Feminism and the performance of femininity: at what cost?

Irony can be found anywhere. As I was shaving my legs this morning (!) I was thinking about something two things I saw and 'shared' on FB recently and how they both contradict and support each other in their desire to support feminists (as differentiated from feminism). The first was the ever-inspiring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in the form of a letter to a friend on how to raise her daughter to be a feminist. Powerful stuff, beautifully written and in essence I agree with every word.

The second was sadder and more problematic. Less fire-up-the-imagination oratory, more back room strategy negotiation. Basically Sara Scheafer says that if you behave how your feminist self knows you should behave in order to fight the patriarchy there will be real life repercussions.
...And this is really hard to live with. It's HARD to know that if you live up to your ideals you will be vilified. Yeah, strong words, but the amount rage and abuse women who stand up loudly for feminism get you strong stuff. There are lots of stories about women being in effect forced off social media with the weight of abuse they cop. It's hard to know that if you teach your daughter to fight the patriarchy there are ways in which she will suffer for it. She will suffer in different ways without it. You are damned if you do, damned if you don't.
That's why I posted it on FB, that and the harder part, I could have written most of that myself (except for the part as dressing up as a zit for halloween! That's hilarious!) I added my comment:

Read this and stop beating yourself up about those times when you feel like you aren't 'enough' - I was an awkward child who didn't learn femininity early and it made my life as a kid pretty difficult (there are quite a few FB friends who knew me in primary school and can attest to that).
So next time you, your female friend, or someone your read about doesn't become 'a badass girl-boss' when confronted with male privilege, offer that person compassion rather than condemnation (especially if it's you! that's the hardest!). Fighting the kyriarchy is a long game and it's OK to play to your strengths and disengage in unwinnable battles and conserve your energy for fights that you have some chance of winning.
Learn about oppression and keep your compassion and you are fighting the good fight my loves.
...and I started thinking. Thinking about my past, my childhood, the bullying, my depression and realising that one feminist reading of all that sad soup might be to do with me not 'learning femininity early'. People ask me why I was bullied, and I joke that it was the tattoo on my forehead that has since been removed. They want to hear there was a concrete reason - I had glasses perhaps, or a lisp? It wasn't anything so simple though; it was a combination of being smart, precocious, annoying, and not realising that the only way I was really allowed to be these things was quietly, not taking up too much space and not damaging too many male egos in the process. The boys who were similar me didn't really get a hard time. I never fit into the two stereotypes available for smart girl: I was too loud to be the quiet bookish type, too funny and irreverent to be one of the A+ students. I like this reading because it fits well with my schema and gives history and consistency to me as a mouthy 43 year old. 

I am now going to formally forgive myself for my adolescent assertions that although I was a feminist I preferred the company of men because women were too bitchy and vacuous (I said it, I believed it, I was wrong on every count. Except I still don't enjoy the company of people who habitually put other people down, and I find it very difficult to connect with people who only talk about things or other people). I need to forgive myself for not squaring up for a fight every time someone supports or maintains the kyriarchy (if you don't want to look it up you can use my working definition: patriarchy + white, western capitalist hegemony) and congratulate myself on my small but persistent efforts to dismantle my small corner of patriarchal dominance (let me give you a hint, it start with questioning yourself. Why did I make excuses for not cutting your 3-4 year old son's luscious curls when strangers asked if he was a boy or a girl)


The personal is political, dream life edition.

I go through phases where I remember my dreams. They are often really funny, when they aren't tediously anxious (Why aren't I wearing pants? Why did they change the time for that very important thing that I have to go to, so now I can't get there on time? Why does this bathroom not have walls? All variations on a theme - anxiety is really, really boring). Often they feel like they are a message from my subconscious about the things that are happening in my life or current events but unfortunately my subconscious likes bad puns and is faintly cranky.

Last nights dream was pretty funny. I have clearly been thinking about the wonderful writer Clementine Ford and her recent switch of some boys and girls t shirts in kmart, and the discussion around that. There was also a question on another Facebook group about where a local mum could buy 'gender neutral' clothing. I piped up with my standard rant about no clothing being really gender neutral (go on, google 'gender neutral clothes for kids' and you will get jeans and t shirts, traditionally male attire) anyhow, all this must have been on my mind.

Dream-me was dressed as a bat trying to explain to someone that there was no gender neutral clothing, and things marketed that way were just boys clothes which reinforced the andronormative/androcentric world view. I didn't want to wear boys clothes or girls clothes so I was going to dress be a bat. At that point I was trying to hang upside-down on some stair railing and things got confusing. More confusing. But my fur was delightfully soft!