This week at Twisty’s joint, commenters have been contemplating the meaning of femininity. Twisty’s take:
Central to today’s fun’n’sassy Empowerful Woman narrative, femininity is that set of self-absorbed, self-defeating behaviors required of women by the dominant culture to ensure a ready-steady supply of submissive sexbot availability.
Because there was never so hideous an abomination as a woman who can’t prove, through word, deed, and sportcorset, that she has successfully internalized the patriarchal message and is conversant in fulfilling male fantasy.
Femininity is the antithesis of humanity.
Sarah sums it up in only fourteen words: “Femininity is the culturally defined yet individually rendered personal expression of willingness to submit.”
And do read anuna’s take – I can’t bear to extract a subquote, it’s perfect just as it is.
As I was leafing through the comments thread, impressed at their perspicacity and contemplating the differences between femininity, femaleness, and womanhood, I was also cruising some online toy stores. (My partner is active on our local toy library committee, and was looking for a particular set of castle gear.)
I’m referring specifically to the left sidebar menu, which has a list of the categories of toys stocked in the store. One of the 17 non-infant categories (that’s 5.88%) is “Girls Toys”.
No, there is no “Boys Toys” category. Regular kids – you know, the ones without vaginas – get a choice of Action Figures, Arts & Crafts, Books, Cars Trucks & Racing, Collectibles, Construction, Games & Puzzles, Greeting Cards, Hobbies, Learning Toys, Let’s Pretend, Manchester, Novelties, Outdoor, Soft Toys and Trains. What a great range! There are active toys, swimmin-pool toys, fast-moving things, superheroes, lots of gear to stimulate and broaden the mind, models to build, magic sets, and equipment to get the creative juices flowing.
So what’s in the pink and sparkly girl ghetto? Femininity training tools!
First, body maintenance. Girls are trained from their preschool years that femininity is thinness, bodily hairlessness, face paint, hobbled sexual availability, and hours of effort and pots of cash put into being sparkly and “attractive”. As Claire (“yankee transplant) observes:
“Femininity is total subjugation to the patriarchal definition of what a woman should be: available for sex and mandatory breeding.”
The plastic role models and the pink glittery tools are marketed by big business to little girls, for their mandatory bodily grooming education and the proper instillation of body image dysfunction and low self esteem.
Girls are told all their lives that domestic servitude is their lot (whether they have paid work or not), and this taxing role takes a lot of training. As does, apparently, the burger-flipping role that girls are relegated to by the “My Fast Food Kitchen” that complements the imitation home-kitchen.
Kiki reminds us: “Femininity is a set of inane distractions that divert our attention, drain our energy and squander our resources.”
Even more difficult than the job itself is maintaing the rictus-like grin necessary to convince others that “No, I love this! It’s my life!” Yet these first-grader models seem to have it down pat already – I guess starting early has its own rewards.
As LMYC says,
“I said it elsewhere, but it does belong here: femininity is the ability to step with two bare feet straight into a pile of dog shit, smile, take a deep breath, and say, ‘Wow! Just like roses!'”
Next in the logical progression of femininity: motherhood. wiljago links femininity to the mother-role:
“Gentleness, delighting in decorating oneself, willingness to yield to others, nurturing, being affectionate, showing love, and all of the various and sundry characteristics associated with “femininity” are quite natural to humans, as they tend to be the characteristics associated with raising children.”
And, of course, there is no lack of maternalist training tools in the Girls Toys ghetto, from surrogate babies to the paraphernalia that go with them.
I did enjoy one brief glimmer of hope. Down the bottom left of the pink section, without a pretty logo, I spotted “Electronic toys”! Cool! Girls get computers and robots and stuff, too? Nope. But there’s an enormous range of hip mama training tools.
There are furbies and other talking pet baby surrogates, password-protected diaries, pink pretend cellphones – and “pixel chix”. Pixel chix? I haven’t heard of those before. The picture looks like it’s a tutu-bedecked LCD woman trapped, zoo-like, in a vomitously pink plastic cage.
“Femininity is the pink box. Some women and men will walk in willingly, and any woman who doesn’t will spend her life trying to escape.”
I check the description.
“To interact with your Pixel Chix pal just “push her buttons” literally! Using the input buttons on the fashionable, handheld house, help your Pixel Chix pal decide all kinds of things, like what to do – play guitar or go rollerblading? Where to go tonight – on a date or to a concert? What to wear – a skirt or a bathing suit?”
This is our menu. These are our choices.
“Pixel Chix pal is a 2-D girl living in a 3-D world.”
Categories: gender & feminism