Femininity

I have a few  soap box issues, it’s true.  Society’s asinine expectations about what women are supposed to look like is one of them (I have ranted about being naked and about body hair to name but a few).  So when this post by regular reader Katielase (who would be intimidating if she wasn’t so bloody lovely, see her science posts for proof of this) landed in my inbox, I rubbed my hands together with glee.  For this is an  impassioned rant about women, strength, feminity, and where the three collide. 

It’s particularly relevant post-Olympics where we’ve seen women use their bodies, their muscles, their strenth to run longer, jump higher and swim faster than anyone else.  Bring on the Paralympics!

I defy you not to be fist pumping at the end, readers. Over to you, Katie:  

Someone said something to me recently, and it got me thinking. She said something along the lines of “you don’t want to go doing too many press-ups/too much boxing and getting too muscly or you’ll end up like Madonna”. When pushed as to what that meant (because I was potentially excited that if I did enough press-ups I’d start being able to sing in tune, or alternatively worried that press-ups are the pathway to Kaballah), she told me “it just doesn’t look feminine”.  

At the time, I didn’t say much; I wasn’t particularly bothered because there are many ways in which I think Madonna is awesome, and anyway, I was eating cake at the time, which is a good indication of why I will never actually look like Madonna. Plus, I’ve never really wanted to be ‘feminine’. The more I thought about it afterwards though, the more it bothered me. Not that she said it, to a degree she is right, muscly arms are not what society deems feminine, and I wasn’t offended by her comment at all. I just felt strange about it because, for me, muscle equates to strength and when I consider it properly, the idea that strength isn’t feminine makes me feel uncomfortable.

Personally, and each to their own on this, I think strength is sexy. I feel a hundred times better about myself when I can see muscle definition in my arms, abs and thighs (even beneath the layer of fat!). And let’s get this shit straight, I’m not a body builder, when I strap hang on the tube I can see my biceps, but I’m not Jean Claude Van Damme in a bra over here. How is this strength making me less feminine?

That innocent comment coalesced a lot of things that have bothered me recently, like when a magazine airbrushes out the muscles of an Olympic athlete so that she looks more feminine and womanly. They airbrush out the very muscles that allow her to win medals and excel in her field, they are effectively saying that she cannot be strong and successful and still fit their idea of femininity. Then there was the widespread derision of Jodie Marsh for taking up bodybuilding and becoming all kinds of kick-ass. Now you may not think she’s attractive with those muscles but to me she looks awesome because she looks the way she wants to look and because she’s using her body to achieve what she wants to achieve. She’s strong, but the world attacked her because her priority wasn’t to be attractive to men.

This is a persistent theme for female athletes; following a documentary on the British female weightlifters competing in the 2012 Olympics, Zoe Smith spoke out against criticisms that she was unattractive, manly and unfeminine. I can’t put it better than Zoe when she said “Shall we stop weightlifting, amend our diet in order to completely get rid of our ‘manly’ muscles, and become housewives in the sheer hope that one day you will look more favorably upon us and we might actually have a shot with you? This may be shocking to you, but we actually would rather be attractive to people who aren’t closed-minded and ignorant. Crazy, eh?! We, as any woman with an ounce of self-confidence would, prefer our men to be confident enough in themselves to not feel emasculated by the fact that we aren’t weak and feeble.”  …..Hell yes, Zoe.

The reason all of this bothers me is that it is insidious, stealthy sexism. You don’t see it because it is so much the norm that you don’t think to challenge it. It’s obvious if someone tells a woman to get back in the kitchen that they are a sexist moron, but I’ve been known to sob in front of my mirror that I’m a rubbish woman because I don’t pluck my eyebrows, I can’t apply eyeliner for love nor money, I want to be toned and muscular, not skinny, and I’d rather buy books than clothes every single time. I live my life this way because it is the way I want to live it, but sometimes the societal pressure to be something that I’m not makes me weep with the sense of failure. It’s really lucky I love to bake and sometimes drink cocktails or I’d probably lose my membership of womanhood altogether.

And above and beyond sometimes making me cry, this stuff matters. This perception of femininity as fragile delicacy is the reason that ‘women’s work’ is considered to mean something gentle or easy, why raising a family is viewed as an ‘easy option’ from the outside, because of course if women can do it, frail feminine little women, then it can’t be hard work. Even though it quite clearly is. And this underhand stereotyping is damaging to men as well, to all the big strong men who should be hairy and muscly and like cars and beer, who shouldn’t cry or be gentle because to be so is feminine, and femininity is weak.

Well I’m sorry but to all of this I say bollocks. Bollocks to this outdated definition of femininity (truly I am sorry for swearing on these peachy pages but sometimes you can’t get your point across without it). I think we need to redefine femininity, and now is the time. Right now, when female athletes from around the world are being celebrated for their strength and dedication, not for their beauty, or their delicate touch with pastry, we need a new dictionary, one that lets us be powerful and brave and ambitious and determined, without being deemed unfeminine.

We need a definition that allows strength to be an aspect of femininity, not one that forces them to be mutually exclusive. I want to bring my children up in a world where femininity isn’t a synonym for weakness. Am I alone in this? What do you all think of ‘femininity’, and how it defines women?

Categories: Body Image, Politics and Feminism
49 interesting thoughts on this

48 Comments

  1. Becca
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll rant about it again. Feminism and femininity is about choice and how YOU choose to look. I personally hate the really muscly look on men and women and find it unnatural looking-you aren’t BORN all muscly all over. Obviously if you are an athlete those things come naturally but some people strive to be athletes because of the body (rather than it being a by product…does that make sense?). It doesn’t make me a bad feminist to think that (and I know AOW would never suggest that it did).

    Also Zoe’s comment really irritated me. Why does it have to be a choice between doing what SHE does and being a housewife? By referring to housewives in such a derogatory manner I think she is simply reinforcing beliefs that housewives are weak and feeble (even if she didn’t mean to!). Whether a woman CHOOSES to become a housewife or a weightlifter it has nothing to do with anyone else but that particular woman. I think her comment would have been better thought out if she had said that no one would question a choice to be a housewife so why should anyone question what she does.

    • Posted August 23, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      I think her comment was, in the context, based on the assumption that she should amend her career choices so as to fit in with expectations determined by a narrow definition of femininity. Being a housewife isn’t weak, and I don’t think her manner is derogatory, but it’s not the career she’s chosen, so why should she do it?

      • Katielase
        Posted August 23, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        Yes, I think what she meant was more why should anyone, watching a programme about how she’s a female weightlifter (and an awesome one), feel compelled to comment on her looks. Her looks aren’t relevant. I expect she chose housewife because it is a stereotype of femininity, not because it’s something she looks down on. And you can be a housewife with muscles, anyway! For me the issue is that someone, a man, saw her strength (not just physical but mental) and felt compelled to put her down. That’s what aggravates me!

        K x

        • Katielase
          Posted August 23, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

          PS: Definitely NOT a bad feminist. You’re right about feminism, it’s about being able to want muscles, or dislike muscles, or anything at all really, without any judgement on you as a woman.

          K x

  2. Sandra C
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Bollocks indeed. I read this, then re-read, and I like it very much. My idea of femininity is exactly how I feel on that day. Some days I’ll wear a dress. Other I will wear jeans and rigger boots. I wear make up religeously (sp?), pluck my eyebrows and dye my hair (Geordie shore isn’t so far removed from the truth!) but it actually confuses me why anyone else would be interested. I have my own style and anyone who doesn’t like it can kiss it, quite frankly. I also believe that everyone else can do as they please. Shave your chuff/bushy extravaganza. Dye your hair/let the greys flow free. I don’t understand why you would care what anyone else, esp. some prick in a newspaper, thinks.

    Is it about having the confidence to say, loud and proud ‘Bollocks. Your opinion matters so little to me that I’m not going to consider it further’? Are we fanning the flames and encouraging people to roll their eyes in a ‘bloody feminists’ manner?

    • Posted August 23, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      This is a brilliant comment. People DO care what others think of how they look, and it’s bonkers, isn’t it.

      • Katielase
        Posted August 23, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        I adore this comment. I’m trying very hard to develop this ability to stop caring what the world thinks.

        K x

  3. Posted August 23, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Big, defiant yes!

    My desire to be ‘girly’ waxes and wanes throughout the week/year/decade and I’m equally at home in a floral dress and heels as in my star wars t-shirt and jeans. My general aversion for sports means I don’t really have to consider society’s opinions about my muscles, but this weird mindset that allows men to range from muscular to skinny to stocky yet questions why a woman has biceps is frankly bullshit.

  4. Mahj
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I am fist pumping, I am jiggling around in my chair at work and loudly exclaiming “hell yeah” at regular intervals. This is brilliant and damn straight. Oh and I can’t put eyeliner on either.

    xoxo

  5. Posted August 23, 2012 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I cheered a bit when I read Zoe Smith’s comments, I thought it was the perfect riposte to the horrid insidious ‘banter’ culture that surrounds us, although I fear it may have zoomed right over the top of the heads of those ‘lads’ who felt it so important to state that they wouldn’t want to shag her.

    Great post Katie!

  6. Vivienne
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I used to work as a female door steward. Not the taking tickets at the door type, but the throwing men twice my size out/restraining someone who had stabbed another clubber type. And people’s eyes used to fall out of their heads when they found out – I was ‘too small’ ‘too girly’ ‘too skinny’ ‘too feminine’ to be a bouncer. They had their stereotypical image firmly implanted in their minds, and it was a struggle for them to see past it.

    This years Olympics showed true femininity – the ability to be strong, fit, capable while being as much of a ‘girl’ as the athlete wanted….from Jess without a hair out of place, to Rebecca Adlington who admits she doesn’t give two figs what she looks like when competing.

    For our daughters and future daughters, we need to embrace that what feels good and right to them in their physical and emotional state is femininity – not the ability to apply false eyelashes with one hand

  7. Posted August 23, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Also, did anyone read the story on Victoria Pendleton about how she had to fight her coaches to be allowed to not cut her hair short?

  8. Kate Q
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I personally really like muscles on women, I lift a lot of weights at the gym and if I didn’t have a job I’d do a lot more as I’ve always had aspirations to have a proper six pack. But I’m not sporty in the slightest, have never played or wanted to play sports, I just like the way it looks and as an added bonus it’s easier to carry/lift things!

    I don’t really understand it when people say (about Madonna and Jodie Marsh etc) that “they’ve gone too far”. Men come in all different shapes and sizes, no one seems to talk about the Shoreditch trend of guys fitting into skinny jeans rather than being bulky and muscular making them unmasculine (not that I’ve noticed anyway).

    • Jessie
      Posted August 23, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      A (male) trainer in the gym once told me he thought it was really sexy when girls could do pull ups. Does one count?!

      • Becca
        Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        Yes. One counts!

  9. Posted August 23, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Great piece, Katie, but there’s something I just don’t get. Why on earth do you cry, lady? Why care about things like that (other than the frustration of not being able to put on eyeliner, that’s enough to make anyone cry!)?

    I probably fit the stereotypical definition of feminine – I like to look nice, wear pretty dresses, I look reasonable delicate but anyone who really knows me understands that beneath a girly exterior I’m pretty steely. That’s what being a woman is about for me, but doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone and why should it be? Whatever your gender, surely the answer is to just be who you want to be? Whilst I agree ‘we’, as women, shouldn’t be pigeonholed, surely it’s down to us as individuals as part of wider society to just live and let live, certainly for something that’s as trivial (and none of anyone else’s business) as what people look like?

    • Katielase
      Posted August 23, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Now there’s a question for therapy! I cry because I feel like I’m failing to meet expectations. I know it’s not right, and I’m working very hard on starting to stop living by what I SHOULD be and do. Habits of a lifetime though! I’m not a confident person.

      I absolutely agree with your second paragraph, and I’ll say again, I think these pigeonholes and stereotypes are as damaging to men as to women, in a lot of cases. People should just be people, with tastes and likes and dislikes and styles.

      K x

  10. Zan
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Genius post Katie. Totally agree. Will come back and comment properly when I’ve stopped laughing at this: “…because I was potentially excited that if I did enough press-ups I’d start being able to sing in tune, or alternatively worried that press-ups are the pathway to Kaballah…”

    :D

  11. Posted August 23, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I love this post, I really do. I adore righteous indignation in the mornings. It’s why I look forward to elections.

    I like muscles on women. I like muscles on men. Personal preference. It’s not because I find it sexy, it’s because I admire people who can do awesome, amazing things with their bodies, even if that’s just lifting a heavy box. I’d like more visible muscles. I’m actually quite strong, it’s just buried under chub from eating too many bacon sandwiches. As I get older I find I’m more and more in awe of the human body and how it changes and what it can do.

  12. Posted August 23, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Bollocks indeed, Katie, bollocks indeed. Also that quote from Zoe Smith is fantastic. You don’t hear anyone going on about how scrawny Mo Farah is, but there are endless shots of the beach volleyball players’ bums…

    Being feminine should be being comfortable in your own skin enough to be proud to be a woman. A woman’s body can do some incredible things, not to mention her mind. We should be proud of that and the way that we all chose to be different types of women. Seriously, we need to STOP being judgmental about other women’s choices.

  13. Jessie
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I always think that the phrase ‘each to their own’ should be drilled into us much earlier on. I know my husband finds me attractive but then I also have male friends who think I’m too big (I’m a size 12 for context here). Whilst I think it’s pretty rude that they told me this I also realise that I don’t think they’re attractive either, so why do I care what they think? This striving to be perfect is actually impossible – because in who’s eyes does that perfect lie?
    I could waffle on for hours with my circular thoughts, infectious insecurity being a big one.

    Doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could wear shorts!!!

    • Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Whilst I want to thump your male friends for that dickish comment, you’re completely right. Why do I get indignant? Who cares? Why do I care if they care?

      This post and the comments have been EMPOWERING.

      • Becca
        Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        I have a colleague who just dumped his girlfriend for “not taking care of herself” e.g. she put on weight (and became a size 12). His new girlfriend has (sorry for being so rude here) a face like a slapped arse but a perfect size 8 6ft 2 figure. He even admits that he finds her boring compared with his former girlfriend.

        The women of the office descended and demanded to know what would happen when his new girlfriend became pregnant, put on weight…or god forbid something happened and she couldn’t work out and keep that perfect trim bottom and he just shrugged.

        Thank God all men are not such DICKS.

      • Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        @Anna, I agree! After the shocking week I’ve had, this post has just drop kicked me out of my feeling-sorry-for-myself stupor. Talk about empowering – I feel ready to do anything! @Katielase I love you a little bit right now.

      • Jessie
        Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        I have to admit it hurt when he said it, lifetime insecurities etc. I was INCREDULOUS all the way back up the northern line. But my husband just turned to me and asked me why I cared what this guy thought about the way I looked – why was that important to me? Why was it that that had made me feel small when actually I’d just beaten him at Scrabble?! We just want it all don’t we.

        I love the feeling of empowerment that we so often get from AOW. It’s better than a mug of coffee for that morning pick me up!

  14. Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink
  15. Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Oh my days, I love this. I also love Zoe’s comment – what an eloquent young lady!

    I love me with muscles. I feel strong, solid and actually, feminine. I have better abs than the Mr, and he loves me for it. He loves that I train 10+ times a week, so that I can win medals with my sports teams. I feel feminine dripping with sweat but swinging my ponytail. I didn’t always train so hard, but I actually feel less feminine when I’m having an off week.

    When I feel good, I stand up straight, hold my head up and feel I could take on the world – be it cooking a 3 tier cake, chasing police officers round the city in steel toe caps(I actually do this), or lifting weights with my sports teams. I think being feminine is to be proud of your abilities as a woman, whatever they may be. And being strong means you can do them and kick ass at the same time!

    Lx

    • Lara Blue
      Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      <3

      • Katielase
        Posted August 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely everything about this comment made me want to cheer.

        K x

  16. Anon
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I LOVE THIS POST. Katie it is brilliant.

    I’m not a girly girl, but I can’t remember the last time I wore trousers. I just feel more comfortable in skirts and dresses, not least because bunging a dress on in the morning makes looking smart a lot easier (IMHO). That said, I am aware that one of the reasons I feel more comfortable in a dress is because I am heavier at the moment than I would like. Now, I can honestly say that the reason I want to lose weight is because I(!) don’t feel healthy right now, but I’d be lying if I said that the time my female boss told me after a drink that I’d definitely piled it on recently (‘at least a stone!’ she said) didn’t upset me. How does SHE know that I’m not happy being a stone heavier (which has me starting to edge towards a 12 rather than a comfortable 10)? I’m not fat. I have curves, what of it? Why did she feel the need to comment on it? What chance do we have if other females don’t even support us and our bodies being our own?

    Whether I start to wear trousers when (Positive Mental Attitude) I’ve lost the weight or whether I carry on living in dresses, I’d still consider myself feminine. I cannot explain how much I admire those athletes and any woman I see who has muscle definition, but I don’t necessarily admire them for how they look, I admire them for their stamina, their perseverance and their motivation.

  17. Lara Blue
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    This is comment is coming with a disclaimer: THIS IS LONG. Make tea, get cake, or fruit or coffee or whatever your thing is…..Okay, I warned you:

    During my teenage years, I had a revelation (no, I DIDN’T turn to Kaballah)…I had a slightly abusive relationship with my body, my inner voice resembling a tiny Glaswegian comic with an inferiority complex and loudly voiced, sharp biting wit. I would tell myself I was fat, that I was ugly, that I was too pale (growing up in South Africa but of Scottish descent made this one a particular bugbear), too freckly (see previous bracketed comment) etc etc. Then one day, I thought “what would I say if a friend said any of this to me? Would I still be friends with them?” The answer was no. So after that, I was kinder to myself, more friendly if you like. Try it – think of an insecurity and imagine what your best friend would say about it. How different is it to your thoughts?
    Sometimes of course, other people are more critical of you than you are yourself. I remember visiting my step-grandparents in South Africa a few years after emigrating and the first words out of their mouths were “You got fat”. I cried (not at the time, I was indignantly raging inside and icily polite to their faces, but later it was too much). On the same trip, my father’s domestic helper came up to me with a beaming smile on her face, arms open for a hug saying “Oh Lara, you’ve gotten fat”. See in her culture, that’s a compliment, a sign of wealth- showing that your family has more than enough food on their table. It still upset me but not as much.
    After that trip, I started noticing things, yes I had gone from a size 10 to a 14 but what really irritated me was feeling weak, was needing to lie down for a minute after walking up the 7 flights of stairs to the flat. This is why I have always been motivated to exercise- to feel healthy and strong and fit.
    Until now…in the run up to the wedding, I have also wanted to lose some weight. Mainly because I really struggle with photographs of myself and what I have dubbed the “double chin of gloom”. It makes me sad, it makes me feel fat, it makes me feel ugly and I don’t want to feel like that about my wedding photos. Whilst reassuring me that I am beautiful and in no need of losing weight, my friends have been supportive. It is from the acquaintances or friend’s of friends that I have received criticism- “I hate seeing brides lose weight, it’s so anti-feminist” or “Don’t conform” or “You don’t need to lose weight, don’t you have more important things to do than go to the gym?”. Well, I’m not conforming to popular opinion, if I am doing this for me.
    And to be honest, I can’t tell if I’ve lost weight or not. But I feel better. I feel strong. I’m more appreciative of what my body can do, of the achievement in running down the road with muscles flexing and breath even (well, for the first little bit!). I feel powerful and I’m not going to accept criticism for that.
    RANT OVER. Thanks for reading :)

    • Katielase
      Posted August 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      This is my favourite comment. The first bit is so true, if someone spoke to me the way I sometimes speak to myself I would be outraged, and probably lamp them. We are so cruel to ourselves.

      The wedding thing? If you’re doing it for you, then ignore what anyone says and go at it, you deserve to feel your absolute best on your big day. That said, I dieted for my wedding day, yet in the pictures, in every single shot I’m in, you can’t see anything but my huge smile. There are shots that are not flattering to my arms or chins, but even I, my harshest critic, can’t see the flaws through the great big shining grin. You will be the same. I don’t regret the weight loss, I’m fitter and happier and stronger, but on my wedding day I didn’t care, I was too happy.

      K xx

      • Jessie
        Posted August 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        I am a friend to someone who beats herself up this badly. Sometimes I just want to shake her until the little demon flies out and splats into the wall. She was one of my bridesmaids and when she saw the wedding photos she was so was negative about how she looked in them all – and yet the pictures where I look like I’m bellowing like a fish wife she says I look beautiful because I’m so happy!
        Argh – brick wall – head against it!

      • Becca
        Posted August 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        I like the gym for me too. I was a lot bigger than you as a child and I had a turning point when someone thought I had just given birth to twins and their now size 10 mother (eight weeks after people size 10…whatever) was stood next to me. Someone had obviously said “the girl with dark hair” and they assumed it was me.

        Feminism is about CHOICE and if you choose to lose weight to feel good for YOU then sod what everyone else thinks. Its not Anti-feminist. I personally find the gym quite empowering (see how fast I can run and hear me ROAR etc etc etc….) and what can be more feminist than that?

        Think this is my favourite comment too.

      • Lara Blue
        Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

        Thanks y’all :)
        @Katie, I hope that outrage makes you doubt your inner critical voice sometimes and gives you the strength to metaphorically ‘lamp’ it! Hopefully I’ll just notice my smile too or the memories associated with each picture rather than criticising. Worst case scenario, even if I hate all the pictures, I’m sure I’ll feel beautiful on the day and that my husband-to-be will think that :)
        @Jessie, I have friends like this too. It’s so hard when someone you love refuses to see any of the reasons why you love them, or can only notice the bad things. It becomes an emptiness that’s hard to rail against, the way that disappointment is more defeating to face than anger.
        @Becca, yes it’s very empowering for me too. The process of exercising helps center me because it drags me out of my head and back into my body. Not to mention that it relieves stress too (I’m sure Katie could explain the science behind the release of endorphins excellently for us!)
        xx

  18. Lara Blue
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Also, fantastic post and fantastic comments! :)

  19. Zan
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Wow… amazing comments, love them ALL. I always joke that I’m a ‘rubbish’ woman as I can’t put on make-up very well at all, am a total geek and would much rather be comfy that wear very high heels (appreciate them, just can’t wear them!). But I’ve never thought of myself as unfeminine for those reasons and am always that bit gobsmacked when people voice those kind of opinions.

    Anyway – shall also raise a cry of ‘bollocks to it all’. Regardless of what we wear, think, do, look like we’re all women after all. Femininity is whatever we decide it to be.

    • Lara Blue
      Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

      We have the ovaries, right? Although I’m sure that flip comment could lead onto a whole other piece about “what makes a woman”…

  20. Frances
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I think this post has generated all my favourite comments ever (not least because I am useless with eyeliner too so it’s nice to know I’m not alone!).

    Insecurity seems to be a massive part of femininity and yet it shouldn’t be. We are so used to it being pointed out that so-and-so is the first woman to do something or that there is a lack of woman in such and such a sector, or that you need that tan to attract that man, it’s no wonder that we feel unsure as to whether we are doing the right thing in life. If it was just seen as normal for women to have muscles, not have muscles, wear heels or trainers or flipflops or biker boots, we and younger generations would not be so insecure about whether it’s ok for a woman to be how she wants to be.

    The question is how do we dispel these myths and get it out there that feminism is just being a woman in the way that’s right for you?

  21. Katielase
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    All of these comments have made me want to shout HELL YES a lot. It is so ridiculously empowering to see so many women standing up and effectively saying “I am what I am. Bugger off.”

    You’re all ace, as always.

    K x

  22. Posted August 23, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    I love this, I wish I’d had time to comment properly today to join in the chorus.

    I’m not sure if it’s the case that I’ve only really started noticing this covert sexism recently, or that we’ve taken a step backwards, but suddenly it seems to be everywhere. It makes me furious like nothing else. Even on my PT course (where you’d think all strong body types would be embraced) I had comments made about me by my tutor because I was a size 12 girl rather than the other 10s and 8s and stood out for it. Not derogatory, just remarking, and that’s almost worse in a way. My body could actually do more than a lot of those girls, in spite of them working in the fitness industry. Nobody commented on that though.

    If you haven’t read this already, you should:

    http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/08/21/everyday-sexism-what%E2%80%99s-the-big-deal/

    Px

    • Lara Blue
      Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      Good article Penny!
      From my perspective, I assess my instructors at the gym on how good they are at what they’re doing rather than how they look whilst doing it or what size they are…
      That’s not to say I don’t envy their lovely hair or lack of sweatiness or toned body parts etc. but it’s secondary for me. Ability first, not appearance.
      x

  23. Posted August 24, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I LOVE THIS POST. I am getting quite annoyed at all the insidious sexism going around at the moment and trying to not let it get to me

    For example, if I pluck or don’t pluck my eyebrows as a result of what society expects (conforming or rebelling) I am still letting it control me. If I choose to pluck my eyebrows because I don’t like looking like a raccoon (I don’t) then it is personal choice. But there is so much of this feminine/unfeminine stuff and it really annoys me so I love this post. LOVE it. Thank you.

  24. Rach M
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Katie, I love you. You are ace. Not only are you are brilliant supportive cheerleader to all other contributors, when you write yourself it is ace and bang on the money. Yes there is all this insidious sexism going on. Yes to smoking it out and calling people on it. No no no to people criticising choices and making comments on size to people. How dare they?

    Sorry for not posting on this sooner but I was out yesterday and I forgot to check in here. I went to the beach. For the first time in YEARS. At the moment I am unhappy with my size and have started a programme with a trainer at the gym because I would like to lose weight before my wedding next year. I would. ME. Because I haven’t enjoyed the wedding dress shopping I’ve done so far, which is almost none. Because I don’t want to be the centre of attention looking like I do at the moment. But anyway, back to the beach. I haven’t been bikinied on the beach since I was a size 12, am now size 14-16. I went with M and his best mate, our best man. Before we left, I’d decided that I wasn’t brave enough to put on the bikini and told them in advance ‘…yeah but I’m not going in”. Nevertheless I threw my 1950s candystripe frilltastic (love it) bikini in the bottom of my bag. Just in case.

    It was a boiling hot day. By the time we got to this beach it was about 37 degrees. The boys stripped to their shorts without a thought and ran in. The sparkling sea looked delicious. I got more and more angry with myself. M loves me as I am and never makes any negative comments about my body but I was really pre-occupied with what his friend would think. Then I got up and thought ‘bugger it!”, got changed and went for it. The sea was delicious, the water warm with pockets of refreshing cool. I flipped around in delight. back on the beach I sat in my bikini drying off in the sun (didn’t think to bring a towel, oh well) and I marvelled at how brilliant it was and how refreshed I felt.

    And how I’d almost missed out on the experience from worrying about my body when it didn’t matter anyway. Great lesson. As my Mum would say “F&*$ the begrudgers!”

    *picks up AOW pompoms, does a little dance*

    • Posted August 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Hurrah for you Rach in all your frilltastic bikini glory!

      • Katielase
        Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        Rach, you are SO bloody brilliant. I love this story. I have definitely done the same thing, stopping myself from living life to the full because I was ashamed or embarrassed by my body. No. More. I sincerely doubt I will ever get to my death bed and lie there regretting that some people saw my less than perfect thighs on a beach, one time. Let’s all just be ourselves, yes? And the world can naff off.

        Also, I have serious bikini envy. I want FRILLS! I am actually now bikini shopping for frills online.

        K x

  25. Rach M
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Ahh thanks love! It was great. Was proud of myself! Xx

  26. Anne
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic post and comments. It reminds me of how I always wish someone wrote an article not on how to dress if you’re petite/pear/hourglass/striaght/any other shape considering ‘classic female’ but on how to dress if you’re a perfect hourglass bust-down but you have ginormous swimmer’s shoulder to hide. You’d never see that in Glamour.

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  • By The Friends That Made Me Me – Katielase on February 11, 2013 at 7:01 am

    [...] relationships with their own, and without fail, that relationship shapes who they are.  Katie, aka Katielase, has a remarkable relationship with her family.  And she knows it.  This is her [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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image by Lucy Stendall Photography

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