Chapter 18: Femme Fatale and Feminine Pressures
Empress & Her Spectacle: Femme Fatale and Feminine Pressures
I'm living in the era of Black girl magic, Blackout on Tumblr, and Thick (but you gotta spell it with two c's) girls being desirable. I should be thriving, and my self-esteem should be rose gold. Instead, I'm still breaking down in my bedroom when my thighs can't fit in pink overalls I ordered online. This travesty of a dramatic feeling occurs frequently. The desperation when clothing gets stuck or won't button is the absolute worst. It doesn't help that in a culture of loving slim thick cuties, I'm not making the body weight cut. On top of the winter fluff, spring rolls, and now summer tummy there is a lot of pressure to be feminine. Worse there is an excessive pressure to be feminine & desirable online.
Encountering and expressing femininity is in simple terms wild. Some might consider slathering on pink and bold lipstick as the means to a feminine end. In a time, where white feminism suggests to grab back, femininity and strength are entwining. The definition and expression of femininity are versatile and evolving but in some areas its regressing. As a woman of color who frequently presents femme, I've encountered a lot of issues with how my presentation is received. Specifically, in how I wear my natural hair. A lot of my instagram and facebook visuals showcase me with wild and colorful hair, or in some curly dehydrated wig. In case dear reader you knew nothing of wigs, they are bought and worn by people all over. Its not a new concept, or a new stylistic choice. Its also not just black women who wear hair extensions, wigs, or some form of weave. If you believe every person you encountered is rocking their natural hair, you might be one foolish mortal. Regardless hair is hair, its an extension of self and often a place to express style creatively. So its no surprise that when it comes to hair, what it means to be feminine can be portrayed through the style. I kept my hair short for two years, and now going on three. I shaved it down to my Indiana Jones crystal skull, walking around looking like a general in Wakanda. When I started dating more, and exploring my options it never occurred to me how having my hair contributed to my presentation of femininity. People, men in particular, felt some type of way in regards to their attraction to a non-hair having woman. The comments I received in regards to my shaved head, I will personally never forget. It felt like a time loop, where I was stuck in middle school hearing kids ask me if I had cancer because my hair was shaved off. Here were grown, job having, degree having, a car having, people confused that they found me attractive despite the length of my hair. The audacity of that confusion to this day baffles me.
Policing the body of women of color
Perhaps my struggles with presenting femininity is simply a lack in belief that I present feminine visuals. How I carry myself and how i present are often not viewed as gentle and soft. Peers view me as confident and bold, but were those ideals inherently feminine? As a curvaceous black woman, with a figure to inspire galactic empires to ruin, the bold confident flair that comes with my melanin is surprisingly not coming across as feminine but only as sexual or seductive. Thus contributing to the horrific societal culture that black bodies are only sexual objects, or meant to be seen as such. Which fun fact, comes in micro-aggressive racism, and dating while black. Considering my past dates and how they commented on my appearance, this showed me that they did not view me as feminine but only in a sexual sense. Why else would suggestions like grow my hair out, or wear this and that come up in casual conversations. So me, and my body were at odds in presenting femininity and not just sexuality.
There is someone out here reading this blog post of my musings, and thinking don't all women suffer the pressures of femininity in the same way? The answer is no, and in even cruder terms Hell no. White women can literally get away with murder and be presented in the softest of angelic views. On that glorious pedestal of privilege they are viewed in the manner they wish to present and more, with little to no questions or commentary. So why do women of color suffer under femininity? In my experience of various communities and settings women of color are put under a harsher lens. Often due to our society following the structure of European beauty standards, and of course a lack of positive representations. The fight to love ones body, and enjoy things like pastel aesthetics and beauty trends meant for paler skin tones is difficult. Especially with how some communities favor light skin as cute, or by default desirable. Don't even let me get started on how certain communities fantasize and fetishize certain body types. So whats a woman of my worth supposed to do? Live in a cave and hope for the instagram best? Pushing myself to believe that I am soft and feminine is significantly harder when I constantly have to be strong and bold, while living with comments meant to derail my dreams of being cute. Women of color in my various communities are ridiculed, and told they shouldn't wear this and that, or their clothing comes a little too short to be acceptable. What about Becky with her whole flat not even pancake worthy butt hanging out? Are her shorts too short or take away from her femininity? Is she seen as a sexual object or a feminine ideal? I question the cultural source of slut-shaming and how its generally directed to women of color and their presentations. Sexuality should not take away from feminine presentations in those who wish to present femme but in communities of color these visual standards are separated.
I'm not saying European beauty standards are ugly, but I am saying that those beauty standards don't apply to everyone in a healthy uplifting way. Not only that they are significantly outdated. Eradicating the pressure to appeal to those standards will encourage women of color to be open and positive about their feminine expressions. We as a society need to stop believing feminine ideals as being solely eurocentric. There are people out here expressing femininity, being rejected by the communities they are in because of favoritism to outdated beauty standards. It's 2018, let femininity expand beyond Eurocentric presentations of what it means to be feminine.
- Empress pastel fail Jade