Acceptable Femininity: some rambling thoughts about gender roles, high heels, and makeup.

Lately, as I’ve been delving into what feels like a whole new world of heels and cardigans and makeup, I’ve been thinking about how my opinion of femininity has morphed throughout my admittedly short life. I’ve noticed a pattern, and I’d like to share it with you:

My acceptance or rejection of the feminine within myself and others is directly related to my acceptance or rejection of misogyny.

I do really want to stress that this is an introspective piece, and that what has held true in my life absolutely doesn’t hold true for others. After all, I’m speaking as a white cisgender woman* — I wouldn’t dream of imposing my experiences or conclusions for myself on others who have not lived my life.

*What this means is that I was assigned the gender of woman at birth, and I’m comfortable with that assignment. (For those for whom this concept is new, I suggest checking out Hank Green’s wonderful video on sexuality and gender that I’ve included here.)


Continue reading

Always. Choose love.

Dear 16-year-old Dani,

16

Happy birthday a day late! And let me just say right now that you completely and totally ROCK that hair cut. Seriously. Enjoy it. Don’t listen to people who tell you that they’re afraid that it makes your face look fat. It doesn’t. You look amazing. You won’t have hair that short again for a really long time, and you won’t find a style you like as much as this one for even longer, so savor it (even though you’ll get convicted in a few months that you’re disrupting God’s order by having short hair. I wish I could say don’t do that, but we both know that time travel doesn’t really exist).

This picture, ten years later, embodies for 26-year-old-you all of the sheer awesomeness that you possessed at that time in your life. Sophomore year of high school was your year, though you probably don’t realize it. You have a group of friends with whom you hang out regularly. You’re almost popular — at least, the popular kids no longer make fun of you. You are at your musical height — I wish I had your vocal range, and man do I ever wish I was as fantastic of a pianist as you are. Your biggest regret is not-quite dating that loser who swore to you that his girlfriend wasn’t actually his girlfriend and you believed him. You’re doing pretty great. You will look back on this year of your life with tremendous fondness and longing.

There’s so much I want to tell you. Like your current crush really isn’t worth it. (Really. I promise.) And homeschooling is not going to be a good experience for you. Even little things, like don’t get your cartilage pierced at Claire’s…twice. Seriously. Don’t do it.

But if there’s one thing and one thing only that I could impart to you right now, it would be this:

choose love.

Always. Choose love. Continue reading

When Beauty and the Beast are both within.

This project from Dove has me so introspective today*. Please take a few moments to watch the video.

I don’t have the words at the moment to explain why this speaks so deeply to me.

But part of that is because I’ve sort of started a project semi-similar to this, inspired by a chapter of bell hooks’ “Feminism is For Everybody” in which she talks about the importance of changing the depiction of women in media.

I’ve decided to illustrate the women in my life that I greatly admire.

Mostly because I don’t know a single one of my friends who hasn’t struggled enormously with body image. And I want to capture them, their beauty, in artwork that they can look at on those days when they feel like they’d rather just disappear for good, to remind them that they’re their own worst critic.

But…I’m starting with me.

Because even though I was able to embrace myself for a few short days back in January, by and large I still hate myself. I’m still cruel to myself. I think of myself as monstrous, hideous to behold, an ugly eyesore to all who know me.

I feel very much like the Beast, when perhaps if I were to step back and be honest, perhaps I have more Beauty in me than I thought.

So here’s the beginning, trying to set a style of illustration to follow through my project with. If you like, I can update here as I go.

Initial illustrative style exploration. More to come until I settle on a technique I like.

Initial illustrative style exploration. More to come until I settle on a technique I like.

*While the video meant a lot to me, that doesn’t mean that it and other marketing campaigns of Dove are free from reinforcing the very narrow beauty definitions they decry. Read this article for a very balanced explanation of the more problematic aspects of this video in particular.

The body I have.

That leopard print thing is one of Sherlock's fabulous coats.

That leopard print thing in the bottom left corner is one of Sherlock’s fabulous coats.

I am fat.

And for the first time in my young life…

I am okay with that.


As I write this, I am sitting in my size 20 dark-wash skinny jeans.

You read that right. Skinny jeans — that somehow miraculously hug my butt, hips, thighs, and calves without making my stomach protrude unnaturally. Skinny jeans that make me look, well, really good.

On top of these magical jeans, I am wearing a size XL faded teal 3-quarter-sleeve fitted shirt with buttons halfway down the front, mostly unbuttoned so I feel neither choked nor awkward. It hangs just at my hips, which is remarkable considering my tall torso.

I am happy with how I look, even though I still have bulges I’d rather not have.

But it most certainly has not always been the case.

Continue reading