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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Turning on a dime: false equivalence in purity culture.

This particular day, I don’t recall who the speaker was. I don’t remember what he looked like, and I don’t even recall entirely the message he preached.

I only remember a single illustration he used.

I went to a reasonably conservative Christian school from the age of 6 through the first marking period of my junior year, when I opted to home school through their program because I believed my classmates to be worldly and a bad influence on me. (I share that mostly to illustrate that I was not always as I am now, as most people do not remain who or how they were in years past as they continue to learn and grow throughout their lives.)

Anyway.

At this school during my early high school days, we usually had Bible class first period (at least at the time). Friday mornings, however, Bible class was replaced by chapel. We had many guest speakers for chapel, usually local pastors or youth pastors, sometimes traveling evangelical or music teams from Christian colleges trying to recruit new students. Chapel was usually held in the gym, with the speaker pacing the basketball court while the students sat listening in the bleachers.

He called on our school’s star soccer player to stand at the boundary line of the court. He placed a dime on the free throw line and instructed the soccer player to walk at a normal pace towards the dime and stop right when he reached it. This was done, of course, with great ease. Then he sent the soccer player back to the boundary line and instructed him to all-out sprint towards the dime, still attempting to come to a complete stop. Obviously, the soccer player couldn’t do that — he rocketed far beyond the dime.

The take-away was that in sexual situations, you may think you will be able to stop before sex (the dime). And if you take things slowly, maybe you can. But if you rush things, you will never be able to stop on the dime.

I remember being blown away, thinking how wonderful an illustration that was. Tucking it away in my memory (clearly), to help me make sure that I would never, ever run full-tilt towards the sexy no-nos.

Now, a decade or so later, I realize that this is really problematic in lots of ways.

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On stunting emotions.

You know, this is a post I meant to write when I was feeling stable and secure. But maybe my panic will somehow magically aid my writing. Give it that “realness” that people praise me for, though that always baffles me beyond belief.

Elizabeth Esther wrote a great post this week that kind of inspired this line of thinking. She and Hännah of Wine and Marble talked about purity culture, and how the conservative Christian culture in which they were raised taught them to strip themselves of their emotions. And it got me thinking and beginning to analyze my relationship with emotions over the entirety of my life. Then I stumbled upon this post of Elizabeth’s entitled “We Will Tell You How To Feel” and I sort of emotionally and mentally went into a crazy spiral of panic (which is really nonsensical considering the post is awesome).

Panic. Honestly, that is the single driving emotion of my life. It’s the constant. I can’t remember not being afraid. My earliest memories are chronic nightmares and coping mechanisms I had for calming myself after a nightmare.

Sad thing is, I still have chronic nightmares. I still employ these 20+ year old coping mechanisms.

Why? Why? Why am I afraid?

I’ve always been afraid of feeling too much.

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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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