responsible, someone who can’t take control of their life etc etc. That sort of thing. With infinite variations and associations & assumptions about my character.

The scary thing though is that the worst reactions tend to be by women who know me well. Men simply see my choice as something unusual and a bit daft and funny. They usually assume they automatically now have dominance over me socially, thus I most likely subconsciously enhance their sense of their own masculinity. Women however seem to have alot of trouble processing what I’m saying. The reactions tend to be one of puzzlement, deeply troubled even. “Why would you want to do that?” is the expression I notice. Which is interesting….if you consider that if you were to meet a person that wants to join your “side”, you may likely congratulate them on their fantastic choice. After-all, they have chosen YOUR side to stick with over their own.

However this doesn’t tend to be what they think as their vocal reactions certainly don’t reflect that. The general reaction is that I am a weak male, not dating material due to weak character, wouldn’t be able to hold my own in an argument with a rowdy stapler let alone win a contract at work above my colleagues etc.
Now, if I were to be exhibiting the hallmarks of a weak male…that would imply that my wanting to be feminine equals a coming-down in the gender pecking order…. That masculinity is above femininity in the rankings. If a woman thinks that then unknowingly she may be putting her own sex down without actually realising it.

But I don’t feel annoyed by this any-more. Nor do I take it personally. Although my own respect for that person’s self awareness lowers dramatically. I see it as conditioning by society that femininity equals weakness. And they have been brought up to believe that. Use femininity to sell sex by all means, but not for anything else as it’s as weak as Dutch lager (yes that’s a Red Dwarf gag).

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But you could argue, that modern women don’t need to imbue femininity. Maybe it could be seen as redundant and thus an undesirable attribute. However this automatically promotes masculinity to the de facto state of mind. And… whilst it may be a shocker… biological men tend to do masculinity better than women. Given that they are male and all and all. Trying to manufacture masculinity to prove your sex is as strong makes no sense as it devalues your own product, and thus you simply re-inforce the stereotype of femininity and females being weaker then masculininity and men. And the cycle repeats. Over centuries.

Both states and genders have strengths and weaknesses. A combination of both genders in a country can create balance. A combination of masculinity and femininity in a person can create balance, which can lead to a more well-rounded individual. You can identify as male or female as your gender identity and still have a balance of femme and masculine qualities. What’s the point of a world with big machines & lots of force if it constantly tries to blow itself up all the time. And conversely of course, a world where there may be so much harmony & respect for the environment that nothing actually gets built and we continue living in caves building TV sets out of sticks. I’m speaking very simplistically here because I’m not very bright, and this blog is getting looooong, but you get the picture.

Both masculinity and femininity have their place. Both do not need to feel ashamed of each other. Femininity in women & men should be celebrated without the negative connotations or connections with submissive sex.  Both should be just as valued in this world. As do the people.

But it’s hard to grasp this. And it a balance will never happen. And we all are conditioned to think like everyone else, until we are challenged. For me, my challenge was coming to terms with the fact that I don’t feel fully happy being male. And that meant exploring what that meant. And that has progressed with me realising that I have potentially more inclination to femininity than masculinity. And all that has meant that I’ve spent alot of time dressing up in stuff not meant for me and being in weird-ass situations that have made me feel & look like a bit of dick.

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See what I mean. Sexualisation. Even of squirrels. 

However, I can now make some pretty valid observations that some of men and women may not be able to fathom. And probably won’t be able to understand. I’m not going to outline everyone here, except this one: I was once a caveman in thought regarding women, and in many ways I still have those ingrained thought patterns. My first experience of Lolita fashion was when I bought items for a girlfriend. To my mind back then – it went like this “Ooo frills.Bows.Sexy…SEX!” And that was it. No appreciation for it other than that.

I had become accustomed to seeing overt femininity or softness as something to signify an open invitation for sex. No matter that Lolita fashion (despite that bloody name for it, which really, REALLY needs to change) actually can be about expressing the softness and creativity of femininity in a modern & assertive way. Nope, it’s still seen as being all about the sex. Which is a big shame, as it’s an example of all of the above. I think differently now, now that I have finally re-wired my brain to not associate everything feminine with sexual pay-off. And, amazingly, it’s still possible to remain straight and do that. It simply meant removing as much of the social conditioning bullshit regarding that as possible. It’s hard to do, and I’m still male and still human, and still straight, but I value femininity in it’s own right. I suspect that most women still do, but don’t publicise the fact for fear of immediately being a target as being seen as weak or submissive by men and women alike. And certainly a feminine male or transwoman seems to be a step too far for most.

But it is possible to be kick-ass and in charge one minute, and genuinely soft & emotional the next. For a male or female. This may seem obvious and this post pointless, but really from what I’ve experienced over the past two years…. there’s still a massive mis-understanding of what femininity is. And I’ll be buggered if I know what to do to indisputably prove that or fix it. Maybe you can.

ImageThis last picture I genuinely find quite endearing. It’s from
http://amberalexander.typepad.com/weblog/2010/03/squirrel-painting-olive.html

Good night 🙂