I'm one of those.

It is time, internet, that I confessed something. I'm a huge nerd. Also, I'm entirely addicted to caffeine, but that is neither here nor there. I'm sure some of you suspected me, about the nerdiness (and the caffeine,) but it is time that I reveal to you the extent of my nerdiness.

I'm the kind of nerd who willingly goes to book conferences. Most recently, the Young Readers Symposium. My love of books is so great that I am willing to drive down to PROVO of all places, to meet my favorite authors, listen to them speak, and in general, develop huge girl crushes, (and a few equally platonic I-love-your-writing dude crushes) on most of the writers I encounter.

I even stand in line to meet them. I stood in line to meet Linda Sue Park . I gushed like a tween at a Jonas Brothers Concert.

I also buy their books. And other books. And more books. After listening to a talk by Jessica Day George , I bought two of her books. Because anyone who makes jokes about having ADD/being inherently lazy/having a useless humanities degree probably writes the kind of books I want to read. And guess what? I was right.

Beyond being funny though (which she was, uproariously,) she also said something interesting. I haven't stopped thinking about it, and now I want to discuss it with you.


Here we go.

In the question and answer part of her talk, someone mentioned how much they appreciated George's creation of strong female characters, who remain feminine while still having adventures.

George responded very adamantly that she believed a girl "shouldn't have to cut her hair or dress like a boy in order to have adventures."

And I agree with her. Girls shouldn't have to cut their hair or dress like a boy in order to be powerful or adventuresome. Hilary Clinton didn't have to wear those awful suits.

But is that what being feminine means? Is it all about dresses or long hair?* I don't know if you've noticed, but the style of femininity is very much in vogue right now. Seriously. Look around. Everybody is wearing skirts, and pearls are "in" again, and wedges and "vintage" swimsuits. And Everyone Loves Being Feminine. Magazines talk about adding "feminine" details to your wardrobe. People praise Michelle Obama for dressing very feminine despite her "athletic" frame. Feminine.

But are you no longer feminine if you stop/ just don't wear skirts? I guess I worry about the added emphasis our culture has recently placed on looking feminine instead of being feminine.

I find it especially odd, since I don't really self-identify as a feminine person. I certainly don't identify as masculine, and I am wearing a skirt right now, but I have never considered myself a "feminine" person. What am I missing? Is the concept of femininity even real? I am reminded now of the sociologists who argue that races didn't exist before we created them as a social construct. Did we invent the social construct of femininity?

Is it as simple as wearing a dress while having an adventure?

What does the phrase "being feminine" mean to you?

*I feel the need to make it very clear that I do not mean to imply that Jessica Day George has a simplistic view of femininity, or that I don't like her. I have an enormous writer-crush on her, and her speech thing rocked my world.

Thus, this blog just represents questions from my own head. The end.


Lorena said...

I, too, am a nerd like that. We should join a club and get matching hats.

To me, being feminine means putting a little more effort into bettering myself. This ranges from maybe brushing my hair after I get out of the shower to wearing clothes that make me feel a little dressed up to trying to act a little more gracious or charitable in my interactions with people.

This is the first definition that came into my head. I've been trying to think about WHY these things symbolize femininity to me. Is it because society has taught me that to be feminine I must wear make-up and be lovely and kind?

I'll have to think longer to come up with an answer for that one. But for now, that's what femininity means to me. And I emphasize TO ME, because I don't think there is a universal definition for femininity. If you don't want to get a little dressy, that doesn't mean you're unfeminine. This is just what applies to me.

Sorry for long comment. I think it's better to put too much effort into explaining your position than not enough.

Katie said...

I totally think writers are rock stars too. In fact I get tongue tied around them, but not around rock stars.

I guess I interpret the phrase being feminine based on who says it. If it's my chauvinist, polygamist co-worker who says it then it's insulting and meant to imply that women are irrational and meant to be subjugated to men because of what he interprets as their inherent irrationality.

If I'm defining it for myself, it encompasses all aspects of femininity. (Is that a circular enough definition?) Being feminine is allowing yourself to be both inherently vulnerable, yet also strong as steel. It isn't defined by what someone wears (or doesn't i.e. pants v. skirt). It includes the time of the month where you have irrational feelings, but in spite of those does not mean you are irrational. Or weak.

I don't really know how to define my view. I probably have to think about it some more.

Lisa Louise said...

The minute someone says the word feminine multiple images jump into my head. Woman, in dress, with apron, in kitchen with some sort of cooking utensil in hand. how sad is that? Sadly I don't ever really consider myself a "girl" because by societies standards I don't wear those cutsie outfits or dresses or cook or regularly wear makeup. I guess it is sad that that is what being feminine means to me.

Sarah said...

As I keep trying to define being feminine in my mind, I keep coming across the idea that we are inherently tied to our own weaknesses. Being feminine gives us different weaknesses than masculinity.

This seems like such a gross over generalization, but just tolerate me for a moment. Femininity is so often defined by being weak, sensitive, and shallow. While the weaknesses of masculinity are more often stubbornness, overbearing, and blockheadedness(real word, trust me). Heroic characters, male or female, must overcome their own personal weaknesses in order to become heroic.

So perhaps being feminine is someone who accepts they are a girl and obtains success, not despite that fact, but because of it.

note: this makes zero sense on paper. I prefer to live in my own head.

JustMe said...

I hate when you give me a questions that I have to ponder for a long time.

Watch this - after you stop laughing, let me know what YOU think.

Carley A. T. said...

When I think of feminine I think of my grandmother, who grew up in a time when not wearing a dress and gloves was outrageous.

So she wore jeans when she could get away with it (mens jeans, since they didn't make them for women yet).

She was also forgiving, polite, opinionated and rude. (I've never heard any other woman say the words "it looks like she's got pigs fighting in her pants.") Her hair was always done, she always wore makeup, and she was the most wonderful woman I have ever known. She always had a listening ear, but never hesitated telling me exactly what she thought.

I strive to be like her, which is why my daughter is named after her.

I don't feel like a very feminine being, but to me it's just being a woman that makes you feminine. Just being yourself in difficult times and easy times, but trying to always rise above what others think you should do.

Mrs. Clark said...

I was brought up with only one sister and parents who encouraged my intellectual development, but I have always been a "girly girl," liking my Barbies AND my books. I was encouraged, in fact, expected to go to college, and I never thought there was anything I couldn't accomplish because of my sex.

Then I went to BYU. For the first time, I encountered sexism. (It was 1975.) I was the only girl in my major's orientation, and the prof in charge basically ignored me. I hope things have changed; I'm sure they have in my major (broadcast journalism), but I got the definite feeling throughout my college career that "oh, you're just going to get married and have kids." This continued after I graduated and my husband was attending school there--getting and keeping a job in Provo in the early 80s was killer, especially since I couldn't take shorthand.

But I digress. I think being feminine can be a state of mind which expresses itself in dress and behavior. I have always loved being female. I've never envied or wanted to be a boy. Yet, I don't think it's particularly feminine (or honorable!) to try to play dumb or helpless to manipulate men.

As a wardrobe and image consultant, I encouraged women to dress in a feminine way, but not a sexy way. I think today's emphasis on looking feminine really is an emphasis on looking sexy. Which is just another exploitation of women for men's pleasure.

Tammy said...

I think being feminine is taking all the strengths and weaknesses we are given as women, embracing them and using them to our advantage. That includes embracing our completely irrational days and admitting we are irrational because that is what comes with the territory. It also includes embracing our bodies and dressing to accentuate with pride rather than hide with shame. Men embrace being masculine but for some reason women who embrace feminism are feminists. That doesn't make sense. It is really nerdy but the song by Billy Joel is does it go???... "she's [something] a woman to me" ( or whatever, you know what I'm talking about).
Anyways being a woman and being feminine to me go hand in hand. I really believe we are superior to men because we are muti-talented, multi-emotional crazy people who can do a million things at once and keep track of all of them.
Anyways, check out this blog:

Her latest post is funny and talks about this topic a bit.

By the way have you read the book The Female Brain? It is amazing and explains a lot. The whole time reading it I thought "Holy crap I am not crazy! I am normal! this is great!"
Anyways, that's my bit.