Performing femininity

I gave leadership last month, as a gift to four Quakers. I had an email from one of the — committee, explaining that he could not possibly do the job. Their usual way of proceeding is unwieldy, and he had no time. I emailed them all saying give us a result, by this easier way. Four days later we got a result- perhaps not perfect, but good enough, and possibly as good as Proper Quakerism™ would have given.

I made life easier for people. I took away worry. I either took a decision for them or at least enabled them to make it for themselves. I told them what to do, and this was service to them. It’s a thing I am proud of.

I have not had a go at defining femininity for more than a year. I have been referred to I Blame the Patriarchy and am having my mind blown by acceptance that a trans woman should not have to have the operation before joining a women’s college, alongside loathing of femininity as an oppressive patriarchal construction.

I phoned a woman today and got her office answerphone. There was no hint of apology in the authoritative “I am in the office this week but away from my desk at the moment.” I was in a hurry and needed to speak then, and wonder whether that was the cause of my discomfort, or whether I have some oppressive feeling that women should be apologetic.

Just after I transitioned, a man told me a story showing how clever/ resourceful/ manly he was, and I thought, I could tell a story capping that- but I don’t need to any more. I smiled at him.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote in the 18th century that women would think like men if they were educated like men. That would be the end of the oppressive differences.

Do wives care more about the house being clean and tidy, or is it that men know the woman will give in first? Christmas 1996, my sister tidied all the new toys away and hoovered the floor, before the adults shared more wine. Her husband was irritated at her working when the toys would be strewn as soon as the children woke. Columnist says he dumps the toys in the toy-box, his wife wants to sort them neatly.

That wig. My left eye peers out past a thick lock of real hair, and I love it. I feel beautiful. Shelagh understands and sympathises. Empathy is her job, she is a psychotherapist, but I get the feeling that she would feel just the same way. Over seventy, much of her attractiveness is winsome, playful femininity.

Feminine sexual attractiveness is highly prized. Do you blame women for using any trick they can?

I dolled myself up to go out. Organza de Givenchy, eyeshadow, mascara, lipstick; high heeled boots; performing femininity. I wanted to. I liked it. I am glad I don’t put white lead on my face. People did not know it was poisonous, but it was women who painted.

Difference, oppression: I am groping here. What does it feel like, is it false consciousness,



Monet the three trees Autumn effect

2 thoughts on “Performing femininity

  1. Difference, oppression: I am groping here.

    If that’s any consolation, Clare, many of us do. Although for most of us that groping is not so existentially acute as we do not have have the experience of being trapped in a wrong body.

    What does it feel like, is it false consciousness

    I’m in my 6th decade of life and I don’t know. Being exposed to radical feminism is opening my eyes on the layers of reality I’ve not seen, or not paid attention to before, even though I sensed them and observed some of their fragments.

    I would say that groping is good. Groping is creative, or at least suggestive of a restless and questioning mind. Blessed be the gropers, for the alternative — of unwavering certainty — is too often destructive.


    • It is possible that in tolerance of dirt, the median woman is less tolerant than the median man. This could possibly be hormonal/physical rather than cultural. I could find internet fora where that possibility is dismissed out of hand, or held as absolute proof of something.

      I have been told that, being brought up male, I am one of the oppressors. I am concerned not to be an oppressor, but not necessarily to accept a particular commentator’s understanding of what is oppressive, and also to know and express myself: avoiding oppressing constrains me, so I need to know what is oppressive.

      Liked by 1 person

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