I am going to preface this post very clearly by stating that I am writing angry. Steam coming out of my ears angry. So there is even less of a filter or an edit on this than on any of my usual posts.
I am angry because I am tired of seeing men and women alike asking women to tone down their sense of femininity in order to stay safe on the streets. I am angry that that somehow gets aligned to being intellectual or not, somehow aspiring to be intelligent makes you immune from body-con dresses or high heels. I am angry that femininity remains reduced to hemlines and necklines in some worlds. And I am furious that the implication is that if you pay no heed, you deserve whatever may happen next.
I am no militant feminist but I am an aware citizen. And I am increasingly aware that women struggle to know what being feminine is. Just as men suffer from conflicting role models, so do we. From the Florence Nightingales to Angelina Jolie, from Hilary Clinton to Jordan, we are asked to be the madonna on the streets and the whore in the bedroom. We have to be able to turn our sexuality and sensuality off and on according to our maternal status, work life, partner’s wishes and cultural norms. We hear conversations where burqas are damned and where fat women are laughed at and some slim, yet curvy lady is pronounced hot. We also hear that mini-skirts are asking for it, some women are too skinny and covering up is common sense. Let’s just be real and agree that no one view will adequately encapsulate, celebrate and defend all that it is to be a woman for as long as it focuses on clothes and how they fit on a particular body. And let’s agree that it’s a conversation about women is different to a conversation about sex. And let it go without saying that skin is not inherently a welcome sign for another to be depraved.
I’ve grown up ‘knowing’ my hips are too wide (as stated by women) and my breasts too small (as stated by men). I am perceived to be smart and somewhat creative. I am applauded for being able to eat like a man and process thought like a man. And I am celebrated for being caring and able to empathise with the best of women. I don’t wear provocative clothing, in fact I often try to dress to escape attention, especially somewhere new. I lower my head when I walk past men in general and women alike. I do everything ‘right’ and yet I have been in an abusive relationship. And whilst I take ownership of my part to play in getting into it, I categorically will not accept that I courted it with provocative clothing or lascivious behaviour.
We live in a world now where people are so disenfranchised with their bodies that obesity is now a huge issue in Western society. We live in a world now where dancing and even singing is somehow sexual. Everywhere we look, men and women are objectified, and notoriety has become an end goal. But let’s be clear. This may be the world in which I live but my body is not a sexual object. Women are not built to be consumed and men are not arduous beasts who have no control over their drive to procreate or own. To reduce either sex to these stereotypes is a gross injustice.
I can only speak for me and I assure you: my body is just that, a body. It carries me from place to place and through my life. The fact that I care for it and respect it is what makes me and, by default, it attractive. When I am in the company of someone who makes me shine, I will become a more sensual being because that is simply a part of who I am. My femininity is defined by my softness and my connection to others. It is defined by me caring for others and flowing with life as best I can. I choose to move my body in flowing, fluid ways because it lights me up and it’s really that simple. There is no hidden agenda. That does not mean that sensual becomes sexual. There is only one person in my life who sees that side of me and so it will always remain.
I am one of the lucky ones. I have dedicated time to learning myself, not to be selfish but to be of better service to those around me. I danced as I used to about a year ago and tears flowed uncontrollably at the fact that I feel as though I can’t do that on a dance floor anymore without judgement. I am comfortable with the fact that I hug and kiss men and women alike to show affection, not flirtatiously for more. I CAN be just friends with men. I am somewhat torturously relearning to wear clothes that might just intimate a curve or two. I am a woman and I am relearning what it is to be feminine.
And couldn’t the world be a brighter place if you spent your time getting to you know who YOU are and what masculine and feminine is to you, instead of throwing opinions into the clamour? I guarantee it will be messy and I am sure that you’ll meet contradiction in yourself. But that’s the beauty of it all. Your beautifully chaotic and shifting world starts and ends with you, so build yours without underlying, insidious message of bodies being mere/ omnipotently sexual vessels. Build your world from love, not fear, where men and women can be all that they can be, celebrated and nurtured, aware of the beauty in their differences and how they stunningly complement each other. Because in truth, the world is counting on us to get at least this bit right.