Okay. So I spent a chunk of yesterday watching youtube videos of Adele (it was that kind of day) and, like a fool, I read the youtube comments.

As we all know, reading the comments – particularly when the comments are being made about a successful woman – is never a good idea. But I read them anyway, and I came across the statement “If she really didn’t care [what she looked like, what other people thought of her looks] she wouldn’t wear makeup”.

And I have to protest.

See, I know it’s just a youtube comment, and those can tend to towards the barrel-scraping end of the social-media-content spectrum. But this kind of comment plays directly into the related ideas that:
(1) femininity is artificial (while masculinity is “natural”)
AND
(2) femininity is a performance done for the benefit/appreciation/aproval of an external (here presumed male/masculine) audience

And I call bullshit (and am pretty damn sure that whoever the commentor was wouldn’t go “Oh… yeah, I guess I would” to a retort along the lines of “Puh-leeze. If YOU are so damn sure you don’t care what other people think of your looks, I’d like to see you strolling down the street in full makeup and painted nails”).

Yes. The visual trappings of femininity are “performative”. They’re visual cues. Of course they’re performative. But so are those of masculinity.

It makes me angry when I hear queer chicks saying that butch women “can’t” hide their masculinity. As if no butch woman could ever even try to swagger in a skirt the way so many of us have been expected, even required, to cut off all our hair, eschue makeup, wear The Ubiquitous Plaid Shirt (or birkenstocks, or army boots and baggies), to stomp rather than sashay, and pretend we never liked barbie or wanted to be a fairy princess when we were five… all in order to be recognized and desired as queers (See Idea 1). As if the visual trappings of masculinity aren’t as heavily (if not more heavily) policed in boys than those of femininity are in girls.

It makes me angry when various stripes (because this is just all over, believe me) of feminists view feminine women as Brainwashed Tools of the Patriarchy (see Idea 2) while, themselves, privileging masculine-coded gender presentation, carreer choices, and leisure activities.

It makes me angry that a femme woman who does elaborate makeup (say the false eyelashes, lipstick and glitter involved in burlesque) is… not really doing anything spectacular, while a butch woman who does elaborate makeup (say, the spirit gum and flocking involved in drag) is EPIC. (See Idea 1 – femininity is “always” performative/artificial, so when it’s extra-performative it’s No Big Thing, while masculinity, being “natural” becomes a Huge Deal when it stretches into performative territory).

It makes me angry when random dudes stop me on the street to tell me how I’ll “never get a man with nail polish that’s that badly taken care of” or how nice it is to finally “see a woman dressed like a woman” (sometimes this means “wearing a skirt”, sometimes this means “wearing a skirt that isn’t a mini” – either way it falls under the heading of Idea 2: they all think I’m making my decisions based on their gaze/aproval rather than my own interests and desires and, because they believe Idea 2, they believe their entitled to pass their judgement on me. WTF).

It goes on and on until I find myself right back at what original set me off with that Adele video comment:

It makes me angry when someone assumes that a feminine woman should “lose some weight” because – since she’s feminine (as evidenced by her use of false eyelashes, blush, eye shadow, hair products, and the like) – she is clearly performing her gender presentation for the benefit/aproval/apreciation of an audience who (it’s assumed) would “prefer” the she also be slender… Instead of realizing that the visual trappings of femininity can be – and are – performed by feminine women for our own pleasure, for the sheer joy of adorning the bodies that we revel in having.

So there you go. Pissed Off Femme is pissed off. 😛

TTFN,
Ms Syren.