in defense of femininity

Femininity is awesome. Masculinity is awesome. Expressions of femininity are awesome; so are expressions of masculinity. Expressions of anywhere in between are pretty cool, too. I love seeing how creative people get when expressing gender, or experimenting with fashion. The whole blue lipstick thing that’s going around? Fierce as Hell.

Expression isn’t necessarily tied to gender; masculine expression isn’t indicative of Queerness in women, feminine expression isn’t indicative of Queerness in men; masculinity and femininity belong to no gender, both are wonderful slidey-scales for everyone to experience, enjoy, and experiment with. In Queer circles, though, femininity displayed by women is ostensibly treated as an invalidation or measure of Queer-ness. This pejorative view is more or less aimed at cisgender women who present ‘Femme.’ Femme (and hard-Femme) and Butch (and soft-Butch) are both fairly common self-identifications; Butch, though, is treated as more valid when one is Queer. Reflections of dominant cis-het culture can be seen in Queer sub-cultures: masculinity is prioritized. Queer communities are subversive of cis-het culture, the norms pushed upon anyone and everyone, both cis-het and Queer-identified alike. Despite the subversive aspects, prioritizing masculine self-expression in women is still misogyny.

There is no wrong way to be a woman. That’s one thing communities of Queer women try to convey to the cisgender, heterosexual, dominant majority. And, I mean, there really isn’t any wrong way to be a woman, cis or trans. Why is it seen as especially subversive when a man (or Masculine-of-Center GQ individual such as myself, for example) expresses femininity outwardly, but problematic when a woman is feminine? That’s a rhetorical question, don’t worry—because, in dominant culture, to be feminine is to be perceived as weak; why would any (perceived) man want to be seen as feminine when femininity is less-than? Still, femininity expressed by cisgender Queer women can be looked upon as a subversive act towards both dominant culture and Queer sub-cultures.

Staying true to oneself is a key to happiness. Staying true to oneself can be a trying endeavor when dominant culture is telling you there is one right way to be a woman, and Queer sub-cultures are telling you there is only one right way to be a woman, and the right way is the opposite of what dominant culture is telling you. Granted, a frequently occurring situation with Queer youth is not being able to express gender openly when gender expression does not match the sex one has been assigned at birth; that needs to be acknowledged as the severe concern it is. That aside, when a woman wishes of their own accord to present in a feminine manner, she should not be accused of buying into compulsory heterosexuality. Just as there is no wrong way to be a woman, there is no wrong way to be a Queer woman. Femininity is awesome, if that is how a given person feels most comfortable. Queer femininity—two concepts that are hardly mutually exclusive despite a seemingly common perception—is awesome, too.

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Jenna-Nichole, more commonly known as JayJay, is a Poet (with a capital P!) currently experiencing life in and around Massachusetts. When they’re not reading books, they’re reading more books.