Loving the body, feminine and otherwise

This post is part of the Love Your Body Day blog carnival.

Image by Kyla Hollis, grand prize winner of NOW’s 2011 Love Your Body Day poster contest


Today is Love Your Body Day, a yearly event sponsored by the National Organization for Women Foundation.  Billed as “a day when women of all sizes, colors, ages and abilities come together to celebrate self-acceptance and to promote positive body image,” it’s also a day in which I force myself to admit publicly that beneath my Battle-Hardened, Bad-Ass, Nearly-Forty Feminist facade beats the heart of a quaking 15-year-old girl who hates what she sees in the mirror.

It’s also a good day to mull over what I’m learning from the latest entry in my ever-growing Feminist Book Pile: Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl: a Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (look for it in the nifty Amazon widget on the left of your screen)Published in 2007, it is a fascinating unpacking of cultural misogyny everywhere, including within the feminist community.  And we’re not just talking about the exclusion of transwomen from supposedly feminist places like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, though Serano gives Mich a whole chapter.  As she writes:

While past feminists have gone to great lengths to empower femaleness and to tear away all of the negative connotations that have plagued women’s bodies and biology, they have allowed the negative connotations associated with femininity to persist relatively unabated.  Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that, while most reasonable people see women and men as equals, few (if any) dare to claim that femininity is masculinity’s equal.

Bam!  I’m a ninth-grader in front of that mirror again, bewailing my failure to conform to what Cover Girl, Seventeen magazine and my mother all expect of me.  How could I possibly escape their collective pressure?  For me, the way out was to opt-out.  In 1987, I decided I would dress like the Replacements for the rest of my life.

Beauty-go-round rejected!  Fuck you, L’Oreal!  Kiss my ass, Vogue!  I’m a perfect feminist…right?

Writes Serano:

The greatest barrier preventing us from fully challenging sexism is the pervasive antifeminine sentiment that runs wild in both the straight and queer communities, targeting people of all genders and sexualities.  The only realistic way to adddress this issue is to work toward empowering femininity itself….indeed, a feminist movement that encompasses both those who are female and those who are feminine has the potential to become a majority, one with the strength in numbers to finally challenge and overturn both traditional and oppositional sexism.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go polish my nails.

3 thoughts on “Loving the body, feminine and otherwise

  1. Susan

    Yes! You see so many people thinking that in order to be a feminist, you have to hate pink and girly-ness. Now, I hate pink and girly-ness for myself, but I had to work on the idea that they are not bad things, and I shouldn’t apologize for the girly things I do like (I am a big fan of makeup, for instance). Also, I need to poke around your blog here, but with a name like The Radical Housewife, I suspect you get at a lot of the ways society marks traditionally female work as inferior. Like portrait painting, which mostly men do historically, is art, but quilting, a traditionally female pursuit, is just craft. Thanks for a great post!

  2. Caitlin

    Fantastic post! I know that in my early days as a baby feminist, I was all about poo-pooing anything I associated with femininity, not realizing that all I was doing was accepting the line that says, to quote the riot grrrls, girl = dumb, girl = weak, girl = bad. I’m still a huge tomboy but I have a lot more respect for markers of femininity and femme-ness and, really, all expressions of gender identity than I did before. Viva la difference, I say.


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