This weekend was one of the weddings I’ll be attending this summer, as well as the opening event in the very, very busy lead-up to CONvergence. Which means that this weekend was the first time in a couple of years I’ve worn a nice dress for any occasion.
I’ve never been a girly girl. Never ever. And my stance on makeup is unchanged from what it was when I last blogged about it. But I have finally come to peace with why sometimes I like wearing skirts — when the rest of the time I can’t figure out why on earth I own more than one.
I’ve finally come to terms with the divide between that which is feminine and that which is beautiful.
And what I learned about myself is that I don’t give two ratshits for femininity, but I am okay with beauty.
I feel that I need to clarify that my interpretation of femininity is not one I often conflate with my perception of my own gender. I am a cisfemale. For me, “femininity” is not a marker of gender at all, but of society. I can say that because I am cisfemale, because I live in a body and in a world that identifies me as female even in the ruggedest and manliest of attires. This is a privilege I have because of how I was born and the world in which I live. So please do not think that I am speaking in general terms about this or that my interpretation of “femininity” is in any way meant as an insult to those who are not cisfemale. I am truly speaking only for myself here.
To me, it is very hard for me to separate the idea of “femininity” from the societal role of women in a very traditional sense. Femininity which is about sex appeal holds NOOOOOOO interest for me. Femininity which highlights being demure, or generally which is pitched to suggest a lesser-ness compared with someone male-presenting, is not my thing. It’s hard for me to look at something which is inherently “feminine” and not see the ways that such “femininity” is at the cost of equality when compared to “masculinity.”
But I don’t purposefully go in for “masculinity,” either. I just want to be me, dammit. I just want to be the way I am, and to be received on my own merits.
So a lot of how I dress or how I carry myself is kind of…neutral? I don’t show off curves, typically, or cleavage. In casual settings, I wear shorts or jeans and t-shirts, or sweatshirts. For business casual, I rely a lot on polo shirts or on layers which somewhat obscure my shape. I don’t try for “pretty.” I try for looking like myself.
The things a person wears can say a lot about who they are or what they’re trying to go. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I know how to do it fairly well. What you wear, how you are perceived, these can be disguises or they can be armor. They can be strategic or they can be overt. It’s a game, and one I can play when I have to — like in a job interview — but not one I play except when there is a need. Being myself is both disguise and armor enough.
Also? I hate hate hate wearing anything that would be a problem in any kind of emergency. All the way back to high school, I chose my formal dresses and shoes based on “could I run after a purse snatcher or crawl over a car in this?” That practicality has only gotten more ardent as I get older. Now it takes a really, really good reason for me to wear anything in which I couldn’t crawl into or out of a burning car.
Some of that is the CVG Operations in me — I’m always ready to be ‘on duty’ even in the off season.
But it also feeds my sense of self, my sense of strength. There are women, cis and trans, who draw strength from their femininity. I am somewhat in awe of them, because I don’t understand it for myself. I’m too aggressively neutral in my presentation. There are so many women who feel better about themselves when they know they look sexy, that they find power and confidence in it. I think that is awesome.
But it’s not for me.
So I just typically don’t ‘do’ femininity except under special circumstances.
However, I have learned I am okay with beauty.
The dress I wore to the wedding isn’t what I would call strictly “feminine.” It’s not fluffy or delicate or particularly genteel. It’s also not terribly sexy, I don’t think.
I could be wrong on that, I suppose. Sexiness is in the eye of the beholder. It IS form-fitting, but it’s not dramatically low-cut, and it doesn’t exactly hug my curves even if you can see them. It’s a nice dress, but I don’t think there’s anything about it that makes it bombastic or alluring in any particular way.
What I like about it particularly well is that it shows off my unusually broad shoulders and strong arms. I like that it’s easy dance in, easy to sit in (not a given in womens’ clothing!), easy to eat food in (even less a given!). I like that it’s made of something sturdy enough that I can crawl under a church pew or swing a godkid around in my arms and not worry. I like that it is a strong, slightly-dramatic color that tends to be eye-catching.
It doesn’t particularly make me feel beautiful, but it’s a beautiful dress and it makes me feel like a very grown up, differently badass version of myself. And it does NOT make me feel feminine.
The things in life that I find truly beautiful rarely have anything to do with gender. Sunsets and sunrises, deep forests and waterfalls, starry skies and candle lights. They’re beautiful without being feminine or masculine. Their beauty is innate, is their own, because it is inherent and it is not artifice. It is their beauty because it is their truth.
I’m never going to like the artifice of femininity for myself, I don’t think. But I am okay with beauty — as long as it is ME. And frankly? I’d rather be ugly and be myself anyway.
My best self lives inside my heart and my brain. What I wear on the outside can sometimes make me feel more comfortable (or less comfortable, as the case may be) in my own skin, but it cannot redefine me. Only I can do that.
And I do not define myself by my femininity.
Frankly, I don’t define myself by my beauty, either. ‘Cause I’m not. And I don’t care.
But, for special occasions, I don’t mind the effort to be myself in a slightly different package.
As long as I can still get shit done when shit needs doing.