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Women's Outreach and Resource Collective | A collaborative community for advocates of gender equity and social justice

Fear of Femininity

By: Julie Saxton

I am not a “girly girl.” I never have been, I have never wanted to be, and I doubt I ever will be. I don’t like pink or frills or bows. I like shopping, but somehow I always end up picking out black clothes. I wear heels for the sole purpose of being taller. I didn’t start wearing make-up until college. Never once was being “ladylike” emphasized in my lifetime.

But enjoying any of these things would not make me any better or worse of a person, and this thought occurred to me the other day: why am I so afraid of these things? If I’m being honest with myself, I would admit that I actively chose not to have these stereotypically “girly” preferences. I was driven away from indulging in my inner “girly girl” side and settled for what I viewed as more serious, independent, intellectual things.

The truth is that I was afraid. I was afraid of being associated with the “girly” stereotype and subsequently viewed as weaker. When purses started popping up next to backpacks in middle school, I was ashamed of following the crowd and getting my own. I didn’t want to be seen as “cute” or written off as just a “silly girl.” I wanted to be taken seriously by everyone, including my guy friends.

In retrospect, an 11-year-old is probably not going to be taken seriously regardless of gender. But it’s astounding to me, eight years later, that I was aware of the consequences of being perceived like some silly girl and that I made a conscious decision to remove myself from that image. I should never have felt that social pressure. I should never have been ashamed of a simple action like carrying a purse or wearing a little bit of mascara in high school. I should not have been afraid of being treated differently for fashion choices. Most importantly, I should not have had this concept that acting like a “girly girl” somehow made me weaker – that being feminine was a negative thing.

And honestly, some of these concepts persist in my mind today. I don’t want to overdo the makeup. I don’t want to be tottering around on heels in a tight skirt to feel judged by everyone. God knows I still don’t sit “like a lady.” But I constantly have to remind myself that it’s okay to do those things. It’s okay to wear your hot pink shirt and your zebra print yoga pants and wear lipstick. It’s okay to wear an old t-shirt and torn up jeans and the same flip-flops you’ve had for the past five years. It’s okay to do your hair every morning and spend an hour on your makeup. It’s okay to just roll out of bed in the morning and grab the first items of clothing you see. And, just to be clear, it’s definitely okay not to fit into any sort of dichotomy and dress the way you choose on that particular day.

What you look like and whether you act “ladylike” or “girly” has no bearing on the kind of person you are. You are not dressing for boys or girls, you are dressing for yourself. And no person of any gender has any right to judge you for what you look like or what you are wearing. No woman should be afraid of being seen as weak or dumb or silly because of her personal presentation.

Every person’s job today should be to keep an open mind about the women and girls they view around them, whether you’re on the more fashionable or the more casual side. Stop shaming other girls and women for dressing “poorly” or “like sluts” or anything beyond or in between. Stop judging other girls to make yourself feel better. Women should be unified and supportive of each other. We should build each other up, not tear each other down. People of all genders must remember the old cliché not to judge a book by its cover. I guarantee there’s a fantastic story underneath that old, ratty jacket or the layers of foundation, and you’re never going to know otherwise.

culturefemininitygirlgirly girljuliesaxton

worcuga • November 16, 2014

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