I have always been girlie.
Even when I was young, I was A Girl.
It didn't matter if I was playing with the boys, wearing pants and a ball cap.
I couldn't wait to get Boobs. And my Period. And Hair. There.
I couldn't wait to wear make up and shave my legs and have the kind of slumber parties that involved comparing Boob Size and putting bras in the freezer (still waiting for that one, by the way).
I want to take a moment to clarify that nobody in my childhood experience did anything that gave me reason to feel like I Had To do these things or be this way to be a woman. My mother didn't teach me about makeup or how to be "girlie" (other than shaving - which she did at my request). While I have never directly asked her, I always felt like she didn't push these things on me because she didn't want me to feel like I Had To. She always, always told me that I was beautiful without makeup, and wouldn't even let me start wearing it until I was 15. She wouldn't even let me shave my legs until long after all the other girls had started (just picture that while wearing pleated skirts at private school during junior high).
I was a child in the late 70's, early 80's, so my visions of glamorous womanhood included floor-length negligees, bangs, huge, poofy dresses and a lot of makeup. You can probably blame my grandmother for letting me watch Dallas at her house.
Fortunately most of that fell by the wayside as I grew up, so by the time I was ready to be a Grown Up I could still be feminine without spending two hours on my hair and while wearing clothing I could sit in.
Which is totally awesome because y'all should know I am way too lazy to spend that much time on my hair.
Even though I have always had this vision of who I was and how I wanted to be, this is not to say that I have always been outwardly girlie or feminine.
I've struggled with femininity for multiple reasons over the years.
When the Monkeys were small, it was a combination of not having the extra money to devote to being girlie, not having the time, feeling somehow like femininity was unrelated to my new role, and feeling guilty for wanting to take the time, energy and money to devote to Looking Good when, for the most part, I didn't even leave the house that much.
When I first came out as a lesbian (to myself first, and, later, to others), I struggled with feeling like being lesbian was somehow contradictory to being girlie. I had a friend refer to me as a Lipstick Lesbian, particularly under the assumption that I was looking for a Lipstick Lesbian. But I knew this wasn't true. It didn't fit who I was.
The lesbians in our area fall into a number of categories and one of the smallest is Femme. Not Lipstick Lesbian. Not androgynous or butch or indie.
It took me some time to find this niche, but I knew, immediately, that it fit.
Femme fits me better than just about any other label I've ever tried on. Femme helped me redefine the way I saw myself and the way I used my tools to create an outer image that accurately reflected my inner image.
I've also second-guessed my femininity out of concern for the way it seems to clash directly with feminism.
When I'm wearing heels and mascara and lip gloss and a push up bra, aren't I submitting to the dominant patriarchal paradigm's view of what a woman should look like?
Shouldn't I love myself enough to feel beautiful without those things?
The thing is, though, that I do feel beautiful without them.
And strong. And intelligent. And capable. And talented.
My sense of self is not connected to the external image I create.
Even without makeup or heels or a push up bra, I am femme.
It's in the way I hold myself. The way I walk. The way I look you in the eyes when I speak to you.
It's in the way I speak my mind instead of holding my tongue.
It's in the way I speak up and express myself instead of letting someone else speak for me.
All of these things are expressed from my femininity.
The things I do to make myself more "feminine" are to make my outside appearance reflect my internal vision of myself.
I am not making myself feminine.
I am femme.
Femme is not contradictory to feminism.
Being able to choose my femininity and the ways in which I express it are, in my opinion, central to the ideals of feminism.
If I cannot even choose the way I present myself when I leave the house each day, what right have I to advocate for other rights and choices?