3 min

Femininity’s not for the faint-of-heart

I have always loved being a girlie girl. Growing up I had two strong female influences, women who helped form my love of fashion and femininity: My mother and Alexis Carrington Colby from TV’s Dynasty.

My mother’s femininity was soft and natural. She taught me that a woman should always have smooth skin and beautiful hair. She didn’t have much use for makeup or perfumes but she collected body lotions and hair oils. She was very particular about her hair because, as she would say, it’s the one accessory that a woman never takes off. She would sit in the living room with her comb and oils and unbraid her beautiful curly hair. Then, taking her time, she’d comb through and oil her hair until it shone.

She always stressed to me how important it is to take care of your hair, to keep it long and show it off. When, at age 24, I cut my hair short my mother cried more than when I told her I wasn’t bisexual and gay instead. “Why Dainty?” she gasped in between tears.

My mother believed in the power of a few good accessories. Her church hats alone cost hundreds of dollars and she would never have dreamt of attending the church conventions _ a who’s who within the church community _ without a fabulous church hat, the bigger the better. She was Pastor Smith’s wife after all and she had to keep up appearances.

I learned at an early age that worshipping God was a very fashionable affair. Getting dressed for church at my house was an event in and of itself. It wasn’t enough to just wear a dress. We had to be well-presented and well-pressed from ours heads down to our toes which, in my case, meant white patent leather three-inch heels. I watched my mother raise six children and looking back I have no idea how she managed to do it without completely losing her mind.

Alexis’ femininity was something altogether different from my mother’s. Alexis was glamorous and hard. She embodied beauty and drama. As a child I didn’t see Alexis as a stereotype, as the necessary soap opera bitch. For me she was believable _ beautiful, bold and not to be messed with. On television glamour was large and in charge. It was unapologetic.

Even though she was only a television character Alexis made a lasting impression on my eight-year-old self. Thanks to her I have never thought of my femininity as a weakness but instead as a powerful weapon. I learned that I could be strong and still wear red lipstick. I could be viewed as a serious woman and still wear makeup. Alexis was no goody two-shoes who played nice with others; she was all “my way or no way at all.” I loved her for being dominating and for never saying sorry.

Alexis fed my love for fashion and beauty; I couldn’t get enough. And there were countless fashion magazines ready to teach me about makeup and body hair removal.

I love these rituals of femininity. I love tweezing, shaving, applying lotions and makeup. It is a kind of worship unto itself _ a worshipping of myself _ and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I don’t feel less of a feminist or less of a lesbian because I adore lacy underwear and a smoky eye shadow with lipstick.

Why would I give up my ruby red four-inch heels because I love pussy? There is an enduring image of what a real lesbian looks like and it isn’t a femme. There is the enduring assumption that a woman who dresses in feminine attire is doing it for male attention, even if she identifies as a lesbian. This thinking doesn’t just live in the minds of straight folk either; it’s just as strong among queers. But the truth is women do dress for other women. And, regardless of who you sleep with, it’s a real compliment when another person says, “I love your shoes.”

Some femmes don’t feel as though they are recognized as queer women within the lesbian scene. But we are seen; we are constantly checked out and admired. The problem is how we are patronized. If I wear my mini dress and high heels out to a queer club I can tell I’m being treated differently. There’s the assumption that I’m a bit of a flake. I am just a pretty girl in a dress _ harmless and therefore in need of protection. But that’s bullshit. Any femme will tell you wearing heels isn’t easy. It’s not for the faint-of-heart.

I don’t feel weighed down by expectations because I’m a girl. I don’t feel put into a box because of my curves. I am empowered by my femininity. I see it as one of my greatest assets. I am strong, powerful and not to be messed with. Like Alexis I will have my own way and I will do it with glamour and beauty and red lipstick.