IHM has a nice post – which is actually a series of questions (so, as always on her blog, read the comments too) – on what, why and wherefore of femininity.
The question that interested me the most was the title of her post: “Do you consider yourself ‘feminine’ – how important is that to you? Why?”
It made me think about the ways in which I am feminine and why I choose to be that way. Most of them relate to my appearance. I enjoy dressing up in a feminine way. I like skirts and little dresses and pink and jewellery and make-up and arched eyebrows and slim ankles and painted nails and lots of bags and shoes and crossing my legs.
Sometimes I think I should be rejecting many of these trappings that are symbolic of casting women in an accessories-only or objectified role. But I like most of them to much.
The one liberating thing about pregnancy was that it really enabled me to be fat, ungroomed, flatfooted and pay nothing except the most basic attention to my appearance (i.e. put on whichever clothes fit and were not pajamas). People would excuse my disarray because I was with child, or so I told myself. Mainly I did not have the energy to think about my appearance what with the constant puking, then constant eating, then lugging all that weight around, and being unable to actually bend over and shave one’s own legs.
I found that when I delivered my babies, though, and regained some semblance of my old shape, I was eager to get back into my old (and new) stylish clothes, to experiment with make-up, to divest myself of my body hair. It was interesting experience for me. Having broken many of the habits of the past, such as taking a certain amount of care over how I dressed, which ones I really missed.
My first pleasure was in my weight. It was good to watch myself burgeon but I really do not like how my face looks with three chins. I also found it exhausting to physically carry all that weight around. I lost the weight without much conscious effort – breastfeeding and then going on half-hearted but paranoid diet, not to lose weight, but because I was terrified something in my milk was causing colic in my baby.
With my figure, my clothes, accessorizing and make-up then came back with a vengeance. Nearly every person in my office has commented, as politely as possible, on how good I’m looking these days. Then, shaving my legs and underarms regularly. My eyebrows had kind of gone mad and I just let them be though I longed for a better shape. (I am not capable of plucking my own eyebrows and neither are most of the Chinese beauticians here. Plus I refuse to pay an arm and a leg for eyebrow shaping. Therefore I need to wait till I have time for a facial)
Now about the body hair removal. It is true that only women do it. And it is no pleasant task though mostly not as torturous as it sounds also. I am not of the undergoing extreme pain for my looks kind. Thus, no bikini waxes for me. And I will not regularly bleach anything either – least of all my vagina – because of the cancer risk. But yes, I do engage in the onesided practice of divesting my limbs of their natural hair. Honestly, I think it looks better. And I get that this aesthetic is a socially conditioned one. I am also prone to going out in a skirt with a bit of stubble. And just wearing trousers for ages. But I will not wander the streets sporting my hairy legs in all their natural glory. This is one aesthetic I can’t shake myself off.
I might add that I would be mightily upset if my husband sprouted a moustache and beard also. I encourage him not to shave every day though.
The one big thing that I have given up is high heeled shoes (and by this I mean the very very high ones), not that I own many of these or ever wore them. But I give up aspiring to wear them also or buying them in the hope I will wonder wear them. Having worn flats for almost three years straight due to back-to-back pregnancies, I just cannot take easily to the discomfort of tottering around in stilettos. I agree they are pwetty, like objects of art for the feet. I also agree that they do elongate the leg and make one look more statuesque. But I do not believe this is worth backache and blisters.
The more I think about them, the more I see women stoically clomping around even hilly Hong Kong in them, the more they irritate the hell out of me. Have you noticed that the major high fashion shoemakers – Jimmy Choo, Guissepi Zannoti, Mahnolo Blahnik – all make extremely high heeled painful looking shoes? And the mid-range market has followed suit. It has become almost impossible inHong Kong, and increasingly inIndia, to find a formal heeled shoe that is not ridiculously high. As tired a cliché as it is, footbinding comes to mind.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I understand that men find them sexy and that gives one a sense of power and also, I suppose, that they actually look and probably can (but never are) used as weapons. But really, there are easier ways. A shorter heel and a well-cut jacket with power shoulders and a nail file is an easier way to achieve the same punch. Or even just good posture, which let me assure you, you will not have for very long if you put your back through that kind of stress everyday.
I understand that fashion is on the flurry line between art and craft and that it takes effort. But effort should not mean endangering ones health or being really really uncomfortable every day.
So yeah, show me a towering heel, and I’ll give you an eyeroll.