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.)

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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.

Existential perfection, problematic cultural systems, and being okay.

I am completely and utterly overwhelmed by the response I’ve gotten from “The body I have.”

On the one hand, I keep checking my stats with ever-widening eyes and a grin that I can’t quite get rid of. “People…are actually reading what I wrote? They like what I had to say?”

Then my introversion comes out, and I think, “I’ll just hide under a rock for a while until they all go away.”

And then my depression and anxiety kicks into high gear, like it has right now, and I frantically feel like I’m a fake and everyone will hate me if I’m discovered — until someone brings me back to planet earth with a reminder like this:

And now I can breathe a little easier.

Why did I write that piece in the first place?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot.

I think it boils down to me being sick of our culture.

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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.

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