This is not the sixties, I don’t want to burn my bra and I don’t hate pink.

Jessica is a PPE student

The feminist movement across the world has made exceptional movements towards the liberation of women since the birth of the patriarchy, and I must say I am proud to call myself a feminist. I’m pleased to be one, proud to dedicate myself to the movement and proud of the work of the formidable women that have come before me. The feminist movement in the West has had specific waves, focusing on the legal rights of women, then the economic ones, then the social ones, all of which pushed boundaries for women and how the world is learning how to have respect for them. Women across the world and across time have stood up for themselves and others and I can only hope to contribute. 

Second-wave feminism specifically pushed boundaries for women in the workplace, claiming women didn’t have to be these docile feminine maids at home but were capable of everything men could do, if not much, much, much more. This enabled women to gain independence from institutions like marriage, to get economic and financial independence and liberation from the simple role of being somebody’s housewife. 

This article, however, aims to scrutinise that role a bit more, and how we might look at women who appear to fit into the patriarchal place the world has made for them and conform. Are they evil bad feminists or – ugh – not feminists at all? Or is life more complicated than that? Is it not possible to dedicate yourself to the feminist revolution but to also understand that you might be a person who has those ‘feminine attributes’ of being softer? 

When I refer to stereotypical femininity I am referring to what may appear as a more traditionally seeming girl or an individual who has attributes we might label as ‘girly’. A girly girl, a feminine guy, or a gender non-conforming person may appear to like makeup and fashion and dressing up. On a personable level, they may appear more emotional, or soft, or sweet – perhaps naive. This image can be built upon when we deeply consider traditional gender roles. When we think of this person, we may get annoyed. They’re so sensitive, emotional, and naive. 

This is reductive. It is one small facet of what we may consider feminine, and viewing it with disdain is damaging. When we link femininity to passivity, to a docile, childlike innocence and agreement this strips women of all of their agency, and it cuts men off from tapping into more stereotypically feminine things, like being in touch with someone’s emotions, and the whole world is made worse off. What is so bad about being feminine, a girl’s girl, liking girly things and shouldn’t we encourage it? Because the truth is, none of us are free from the patriarchy. What is so demeaning about being a homemaker or housewife, reducing the roles of these women, is that it not only takes away their choices, but assumes that it was a choice, not an expectation. It is also reductive and flippant about the role homemakers play, and the work women or more feminine people do. 

If femininity is inherently negative because it implies bending to the man, should we act more like the man? I don’t want to. What does this do for me and what does this do for women? If we apply this to a workplace where women are essentially getting into these male-dominated spaces and closing the door behind them, how feminist is this? Are we taking feminism to mean working towards the dismantlement of historical patriarchal constructs?

In this context, by encouraging women to move into these spaces by insisting they act more stereotypically masculine we are not achieving anything from the perspective of the feminist movement because this does not make space for women and femininity. I would rather have a workspace where people communicate softly, respectfully, and with kindness rather than being cutthroat and shouting the loudest. I don’t want to and I don’t understand how that is destructive to the patriarchy when it’s just reshaping what falls under the umbrella of it (its umbrella instead?) —sticking that Wolf of Wall Street dude in a wig does not a feminist make! Encouraging women to take on stereotypically masculine views and behaviours may simply transfer the power dynamic, it changes to white women making it into the room and closing the door behind them. 

When we associate femininity with being docile this is damaging to men and women everywhere and is a terrible disease of patriarchal living that doesn’t allow men to access the full range of their emotions and ridicules women when they do. It gives rise to a ‘pick me’ and to a ‘girl boss’ who is not pushing the limits for women anywhere by detaching themselves from the movement. It also takes away from the hard work women do when they are housewives and parents. Is this realistic or are we all multifaceted?

Instead, I advocate for making these spaces that are inherently patriarchal acceptable and adaptable to women and the way women are. I advocate for a work environment where we listen to each other, care for each other and give each other respect. Because personally if I hate the way men act why would I like it if women did the same? I advocate for the visibility and respect women are due even if they do take on more stereotypical roles, because the world is more complicated than that, and snipping those women out of the movement because they aren’t shouting loudly and causing a ruckus (not that we hate the ruckus) doesn’t mean they aren’t doing meaningful work worthy of respect. 

Let’s reform how we look at feminism. This is not the sixties, I don’t want to burn my bra and I don’t hate pink. I’d like to highlight at this point that women are not free everywhere, and economically and financially safe from men, but this is not necessarily a chronology so much as a web of how the world and patriarchal view women and how damaging it is. And this perspective that its less noble work is where the injustice is, it takes away from women and all their achievements. Let us embrace femininity and reject the patriarchal messaging that suggests it’s how I should be. Let me instead choose to take what I want from being feminine and not turn to stereotypical masculine attributes. Let me choose to remain soft and kind hearted because the strongest people I know are still like that despite their life experiences and the only people who see it as weak are men. In an environment where women have fought to be included, and are encouraged to shout the loudest next to men, why are we not reforming those environments? Why do I need to turn into a man to take down the patriarchy? Why don’t men have something to learn from me? Where would the world be without those feminine attributes of being soft, kind, and loving? And why am I being led to believe that that’s a bad thing instead of recognizing the strength in it and holding up those people around me who are not afraid to be themselves and to be vulnerable? 


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