Why Teen Vogue is killing it
December 20, 2016 8:34 AM   Subscribe

"Everyone loves rainbow highlighters. They make you look like a beautiful pixie who fronts a glam-rock band. Also, white nationalism is a cancer on our democracy. Women are capable of holding both of these truths in their minds, and prioritizing them accordingly." The true story of how Teen Vogue got mad, got woke, and began terrifying men like Donald Trump
posted by olinerd (127 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, if we're going to deny our children any kind of pleasant future, it's natural they'd want to know about it.

Sometimes people forget that the modern idea of "conservative" politics is hostile and invasive not only to women and minorities, but also children, particularly around education.
posted by selfnoise at 8:43 AM on December 20, 2016 [76 favorites]


Donald Trump is not afraid of Teen Vogue. He is, at best, irritated by it. (This is a good story to tell, though.)
posted by Going To Maine at 8:44 AM on December 20, 2016 [12 favorites]


I found the article to be interesting to read but I feel like the title overpromises quite a bit.
posted by hippybear at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


The true story of how Teen Vogue got mad, got woke, and began terrifying men like Donald Trump

I don't get the impression that anyone is particularly terrified.

It's a good article, but it reaches the same people all these articles do.
posted by durandal at 8:46 AM on December 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


Am I wrong that at least some women's magazines were publishing feminist stuff before the internet feminist revolution? I recall Elle publishing stuff by fairly conventional white feminists, and I think that there was a period when Self did a lot of advocacy for reproductive freedom. I could be making a mistake about the timeline, but I've thought for a long time that some women's magazines were smarter than people gave them credit for. They've also been deeply problematic in some really profound ways, but they can be two things at once.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:48 AM on December 20, 2016 [22 favorites]


Am I wrong that at least some women's magazines were publishing feminist stuff before the internet feminist revolution?

Well, Ms. Magazine was started by Gloria Steinem in 1972....
posted by hippybear at 8:50 AM on December 20, 2016 [14 favorites]


Yes, I think the article notes that they have often been on the forefront of topics like contraception rights.
posted by selfnoise at 8:53 AM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh please, the only people who would be afraid of a magazine like Teen Vogue are small minded, insecure men who have bad cases of Imposter Syndrome and think every slight requires a massive respons........

Oh, OK. Gotcha.
posted by Frayed Knot at 8:54 AM on December 20, 2016 [53 favorites]


Donald Trump is not afraid of Teen Vogue.
...
I don't get the impression that anyone is particularly terrified.


Yet.
posted by Etrigan at 8:54 AM on December 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


I think what Teen Vogue is doing is fantastic. Wondering this am how we can support them, if we aren't a teen or in a household with teens.
posted by stevil at 8:59 AM on December 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


I see we are only eleven comments in and already several people have shown up to tsk-tsk over the fact that Teen Vogue has the temerity to be the slightest bit hyperbolic with their title choice, as if that practice isn't also completely commonplace in mainstream journalism.
posted by scantee at 9:09 AM on December 20, 2016 [88 favorites]


I think it is incredibly awesome and responsible that the staff at teen vogue would use their powers for good. I don't think it will make trump disappear but it sure as hell might engage some youngins that maybe otherwise wouldn't have been and that is a damn good thing.
posted by ian1977 at 9:17 AM on December 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


It's not even Teen Vogue's headline. But yes, heaven forbid that someone give young women too much credit. It's really very important that we carefully police any discussion of young women to make sure that they're receiving adequate criticism and not being taken too seriously.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:21 AM on December 20, 2016 [131 favorites]


I'm not sure qz's editor or Sady Doyle (i.e. the parties that can be said to be responsible for the headline) can be described as young women in the way that you mean, but to be clear, that's what's been criticised in the thread.
posted by Dysk at 9:25 AM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


[Couple deleted. The point about the title has been made, let's move on from that.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:26 AM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Call it Dworkin’s Curse: For decades, feminists struggled to overcome the perception that they were sexless, grim bra-burners, uninterested in pleasure or aesthetics. Now that feminists are finally willing to talk about makeup and Beyonce, we get stereotyped as fluffy.

Ah, the "thank goodness feminists have finally been freed from the total-bummer shackles of their foremothers so we can talk about fun things like makeup" flag flies again. Radical feminist ideology has been outré since forever, but for reasons beyond the scope of my comprehension, bowdlerized versions of a handful of its tenets get resurrected every time a liberal feminist wants to traffic in "gross misandrist bra-burner vs. happy fun pretty woman who totally doesn't hate men at all, no way" caricatures. Which is especially weird when you consider that these same liberal feminists tend to get all rah-rah go-team about the movement as a whole.

A whole hell of a lot of feminists have never even contemplated, let alone struggled to overcome the perception that we are pleasureless, sexless, or grim, because we are much less concerned with what people think about us than we are about, like, women's liberation. Observing that feminists are "finally willing to talk about makeup and Beyonce" neatly elides the fact that women have long been culturally and financially rewarded for performing in alignment with their assigned gender role and punished -- usually, if not almost always by other women -- for failing to pledge a sufficient amount of allegiance to stereotypically 'feminine' interests. It is not a coincidence that behaviors, preferences, and careers associated with women are much more likely to be depreciated (and vice versa), just as those associated with men are much more likely to be seen as serious and worthy of respect (not to mention compensation). The debasement of 'femininity' and adulation of 'masculinity' is Patriarchy 101, not a curse from Andrea Dworkin...

Am I wrong that at least some women's magazines were publishing feminist stuff before the internet feminist revolution?

Not at all!
posted by amnesia and magnets at 9:27 AM on December 20, 2016 [60 favorites]


I'm pretty shocked that the piece ignores the fact that Elaine Welteroth (the new editor at Teen Vogue) is a black woman: the magazine has taken a strong stance on racial justice both in its political pieces and in the balance of its fashion and entertainment coverage.
posted by libraritarian at 9:29 AM on December 20, 2016 [48 favorites]


Great piece! Thanks for posting. The four sentences quoted in the OP are wonderful, wonderful writing.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:30 AM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not at all!

Sassy was rad AF back in the day.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:31 AM on December 20, 2016 [28 favorites]


No mention of Bust or Bitch in the history? Piffle.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


(Rather, piffle at the history, hooray for the general message.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Am I wrong that at least some women's magazines were publishing feminist stuff before the internet feminist revolution? I recall Elle publishing stuff by fairly conventional white feminists, and I think that there was a period when Self did a lot of advocacy for reproductive freedom. I could be making a mistake about the timeline, but I've thought for a long time that some women's magazines were smarter than people gave them credit for. They've also been deeply problematic in some really profound ways, but they can be two things at once.

Before WWII, women's magazines were long-form journalism marketed to women, often written by women. If I remember right, John Dewey published philosophy pieces in Cosmopolitan back in the 30s. The really big shift to sex, lifestyle, and fashion was solidified in the 1970s as I recall.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


"I think what Teen Vogue is doing is fantastic. Wondering this am how we can support them, if we aren't a teen or in a household with teens."

Several folks on Twitter are donating subscriptions to girls who want them, first come first serve. I've seen several "Who wants one?" tweets. You could also donate subscriptions to your local library, school library, children's hospital, etc. If you know an interested young lady (niece, neighbor, friend's kid), give her a subscription for Christmas.
posted by jhope71 at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2016 [18 favorites]


SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE $5, PEOPLE
MAKE IT RAIN
posted by redsparkler at 9:40 AM on December 20, 2016 [36 favorites]


Teen Vogue has also been making my watchlists this year for coverage of LGBTQ issues. They were one of the few mainstream outlets to give Eliel Cruz a byline to discuss the link between intimate partner violence and biphobia during that whole scandal, and have given favorable coverage to young LGBTQ women and nonbinary persons.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:43 AM on December 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


Other places to donate a subscription to a homeless shelter, a legal aid clinic waiting room, a neighborhood community center (particularly if you have one for teens).

But yes, this article was pretty thin on the "women's" journalism that is not the BlogOSphere. Also, I can't possibly be the only member of the choir who feels like she just got stupider every time I read something posted at Jezebel?
posted by crush-onastick at 9:46 AM on December 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty shocked that the piece ignores the fact that Elaine Welteroth (the new editor at Teen Vogue) is a black woman: the magazine has taken a strong stance on racial justice both in its political pieces and in the balance of its fashion and entertainment coverage.
Yeah, it does, which is weird, because most of the other Teen-Vogue-is-awesome coverage has put that in the foreground.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:52 AM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's to normalize her by not treating it as newsworthy.

Also, I can't possibly be the only member of the choir who feels like she just got stupider every time I read something posted at Jezebel?

"It's a bad habit I don't encourage in another. Give it up by not taking it up."
posted by rhizome at 9:56 AM on December 20, 2016


Reading Jezebel keeps me off the streets. I have to have some kind of outlet for my pop culture gossip needs, and I'd rather get it from them then wander into corners of the Internet focusing solely on that stuff.
posted by redsparkler at 10:01 AM on December 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


It really bothers me that I went into that article for the behind-the-scenes look and a better sense of what TV is doing politically besides the pieces that made it on to my radar, and the biggest thing I came away with was OMG that rainbow highlighter!

The problem, it is me.
posted by Mchelly at 10:07 AM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Earlier today, I helped select role models for middle aged women setting out on paths to power - Tarja Halonen and Angela Merkel came to mind. Both project a comfortable post menopausal dumpiness, yet both successfully were and are much respected heads of state. One perhaps with far more power than the other due to the size of their respective economies and populations but still.

Then I started reading the article in the OP, and it struck me what a sharp difference in culture there is towards women's intellectual development. The issues in the article are NOT global. I speak even from my experience of thirdworldlandia which has seen it's own share of strong feminine intellectual discourse (Arundhati, Chimamanda leap to mind without effort), not to mention all the ladies sending stuff to Mars from Bangalore in their silk sarees.

Generalizing this culture of infantilization of the female (Stepford Wives for instance) to mere decorative fluff worrying about the latest Sexy Halloween costume to the rest of the world's cultures will, I think, hinder its evolution and development, when so much can be observed and learnt from other parts of the world.
posted by infini at 10:21 AM on December 20, 2016 [12 favorites]


Observing that feminists are "finally willing to talk about makeup and Beyonce" neatly elides the fact that women have long been culturally and financially rewarded for performing in alignment with their assigned gender role and punished -- usually, if not almost always by other women -- for failing to pledge a sufficient amount of allegiance to stereotypically 'feminine' interests. It is not a coincidence that behaviors, preferences, and careers associated with women are much more likely to be depreciated (and vice versa), just as those associated with men are much more likely to be seen as serious and worthy of respect (not to mention compensation).

Amnesia and magnets, I favorited your comment because in many ways it's excellent--especially given that I'm coming from the perspective of a woman who doesn't really give a shit about makeup* and many other traditionally coded femme things. But I want to ask--are... are you aware that in your irritation for being expected to care about these traditionally-coded things, you're participating in the depreciation of the interests that are associated with women? Because that's the sense I get loud and clear, and that's a conflict I'd like to sort of prod at here.

No one is forcing or penalizing you to care about these things, but I think it's fair for the magazine to note that feminists get it both ways--either they get derided for not caring about female-coded aesthetics stuff enough and therefore being ugly or mannish, or they get derided for caring about female-coded aesthetics stuff at all and thereby being, uh, girly and stupid and vain? Teen Vogue is, better or worse, a ladymag for women who do care about the pretty sparkly stuff, and frankly that's okay. We gotta have space for people who love sparkly rainbow highlighter, too! (And honestly, I am mostly just disappointed that we turned out to not be talking highlighter that I can draw on paper, 'cause that shit would be awesome; I don't see stuff that goes on my face, so mostly I just forget it exists.) I think that an article talking about Teen Vogue's example to sardonically lampshade that particular double standard is utterly reasonable, and I'm kind of curious as to why it got under your skin so strongly.

*Beyonce I keep needing to actually give some attention. I hear too many damn good things about her lyrics, even if (alas) her music often doesn't work for me.
posted by sciatrix at 10:22 AM on December 20, 2016 [30 favorites]


I suspect Bitch, Bust, and Ms were left out of this article because they had an explicitly feminist agenda from their inception. Readers (generally) knew what they were getting, and two of those magazines opted out of the problems women's magazines have by declaring themselves nonprofits and not running makeup or fashion advertising.

I think Sassy escaped some of the stereotypes associated with teen mags due to circumstance. Its first publishing company, Matilda, also published Ms at the time, and the CEO who created the magazine also worked on a girls' magazine in Australia that at the time had feminist-minded content. While Sassy's independence played a role in its downfall, the fact that they were coming from outside the teen-mag establishment meant that they could do things other teen mags couldn't because of the expectations their publishers had for them.

(I LOVED Sassy back in the day and wanted to write for them when I was old enough. I, um, know a lot about its rise and fall.)
posted by pxe2000 at 10:26 AM on December 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


People understood that a men’s magazine like Playboy could still feature hard-hitting articles and interviews, but Cosmopolitan was strictly for learning how to eat a donut off your man’s penis.

Aaaand, this was all I needed to read to decide each of my nieces, 25, 22 and 19 will be getting subscriptions to TEEN VOGUE this Christmas. Don't think my sister, as woke as she is, would be ok with the 11yr old getting in on this action too. Maybe next year....
posted by pjsky at 10:31 AM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Am I wrong that at least some women's magazines were publishing feminist stuff before the internet feminist revolution?

I read women's and teen girl magazines as a teenager in the 90s. Mainstream teen magazines were pretty much shit, but I remember Glamour doing lots of stuff about U.S. women's rights and U.S. Marie Claire almost always having a longform piece about "women's issues", often focused on issues facing women internationally. At some point both magazines seemed to shift away from writing and more towards lots of pictures and short copy.

And yes, Sassy was the holy grail of teen magazines. I love seeing that magazines for teenage girls are once again providing smart and political writing for their smart and political readership. It may not terrify Donald but I do get a small amount of joy thinking about how awful it must be for Ivanka's brand.
posted by lalex at 10:34 AM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Am I wrong that at least some women's magazines were publishing feminist stuff before the internet feminist revolution?

It depends on the magazine and the editor in chief. For example, in the early 1990s, Ruth Whitney was the editor in chief of Glamour, and I distinctly remember that the front-of-the-book sections often had advice about financial literacy, scorecards on which legislators were advocating for women's rights, and coverage of feminist artists who were challenging norms on relationships and children. She also installed an editorial policy that all thespians were to be called "actor," regardless of gender. She trained readers to be aware of the biases of the media's language.

I can still recall the shock I had when I opened the first Bonnie Fuller-edited issue of Glamour and saw that the monthly Congress-watch had been replaced by a horoscope. And when I wrote a letter to the magazine, the answer was that the magazine was focusing on fun. It was a useful lesson in how several women's magazines have actually done a wonderful job of positioning themselves as the Cool Girl who doesn't need feminism to feel confident about her place in the world. It's a great way to make a lot of money off internalized misogyny.
posted by sobell at 10:35 AM on December 20, 2016 [24 favorites]


I'm really curious to see how Rookie and (to a far lesser extent) Lenny are going to influence women's mags over the coming generation.
posted by pxe2000 at 10:38 AM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I can still recall the shock I had when I opened the first Bonnie Fuller-edited issue of Glamour and saw that the monthly Congress-watch had been replaced by a horoscope.

ohhhhhh my god, the day I ran to the mailbox and found the first Sassy published under the new Teen Magazine regime just crushed my soul.
posted by lalex at 10:39 AM on December 20, 2016 [13 favorites]


Que tu sois woke!
posted by blue_beetle at 10:43 AM on December 20, 2016


How would we place Helen Gurley Brown's own writing, and her editorial command of Cosmo (Burt Reynolds, google it younguns) in the era analysis of the change in women's media?

I'm old enough to remember older copies of Cosmo being more of an education than the shift later into more and more sex tips. (which always reminds me of Cynthia Heimel's writing)

Where are the voices today that evoke the era of the Woman's room (Marilyn French), First Wives Club, Erica Jong, and the like?

At some point something shifted. It would be educational to discover when exactly this happened, and perhaps try to see the larger sociopolitical context in which it took place.
posted by infini at 10:45 AM on December 20, 2016


Where are the women who were editrix and public personas in their own right? When WWD was powerful economically?

Will Elaine Welteroth be allowed to emerge into this sphere or has the sphere been destroyed only to be replaced by the attempts of the Gagas and the Beyonces to fill that vacuum?
posted by infini at 10:47 AM on December 20, 2016


I always preferred Teen Vague, the magazine for adolescents who can't totally be clear.
posted by jonmc at 10:52 AM on December 20, 2016 [12 favorites]


Since I got dogpiled about Helen Gurley Brown in a previous thread, I'm going to tread lightly here.

- HGB had some terrible prescriptive attitudes about weight and body image, and while her writing about sex was liberating for the time, it was focused on women making their partners happy in a way that hasn't aged well. She also espoused biphobia and some terrible attitudes towards lesbians.
- Up until the past few years, Cosmo doesn't seem to have employed a fact-checker and has run some notorious articles as a result (my personal favorite was a Bush-era piece by Linda Fairstein about how women lie about rape).

To their credit, Cosmo has run some credible, well-sourced articles during the election, and I hope they continue that streak.

As far as female publishing moguls, I think Tavi Gevinson's been doing a great job with Rookie, which has covered feminism from a lot of different perspectives that I hadn't seen in a teen magazine before. She and her team have published articles about intersectionality, class, and race, and it's been impressive to see the Rookie perspective on these issues. Lenny has run some decent work, but I do find they're not as good about intersectionality as other publications have been.
posted by pxe2000 at 10:57 AM on December 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


One of the things that I find interesting about your comment, infini, is that all the writers you mention are White women, and that their experiences were seen as universal at the time. For all of the importance of sexual agency in Fear of Flying, it was also written from the perspective of a White woman, and it had some grossly racist characters/depictions. (Isadora's husband is Asian, and the Beirut segment is pretty fucking awful.)

I do wonder if feminism and women's experiences have become so scattered (for want of a better word) that writing a universally beloved novel like Fear of Flying or The Women's Room is even possible now.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:09 AM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I do wonder if feminism and women's experiences have become so scattered (for want of a better word) that writing a universally beloved novel like Fear of Flying or The Women's Room is even possible now.

Excellent point.

One that makes me reflect on the zeitgeist growing up (I turned 14 and entered puberty in 1980, for context), and how the same zeitgeist evolved to throw up a Chimamanda who speaks, writes, and will be face of Boots #7 all at teh same time.

Thank you for that thoughtful insight.
posted by infini at 11:14 AM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


And pxe2000, just for context and background to what may come across oddly at times in my commentary.
posted by infini at 11:20 AM on December 20, 2016


No one is forcing or penalizing you to care about these things, but I think it's fair for the magazine to note that feminists get it both ways--either they get derided for not caring about female-coded aesthetics stuff enough and therefore being ugly or mannish, or they get derided for caring about female-coded aesthetics stuff at all and thereby being, uh, girly and stupid and vain?

I don't want to speak for anyone but myself, but like - there are loads and loads of female-coded aesthetic stuff magazines, and no humourless feminist magazines? I'm ugly and mannish as fuck, but there is literally nothing in the mainstream celebrating that, so it's pretty natural to get annoyed at all the "finally feminists can have highlighters and Beyonce and make up!" stuff when that's always been around, and fuck you*, I shouldn't need to give a crap about any of that shit to be taken seriously and there isn't actually a whole lot of media of the type we're now "finally" moving away from...

*General you, not any given you in particular
posted by Dysk at 11:27 AM on December 20, 2016 [18 favorites]


Dysk: Ms and Bitch are both great. Bust runs a lot of makeup/clothing/conspicuous consumption-type articles, and they don't have the greatest LGBTQIA record, but they have run some credible journalism in their time.

I tend to go on the internet for my humorless-feminist content.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:35 AM on December 20, 2016


None of that is particularly humourless in my opinion, nor is it particularly unconcerned with aesthetic, it just had a different aesthetic.

(This is also my issue with queer/feminist punk spaces - it's still fucking obsessed with looks, make up and fashion, there's just a different ideal. I want something that genuinely doesn't give a shit.)
posted by Dysk at 11:37 AM on December 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


I usually start here for more hard feminist news, FWIW.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:39 AM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


are... are you aware that in your irritation for being expected to care about these traditionally-coded things, you're participating in the depreciation of the interests that are associated with women? Because that's the sense I get loud and clear, and that's a conflict I'd like to sort of prod at here.

The implication that feeling irritated for being expected to conform to and maintain interest in stereotypical 'femininity' is functionally equivalent to kowtowing to the patriarchy is not exactly news to me; men (and women, but especially/mostly men) have been telling me as much since I was a kid.

As a radical feminist, I'm not in the business of wanting to encourage the embrace of the patriarchy's construction of what women are allowed to excel at or be interested in. I don't even believe in 'femininity' per se. Maybe you and the other people who take issue with my failure to display a sufficient amount of support or interest in 'femininity' think of it as a value-neutral constellation of traits less constructed than innate, in which case we are not going to see eye to eye no matter what. Or maybe you think there are practices and preferences that are simply immune to critique -- lots of modern feminists think makeup is beyond reproach, whether or not they wear it themselves -- in which case, ditto. Either way, you think there's a conflict between being a feminist and critiquing 'femininity' as a cultural institution, and I just... don't. I don't believe the so-called free choices touted by liberal feminism are truly free, or even much of a choice at all. And I won't stop being irritated by the implication that every woman must at least grudgingly (if not silently) tolerate having 'femininity' foisted upon her by all and sundry until I am dead and buried.

Teen Vogue is, better or worse, a ladymag for women who do care about the pretty sparkly stuff, and frankly that's okay. We gotta have space for people who love sparkly rainbow highlighter, too!

The space for women who do care about 'the pretty sparkly stuff' is, frankly, the whole world. (Where are the women's magazines that don't even mention 'the pretty sparkly stuff'? Trick question: The very presence of 'the pretty sparkly stuff' is what denotes a publication as a women's publication in the first place.) So the niche filled by Teen Vogue is not a niche so much as an ageless set of cultural constraints that continue to be propagated in order to ensure women are likelier than not to stay in their place, which is why Sassy and its ilk were seen as so revolutionary, and a huge part of the reason that Teen Vogue performing Actual Journalism[tm] is seen as so shocking. Aside from that, I don't have a lot of patience for the argument that we need to devote even more spaces to women with a vested interest in inhabiting at least the most agreeable-to-them aspects of traditional gender roles, given that it's pretty damn hard to find spaces that aren't already.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 11:48 AM on December 20, 2016 [57 favorites]


amnesia and magnets, if I could favourite that comment sixty times it still wouldn't be enough.
posted by Dysk at 11:59 AM on December 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


Either way, you think there's a conflict between being a feminist and critiquing 'femininity' as a cultural institution, and I just... don't.

Well, I don't,and I'm not a supporter of the neoliberal fantasy of "unconstrained choice that just so happens to lead to a narrow set of conformist outcomes," either, but I think one must be very, very aware that when you are critiquing 'femininity' as a cultural institution, you are often criticizing a huge number of actual women as well. As a feminist, I am not ordinarily willing to jeer at or shame or condemn so many of my fellow-women in service of the feminist ideal; that effectively replicates the work that the patriarchy is doing. The girls who like sparkly highlighter are already told they're doing inhabiting a female body wrong every single day, in a multitude of ways. I'm not willing to add to that without more compelling justification.
posted by praemunire at 12:02 PM on December 20, 2016 [31 favorites]


Me too Dysk. Amen AandM. I have two small boys who love sparkly and believe me sparkly is more gendered than ever.
posted by biggreenplant at 12:03 PM on December 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


Maybe you and the other people who take issue with my failure to display a sufficient amount of support or interest in 'femininity' think of it as a value-neutral constellation of traits less constructed than innate, in which case we are not going to see eye to eye no matter what.

I am properly shamed now, thanks. I think I'll just go play with my makeup and dresses since I'm not good enough to sit at the thinky table.
posted by pointystick at 12:04 PM on December 20, 2016 [15 favorites]


The girls who like sparkly highlighter are already told they're doing inhabiting a female body wrong every single day, in a multitude of ways.

I mean, I don't want to get all oppression Olympics, but it ain't the girls who conform to acceptable standards of femininity who are getting the "you're doing it wrong" message loudest...
posted by Dysk at 12:05 PM on December 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


The magazine industry is generally (not always) at the mercy of advertising dollars, and for teen mags those ad dollars come from the makeup and fashion industries. Sassy died in part because they couldn't consistently get ad money from cosmetics companies; Bitch and Ms switched to the nonprofit model so they weren't beholden to CoverGirl; Teen Voices was unable to keep their doors open even with a 501(c)3. In order for Teen Vogue to keep its lights on, they need a beauty section--preferably one that kisses up to the major makeup manufacturers. Even Rookie has gotten sponsorships from problematic companies like Urban Outfitters so they can expand their reach.

I tend to read "harder" feminist news online, since bloggers aren't as beholden to advertising dollars. The blogs I read either haven't monetized or have found ways to monetize that don't involve the traditional funders, and they're able to go more in-depth on important issues without having to bend their editorial slant to anyone.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:11 PM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, Dysk it's so lucky that those of us who are stereotypically feminine don't also have to deal with racism, sexism, ageism, sizism, ableisim, or anything else because we're all young, thin, white, and able, right?
It's so much fun to like those stereotypically feminine things and then get it from BOTH directions because I fail at feminism AND femininity.

Gross. I'm out.
posted by pointystick at 12:11 PM on December 20, 2016 [22 favorites]


it ain't the girls who conform to acceptable standards of femininity who are getting the "you're doing it wrong" message loudest...

This is true. But can you possibly believe that all women don't get this message loud and clear during their lives? Can you possibly believe that this is not deeply harmful to all of us?
posted by praemunire at 12:11 PM on December 20, 2016 [18 favorites]


femininity as it is and has been constructed is an artifact of the machinations of a patriarchy existing. Femininity as constructed is evidence of a deeper weapon that has been and still is being employed against all (not just cis) women. Femininity as a "thing" is a constructed social contract based on the bullshit it sprang forth from, like everything else in this goddamn world.

So, perhaps by way of focusing on the particulars of how a gender construct is employed by a person in their daily life, we can trace out exactly how that construct is weaponized and be able to more clearly elucidate exactly what those deeper weapons are, and how the hands of the patriarchy are wielding it? I'd rather do that work and get past my shame of wearing this fucking dress to work today because I like it.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:13 PM on December 20, 2016 [9 favorites]


Well, Dysk it's so lucky that those of us who are stereotypically feminine don't also have to deal with racism, sexism, ageism, sizism, ableisim, or anything else because we're all young, thin, white, and able, right?

You know those of us who aren't stereotypically feminine get all this shit too, yeah? Like, of course you get a load of shit - society hates women, and loads of other groups that intersect with women. But there is the additional burden of doing womanhood wrong on top of that for some of us, to an extent that our kvetching about femininity will never match.
posted by Dysk at 12:16 PM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I recently bought a large-ish collection of teen / fashion magazines (about 500 issues) from the late 80s & early 90s. It is shocking to me how many of them are selling for $15 - $20 each on ebay. Who is buying these, and why??

(not a rhetorical question)
posted by the bricabrac man at 12:23 PM on December 20, 2016


the bricabrac man: I will take any and all Sassys off your hands. DM me.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:24 PM on December 20, 2016


*whistles* Hang on, hang on, gimme a minute. I have a lot of sympathy, actually, for the argument that it's hard to find women's spaces which are totally unconcerned with aesthetic and that that is frustrating as shit. I... don't have a lot of sympathy for the things you're reading into my comment, particularly when I'm going to a lot of effort to signal that I am in many ways on your side, and that I agree with you about a lot of things that you're saying right here. Since I'm getting the sense that I need to establish my bona fides for you, let me unpack some stuff so you have some context for who I am and what I'm saying.

Maybe you and the other people who take issue with my failure to display a sufficient amount of support or interest in 'femininity' think of it as a value-neutral constellation of traits less constructed than innate, in which case we are not going to see eye to eye no matter what.

I actually do think of the constellation of traits usually coded as feminine as value-neutral in and of themselves. I think that they're also traits which are routinely devalued by the patriarchal society we live in, regardless of any inherent value they hold. And while my opinions on gendered interests hew very strongly towards the "socially constructed" side of the fence, it's more of an "individuals develop their sense of gender in a dialogue with the constructed societal norms assigned to that gender as well as their own inner starting-level-of-talent for gendered skills, their emotional reactions to and experiences they have with those normative interests and skills, and their inner assumptions about what gendered group they fall into on a probably-not-conscious level, which may or may not be influenced by an inborn sense of what gender they fall in."

Gender is complicated, and I honestly sort of resent this dichotomy I'm reading from you that says "oh, it's inborn and therefore unquestionable, or else you think it's constructed by a patriarchal society and therefore must be attacked and destroyed." If that's not your viewpoint or your viewpoint is more complex than that, well, talk to me about it. I'm asking you questions, not trying to shut you down.

Or maybe you think there are practices and preferences that are simply immune to critique -- lots of modern feminists think makeup is beyond reproach, whether or not they wear it themselves -- in which case, ditto.

Oh, bullshit. I wasn't even remotely trying to signal that in my comment, and I was in fact trying hard to signal that I have some fairly different opinions. I don't actually think anything is immune to critique, including the knee-jerk rush to critique things. That's literally why I responded to a comment that I explicitly said I was otherwise quite pleased by!

Either way, you think there's a conflict between being a feminist and critiquing 'femininity' as a cultural institution, and I just... don't. I don't believe the so-called free choices touted by liberal feminism are truly free, or even much of a choice at all.

Where the hell did I say or imply that in my response to you? What I'm trying to get across is that things women like or do are devalued regardless of what those things are, and regardless of where they come from. When they come from women going "well fuck you, women aren't like this", as soon as a substantial mass of women starts doing the thing, the patriarchal culture immediately shifts to start denigrating it because women are doing the thing and that is what patriarchy does. Lady, I'm a biologist; that field-level shift has happened to my career within living memory! As well as other things I do and like.

And I won't stop being irritated by the implication that every woman must at least grudgingly (if not silently) tolerate having 'femininity' foisted upon her by all and sundry until I am dead and buried.

I'm not asking you to, and in fact I made a point of saying that I dislike those things as applied to me, too. I would like there to be more spaces for women that don't give a shit about aesthetics. I am frankly down for that shit. But I want to know what that looks like.

The space for women who do care about 'the pretty sparkly stuff' is, frankly, the whole world. (Where are the women's magazines that don't even mention 'the pretty sparkly stuff'? Trick question: The very presence of 'the pretty sparkly stuff' is what denotes a publication as a women's publication in the first place.)

Well.... to start out, I'm honestly having a little bit of a hard time figuring out what you view as the pretty sparkly stuff or not, given your irritation with the other options that have come up. Visual signifiers are going to pop up in pretty much any subculture or even any conversation, and I think that's what you're referring to with the existing feminist publications you're criticizing when you say they're just prizing a different aesthetic? To me, the irritating thing about the visual stuff is that I don't care about it, and because I don't care about it I prefer to stick to media that doesn't really do a lot of talking about fashion or focusing explicit attention on it. That being said, this does not mean that that media doesn't have or, honestly, promote strains of fashion and aesthetic choices associated with them. That's because visually signalling social affiliations and philosophies is a thing that humans do, whether or not they're devoting a ton of cognitive energy to it. I'm assuming this is what you're criticizing about mainstream feminist publications or possibly just feminist publications period, but it is genuinely hard for me to tell and I am not sure this criticism is actually what you meant.

Now, the thing I am genuinely irritated with is this idea that things the culture forcibly associates with women are therefore terrible things that need to be devalued and pushed back on. Not all of these things are inherently shitty, and a whole bunch of them get a lot less inherently shitty if they aren't being forcibly attached to someone who hates them. I have a lot less shitty baggage with make-up and piggy paint (h/t mittens, still my favorite damn coinage) now that I am a grown-ass adult and can play with them in the privacy of my own home if I want, when I want, without anyone commenting or pressuring me about them one way or the goddamn other. It's just pigments to wear. There's nothing inherently good or bad about it. The inherent badness of makeup is when it becomes an expensive and time-consuming tax and requirement for the statement of being female in public, and that, my friends, I will fight until I pass out. Seriously, fuck that noise; I am not good at it, I don't fucking like it, and I don't generally have a lot of time for that shit.

What attacking these things which are not inherently good or inherently bad, but are associated with women, has the effect of doing is enforcing this idea that anything associated with women is therefore bad or shitty. And that, my friends, is just enforcing the entire underlying idea of patriarchy: which is that anything coded female, in the context of whatever society you're living in, is automatically inferior, suspect, and devoid of worth, especially compared to anything coded male. Fuck. That. Noise. Just as I can and do fight for the space for women who don't like any given aspect of the patriarchically-imposed LadyThings Package, I am happy to also fight for the honor, competence, and respect for women who, upon being shoved into the package, find that bits of it make them feel good, or that there are pieces of it they are good at, or that there are skills they can use there. My job is to say that women and women's things are good enough as they are, and ideally to tell the patriarchy to lighten up on the goddamn package so that kids can have some more freedom when they're developing and gendered impositions aren't so strong, such that kids who don't easily fit into either box can have some freedom to experiment without all that external pressure.

So there. That's who I am, that's what I stand for. You might not have asked, but there's where I'm coming from. Can we find some common ground here?
posted by sciatrix at 12:28 PM on December 20, 2016 [54 favorites]


also, how the fuck did we transition into who has shit worse, femme women or non-femme women?

because oh my god people, since when has that been a productive and helpful avenue of conversation? Different shit is different and it's hard to compare peoples' experiences when you have two groups who are marginalized in totally different ways!

aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh
posted by sciatrix at 12:29 PM on December 20, 2016 [39 favorites]


I don't believe the so-called free choices touted by liberal feminism are truly free, or even much of a choice at all.

This. This is what I am seeing, from the outside, looking in, ignorantly of course.
posted by infini at 12:35 PM on December 20, 2016


The inherent badness of makeup is when it becomes an expensive and time-consuming tax and requirement for the statement of being female in public

But that is the status quo. That is the context in which everyone's choice to engage or not exists. And the more it is normalised, the greater the costs of deviance from that norm.
posted by Dysk at 12:41 PM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


From my perspective, the status quo is actually that all women are required to submit to this expensive and time-consuming tax and requirement and also men are encouraged and allowed to mock them for it and go "women are so expensive/always late for formal shit, amirite?" That's the quo I am pushing on from both sides at once. I'm doing it, incidentally, because I am trying to make a space for the women we have in front of us at the same time as I'm trying to change the stereotyping of the culture that imposes concepts it simultaneously devalues on the girls being born right now.

I can do two things at once! I contain multitudes.
posted by sciatrix at 12:49 PM on December 20, 2016 [19 favorites]


Those of us who don't submit to the requirements get mocked as if we did too, simply because we are assumed to be engaging in the same simply for being women. Like, it's not get it one way or the other, it's get it one way, or both.
posted by Dysk at 12:52 PM on December 20, 2016


Thought experiment: a large portion of Metafilter thought "I would accept [Republican X] here, it's better than the alternative. Would it not be wonderful if we somehow had [Republican X], with whom I disagree on almost every political issue--gun control, LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom, religious freedom, whether science is real--but who would be better than President Trump."

But then what if that candidate wore rainbow highlighter?
posted by Hypatia at 12:59 PM on December 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


Actually, speaking as a woman who usually wears very short hair, approximately the same uniform (jeans + nerd t shirt + occasional flannel + sneakers or sandals) as the men around me in my field, zero makeup, and minimal jewelry including jewelry branded for men... I have observed that I come in for significantly less mockery on certain things than the women around me who engage in more traditional expressions of femininity. If anything, I am often treated like an honorary dude in particular contexts, especially when the thing with me being married to someone who usually passes for female around cis/straight people is known in context.

I'm not immune to all of it, but being perceived as a butch woman lightens up certain kinds of discouragement from certain people in certain contexts, while also opening me up to other kinds of discouragement from other contexts or other people. That's one of the frustrating things about gendered discrimination; the patterns aren't always clear, and they are harder to spot if you aren't inside of them. And of course, things associated with women are devalued in different ways depending on the context of the women associated with them. I'm interested in both dog training/dogsport and knitting/embroidery, two very female-dominated hobbies which are associated with extremely different subsets of women. The teasing, mockery, and context I sometimes encounter when people push at my interest in either are very different, because they are referencing totally different kinds of stereotypes--but they are both denigrated because both hobbies are largely female-dominated and female-run.
posted by sciatrix at 1:00 PM on December 20, 2016 [18 favorites]


FWIW, I have also had conversations recently with women in male-dominated fields (but different fields from sciatrix, IIRC) who asserted that they were taken more seriously and received less harassment at work because they presented less femininely. Like, within the week.
posted by maryr at 1:08 PM on December 20, 2016 [9 favorites]


Working shitty retail jobs, my experience has been the exact opposite.
posted by Dysk at 1:14 PM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


because of the context of retail, which is to serve the customer. Femininity is rewarded in that case.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:17 PM on December 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


Not when you're taking deliveries out if hours or warehousing, but I got treated the same in that role as I did in any working shop floor.
posted by Dysk at 1:20 PM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


In my line of work I dress like um. I couldn't really tell you. here. This is what I wear to work

I am a senior network security engineer for an 18 billion dollar company. I have to look um, stylish I guess to be taken seriously. I am routinely ignored in meetings until I open my mouth then people STFU and listen because I know what I am talking about in my line of work and it shows when I speak.

So it's fun in a way, to get to be this weird fabulous queer woman upending everyone's expectations of what a woman is allowed to be.

But on the other hand, I put up with a lot of complete fucking bullshit as well.

Being a women, a different kind of woman, doing a thing is like walking in a permanent minefield. No matter which step you take, someone or something is waiting to blow up in your face no matter what step you take.

So fuck yeah Teen Vogue. Kick more ass. I will too.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:26 PM on December 20, 2016 [18 favorites]


Not when you're taking deliveries out if hours or warehousing,

Dang. That's a bunch of shit if you ask me. Hugs offered.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:29 PM on December 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah, retail is a different context! And your experience is not inconsistent with some of what I've heard from other GNC women/people read as women I know in retail/service-industry shitty jobs. But I guess for me, the thing driving me a bit nuts is that... well, so much of this "patriarchy mandates X out of women" shit is context dependent, because the "expected performance of gender" for a middle class Latina woman vs a working class white woman vs a upper class black woman is also different, and includes a different set of allowable/expected/unacceptable traits. And the punishment that any given woman might receive for transgressing those expectations is also going to be partially dependent on the expectations and values and socialization held by the person she's interacting with.

The thing that drives me nuts about going "the things the patriarchy imposes and says mean 'women' are terrible, fuck off because I didn't have a goddamn choice and we should push back against expecting them" is that it's... imprecise with its targets, and it has a very high risk of accidentally ignoring the different context and sets of things that other women experience as constraints and pressures imposed on them by their own local patriarchies. Which causes fairly avoidable strife and fighting, especially when one woman going "fuck that shit they tried to make me love it and fuck it" accidentally triggers another woman going "goddammit I know this is societally imposed but I love it anyway, I want to wallow in that shit and not be told again I'm stupid/bad/lazy for doing so, will you fuck off" and everything goes off with a bang and everyone is fighting with each other and no one is actually dismantling any patriarchy.

Radical feminism, as far as I have experienced it, tends to frame everything in terms of a global feminism placed in opposition to a global patriarchy that applies in similar ways to all people. Sometimes there are specific exceptions made for race, say, but often not. And the thing is, it's not a case of global patriarchy expecting exactly the same things from all women; it's a global intersectional kyriarchy/mishmash of general marginalizing pressures that create a population of local patriarchies interacting with other potential marginalizations and privileges. It's not coincidental that a lot of women's concepts of a global single unified patriarchy look very much like the local pressures that they encounter growing up, and given which feminists have the cultural, emotional, and financial capital to take the lead and produce the writing that controls the discourse--well.
posted by sciatrix at 1:34 PM on December 20, 2016 [32 favorites]


gpoy
posted by infini at 1:47 PM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Are there any other sources where one can learn about these things as a n00b/teenager if one doesn't have the language to hang out with all the adults?
posted by infini at 1:49 PM on December 20, 2016


I'm so glad I work in an office where I can cosplay as Exene Cervenka and no one bats an eyelash.
posted by pxe2000 at 1:50 PM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Radical feminism, as far as I have experienced it, tends to frame everything in terms of a global feminism placed in opposition to a global patriarchy that applies in similar ways to all people.

This is a very important point. Consider the criticism a few years back of Michelle Obama for "just" raising her children and participating in education programs, where historically most black women have been brutally denied the option to devote themselves to their children. Michelle Obama almost certainly has women in her family tree who had their children sold down the river from them. Is her "feminine" focus on child-rearing to be wielded as a weapon against her?
posted by praemunire at 1:51 PM on December 20, 2016 [12 favorites]


Is her "feminine" focus on child-rearing to be wielded as a weapon against he?

Anything that can be wielded as a weapon against women WILL be wielded as a weapon against women, including by other women.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:56 PM on December 20, 2016 [27 favorites]


infini, can you please elaborate? I'm... not entirely sure who you're digging at there with the gpoy link, and I am trying to figure out if I should be hurt about all the big words stuff or who you're aiming it at, and also trying to not trigger a defensive "I ONLY HAVE ONE COLLEGE CLASS IN THIS, EVERYTHING ELSE I LEARNED INFORMALLY ON THE INTERNET" panic-splosion out of myself. The vagueness thing is--

oh, hell, I may need to go trundle off for a nap.
posted by sciatrix at 1:58 PM on December 20, 2016


Are there any other sources where one can learn about these things as a n00b/teenager if one doesn't have the language to hang out with all the adults?
Sure, but

1. You have to know where to find them, whereas Teen Vogue is something you can buy in any grocery store

and

2. They're also subject to a lot of misogynistic mocking and criticism, like every single damn thing associated with women in the whole entire world.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:01 PM on December 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


Wondering this am how we can support them, if we aren't a teen or in a household with teens

Buy teen vogue
posted by zutalors! at 2:27 PM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's not coincidental that a lot of women's concepts of a global single unified patriarchy look very much like the local pressures that they encounter growing up, and given which feminists have the cultural, emotional, and financial capital to take the lead and produce the writing that controls the discourse--well.

Given basically everything you see on the Internet these days, it sure as shit isn't those of us working shitty retail jobs and constantly getting passed up for more hours (never mind promotion) out flat out bullied out of our positions because we don't conform. Those same pressures are very much brought to bear in queer spaces as well, which tend to either skew butch or femme (and rarely both) but always performatively something. I'm not sure what spaces I'm supposedly dominant and welcome in to be honest. I've never encountered them.
posted by Dysk at 2:33 PM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]



also, how the fuck did we transition into who has shit worse, femme women or non-femme women?


Maybe apropos of nothing or I'll get flamed or whatever, but I get a lot out of these discussions. Getting into the fine layers of detail around identity helps me understand my position a great deal.
posted by zutalors! at 2:34 PM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


In a thread about empowering young women to have strong political views, it's sad to see that the conversation seems to be largely about femme presentation, with an undertone that femme-presenting people (however the person chooses to interpret femme) have to justify their choices in a way that others don't.

Why impose additional barriers on women? How on earth does that generate solutions that incorporate many voices and experiences, including those who are traditionally ignored?
posted by catlet at 2:36 PM on December 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


In a way that others don't? You honestly think that those of us who don't overtly perform womanhood are not asked to justify ourselves practically every waking moment of our lives?
posted by Dysk at 3:07 PM on December 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm old enough to remember the 80's backlash against 70's feminism, and it was everywhere - and I know this is frivolous, but the thing is, the power suits with shoulder pads and sneakers and that floppy tie thing were really ugly. The only woman I can remember dressing "powerfully" and not seeming frumpy while doing it was Cybill Shepard in Moonlighting, and she was fucking Cybill Shepard.

So when the backlash came, (and if you haven't read Backlash, I think it's really worth your time), I think a lot of women embraced it not because they didn't believe in equal pay for equal work (though some probably did), but because it was good to have permission to dress girly and want to have babies and not feel like you were less of a woman if you didn't want to dress in a mannish-femme way.

And I don't think fashion was responsible for the backlash, but I think that the mid-80's were definitely an era where women finally figured out that clothes could be performative. And mad props to Madonna on that one - I know this is going to sound crazy, but the movie Desperately Seeking Susan completely changed me as a feminist (and I didn't see it until around 1989, in a film class) because I literally never understood that you could dress like what society/culture considered a slut and not actually be one. I know I'm not the only Old in this discussion, but when I was growing up you literally could not let a bra strap show - even accidentally - without it being considered a reflection of your character. Madonna was the first fully-accepted cultural icon I ever saw who changed her image, completely owned that image, and never let it define her. Gen Y girls who grew up with Madonna were raised with the realization that you could change your clothes and change who you were - and change back again - with no societal consequences.

And I think that opened the door to things like this being possible - to be able to say "I am a feminist" and still like high heels or a classic wedding dress or whatever high-performative femininity you like. It's coming from a place of embracing the multitude of options, not saying that if you don't like them, you're doing it wrong.

So while I get the point that if you are anti-all that, there is no mass-market resource for you. And that sucks. And I also think that intersectionality is making this harder, rather than easier, because it's much easier to send a collective message about feminism vs femininity when you're talking from a "we" place that I'm not sure can actually exist in an intersectional (and especially nonbinary) world. But I hope that that need gets filled, and soon. I'm not trying to shrug it off, but I also won't insult you by saying "so make one, then." I hope there are enough loud voices demanding a woman's media that's free from defining womanhood by its cultural baggage, so that it comes to pass.

But in the mean time, media embracing a femme-ier, sparklier feminism doesn't have to mean negating people who don't fit that mold. It can also be dazzle camouflage so when the next backlash happens (and hoo boy I believe it is on the horizon), it won't be so easy for it to tear us down. Because if we don't fit any one mold, they'll never see us coming.
posted by Mchelly at 3:18 PM on December 20, 2016 [24 favorites]


This is not a surprise to anyone who's ever worked with preteen girls. <3 They're amazing, they care *so much* about making the world better, and I'm glad that at least some media aimed at them is acknowledging that.

I just wish there were a way to pick them up and carry them over the period of crawling through miles of broken glass and monkey piss that is late middle school/early high school for girls and set them down on the other side with their self-confidence undimmed. Because last time I spoke to a late elementary school Girl Scout troop, I was like if there were some way to prevent you from being crushed down to size by a world that hates everything about young girls, the world would be largely fixed in 25 years.

And then I spoke to a troupe of 15- and 16-year-olds and they were worried about how to talk without vocal fry and I hate everything.

FWIW, I have also had conversations recently with women in male-dominated fields (but different fields from sciatrix, IIRC) who asserted that they were taken more seriously and received less harassment at work because they presented less femininely. Like, within the week.

I work in tech, and after I was sexually harassed and got basically victim-blamed by management for wearing makeup, I started wearing only jeans and tees, not wearing any makeup, and not wearing any jewelry.

You get a ton of crap either way. Men are nicer to you if you present as super-femme, but they take you more seriously if you present as more butch. But then they also get angry at you for not being attractive enough and not "respecting" them by dressing up for them.

So ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by ElizaDolots at 4:45 PM on December 20, 2016 [28 favorites]


Wondering this am how we can support them, if we aren't a teen or in a household with teens

If you're in a position to buy an advertisement in Teen Vogue (or convince your ad-buyers to do so), that goes a lot farther than buying a subscription.
posted by toxic at 4:56 PM on December 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure what spaces I'm supposedly dominant and welcome in to be honest. I've never encountered them.

Oh Dysk, that's horrible. I feel like an outlier much of the time but I have found some welcoming spaces. You should have that. Each of us should have that. I'm so sorry you don't. Retail sucks plenty even without additional hostility. Mega hugs to you.
posted by Bella Donna at 5:19 PM on December 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


Men are nicer to you if you present as super-femme, but they take you more seriously if you present as more butch.

In knowledge economy (tech, academia) spaces this is totally true. I am sure it differs in other types of spaces. I've worked in academia for over a decade and the fact that I present as just bare minimum femme (my hair is chin-length and I wear comfortable but coded female clothing, but that's exactly where my desire to perform femininity runs headlong into my lack of fucks) has never negatively impacted my career. I probably do get taken more seriously, and I'm for sure far from the only woman in my unit who veers away from a femme presentation. But certainly what I have not come to expect in my life is for men to be nice to me. That's a whole other thing.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:26 PM on December 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is not a surprise to anyone who's ever worked with preteen girls. <3 They're amazing, they care *so much* about making the world better, and I'm glad that at least some media aimed at them is acknowledging that.

The article didn't really get into this, but I wonder if the surprise at Teen Vogue's strong 2016 coverage comes more out of sexism, ie, female-presenting people can't possibly care about serious issues, or ageism, ie, young people can't possible care about serious issues.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:52 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ah, but in the case of teenage girls, you don't have to choose between sexism and ageism. You get a delightful intersectional combination of both.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:56 AM on December 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


the power suits with shoulder pads and sneakers

I just gotta point out that the result of all that scorn at women wearing sneakers with their work clothes while en route to their jobs (it's not like this was ever a thing under other circumstances!) was that many women wear their dangerous-for-walking-outdoors dress shoes for the trip to work instead. Fashion's got a lot of slips, falls, and orthopedic nightmares to answer for.
posted by asperity at 6:58 AM on December 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm going way back in the conversation here but...

As a longtime lurker, I just made an account for the purpose of favoriting this comment by amnesia and magnets, and following the discussion flowing from it.

There are too many great comments to call out each individually, and as things get into a lot of back and forth I'm not going to enter that as a newcomer. But my two cents is that I agree completely with the sentiment that there is a very narrow range - care just enough, but not too much, and make your caring appear perfectly effortless, and that we are subject to the arbitrary opinions of literally everyone about what 'enough,' 'too much' etc. mean. This affects different female-presenting people in all sorts of ways.

So I really appreciate the sentiment that, wait, I'm not looking for permission to *care* about highlighter, per ex, and still be validated. I'm looking for relief from the pressure to care about highlighter. But, I also know that friends who care about highlighter are also invalidated. There is no way to win.
posted by ramble_on_prose at 7:43 AM on December 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


The clarity of "embracing 'femininity' means men are nicer to me, rejecting it means they take me more seriously" has seriously blown my mind here. It makes so much sense to me and I would love to talk about it. But what I would prefer to talk about is: How can women as a class stop building huge swaths of our lives around what men do or don't think of us? Pretending to play along can make life much easier for our own selves on a micro level, but does it cultivate the seeds of freedom for women as a class? My opinion is that it doesn't, that women won't be free until men stop killing us, that that simply isn't going to happen under our current conditions, which are IMO akin to terrorism, and that the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.

While I certainly understand that not all feminists are interested in revolution, I am one of those idealistic "not free until all of my sisters are free" assholes, so I am trying to foment a similar strain of radicalism in infinite tiny ways 24/7. Which means that I just can't agree that buying, using, or advocating for anything men have already agreed women are allowed to have or do can possibly result in legitimate upheaval of the status quo, let alone progress... IMO the path to liberation won't find its foundation in the construction of even more molds, boxes, and labels to cram people into, it has to be built from blowing shit up and rolling our messy human lives over the rubble.

To that end, I don't believe in the primacy of individual feelings, or that observing the overarching, worldwide presence of male supremacy means radical feminism is insufficiently focused on individual perspectives: Individual perspectives have always been set aside in order to perform class analysis. The focus of radical feminism is liberating women from being oppressed for being women, however that manifests and whoever it happens to, wherever they are and whatever other conditions exist in their lives: The language of patriarchy may have different dialects, but it is indeed universal. Other types of feminism have other focuses but radical feminism's focus is on the fact that women across the globe are oppressed in a variety of ways simply because they are women. Misogyny is the world's oldest prejudice; radical feminists posit that it is the root of all others.

But in the mean time, media embracing a femme-ier, sparklier feminism doesn't have to mean negating people who don't fit that mold. It can also be dazzle camouflage so when the next backlash happens (and hoo boy I believe it is on the horizon), it won't be so easy for it to tear us down. Because if we don't fit any one mold, they'll never see us coming.

This wouldn't be a problem, except a "femme-ier, sparklier feminism" is the only one the media will ever embrace, which a) you already acknowledged ("if you are anti-all that, there is no mass-market resource for you") and b) is exactly why liberal feminists make sure to draw attention to the differences between themselves and the grim, bra-burning man-haters of yore. The uptick in the popularity of feminism that *just so happens* to *100% coincidentally* present itself as aligned with traditional 'femininity' -- "eyeliner sharp enough to kill a man" and whatnot -- was all but guaranteed by its friendliness to the status quo. It revolutionizes nothing, undercuts nothing, and frankly accomplishes nothing. If we're not allowed to critically examine our position in the gender hierarchy because some women like where we are just fine, what's the point? We're not beating them at their own game or pulling one over on them, we're just flapping around in the shallow end of the pool as men continue to outearn, out-own, and overrule us all over the world.

No matter what else we are, if women are not at least keeping our decorative requirements in mind, if we haven't at least thought about how we look in terms of whether it intersects with what the dominant culture wants from us as women, if we don't at least admire the effort in other women, we have failed not just as feminists, but as female human beings. What I am looking for is liberation from the entire poisoned framework, not a false sense of equality within or (more likely) under it. Having to work with an eye -- jaundiced or loving -- toward 'femininity' shouldn't be a tax or entry fee that women must pay in order to exist peacefully, to be treated kindly or respected as a peer, but goddamn, it is. To me, society feels more stringently gendered and the backlash feels less likely than ever before: The pressure is on for women to naturalize and embrace 'femininity' as it is, not to unshackle it from women qua women.

That 'femininity' and 'masculinity' find their roots in the manure of traditional gender roles means neither term is capable of being value-neutral. I don't resent 'femininity' because I think its stereotypical traits are dumb or weak or whatever (although it can certainly be argued that weakness is a necessary component of traditional 'femininity'), I resent it because it's seen as an axiomatic aspect of the existence of every woman -- whether we're trying to ignore it or fine-tuning our hard-won skills in it, it's always there, and I would love nothing more than for all women everywhere to be freed from the specter altogether.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 9:01 AM on December 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


What I am looking for is liberation from the entire poisoned framework

You and me both, I'd like to add though that my frame of reference explicitly calls out the default "cis" in front of woman and I seek to dismantle that distinction as well. My question for cis women is "Are you prepared to understand that the tools you are using to fight your oppression may also be tools of oppression themselves?"

But with the distribution of phallic sex shapes being binary to a dominant degree, I fear any revolution of gender will default to a cissexual binary model and thoroughly eradicate trans people across the arc of the conflict.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:18 AM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Briefly getting back to the point on Dworkin and Mackinnon: When they were drafting their antipornography ordinances, they worked closely with members of the religious right. They also seemed less interested in the lives of sex workers and the conditions that led them to sex work and more interested in censorship. I have a hard time taking their work seriously, and I know others who have similar feelings about their work. This might explain some of the anti-Dworkin perspective here and elsewhere. [Source: Backlash, Susan Faludi]
posted by pxe2000 at 10:32 AM on December 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


but I wonder if the surprise at Teen Vogue's strong 2016 coverage comes more out of sexism, ie, female-presenting people can't possibly care about serious issues, or ageism, ie, young people can't possible care about serious issues.

Arguably it comes off expecting sexist assumptions from such media rather than necessarily making them yourself - both teen mags and women's mags tend not to be overly concerned with serious issues, regardless of how teens or women actually feel, because of the assumptions of their publishers and editors. I mean, if you had assumed that women's mags were representative of women's interests and were surprised, then sure, but I can't imagine many people in this thread ever assumed or thought that. It's surprise that the people running this mag aren't ageist and sexist, because we've become so used to that being the case.
posted by Dysk at 11:34 AM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


but I wonder if the surprise at Teen Vogue's strong 2016 coverage comes more out of sexism, ie, female-presenting people can't possibly care about serious issues, or ageism, ie, young people can't possible care about serious issues.

Some of it could be. My surprise is due to market segmentation and genre. Fashion magazines historically have been primarily vehicles for advertising, and teen publications have a bad historical reputation as mass-media PR mouthpieces.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:31 PM on December 21, 2016


Are you surprised that people used to read Playboy for the articles?
posted by zutalors! at 12:33 PM on December 21, 2016


Are you surprised that people used to read Playboy for the articles?

Not really, but Playboy was unique in that it kept playing a game of being both soft porn and a literary outlet, and until recently had the cash flow to invest in both. I'm not certain Playboy is typical because of that.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:54 PM on December 21, 2016


The clarity of "embracing 'femininity' means men are nicer to me, rejecting it means they take me more seriously" has seriously blown my mind here. It makes so much sense to me and I would love to talk about it.

Sure, I'd be happy to do that. (Being a masc-performing woman also means, btw, that people get even more touchy about any expressions of anger or irritation that I come up with--I get so much pressure at work to be nice and smiley and do the emotional labor of not seeming irritated, frustrated or annoyed, to the point of being chided for jokingly "fighting" with coworkers who are smiling and teasing me right back. It's aggravating.)

But what I would prefer to talk about is: How can women as a class stop building huge swaths of our lives around what men do or don't think of us? Pretending to play along can make life much easier for our own selves on a micro level, but does it cultivate the seeds of freedom for women as a class?

I think the thing that I wrestle with, when I consider this question, is asking: is it more or less focused on what men want to consider patriarchal pressures and only do the opposite, or to consider patriarchal pressures as one manipulative factor in your desires, look at why they want you to do particular things, think about what you want, and do that? Like, for me, it is not less focused on what men do or do not think to do the former; it's intensely focused on male desires and patriarchal pressures so that you always know what to push back on. You wind up devoting a lot of attention to closely watching those desires just to make sure you never give into them even by accident, even if you otherwise might not have minded.

And that's all fine, but damn, it sounds exhausting to me! I agree with you that none of us are ever going to be truly free until all of us are, but where I part ways with radical feminism is that I think there are so many axes of marginalization that there's never going to be freedom or even near-freedom from axes of marginalization in my lifetime or honestly even my grandchildren's lifetimes. The enormity of the social pressures and bad cultural habits and power ploys and all the conscious and unconscious things that make up both patriarchy and other forms of *isms is--well, it's a big job to do, and each one of us only has so much energy to push back.

Personally, I am very careful where I spend my energy and choose my battles, because I am always worn thin as rice paper by the demands on my drawn by not just my activism but also my work and my household. I'm typing this while I avoid getting up to clean my living room, while my partner moves around tidying and clearly would like me to help, because we have company coming soon and it's not fair to avoid my share of the work; and I'm cognizant of the fact that taking the day off to spend with my partner means that I am taking time off my actual paid work that supports the household. When I'm trying to dismantle systems of marginalization, I gotta make every word and every action count, because that's energy I won't have to spend elsewhere. Efficiency.

I also, to be honest, disagree with the context of your Lorde quote: I think that if you're going to advocate that the master's tools are never going to dismantle the master's house in this context, you'd better look pretty hard at just what the master's tools actually are. Lorde is speaking, remember, about the case of white, straight feminists ignoring the voices of lesbian and black women. By "using the master's tools," I've always thought the quote referred to "using the methods and advocational styles praised and promoted by the patriarchy/people in power," and the essay backs me up on that--her example of using the master's tools is white straight women trying to push back against their own oppression, but ignoring the experiences and inputs of black and lesbian women.

In essence, they're "using the master's tools" by not questioning the marginalization of women who aren't just like them or the values about those women which have been imparted to them by patriarchal/kyriarchical cultural context. They're thinking like the masters and acting in the same way as the masters would to achieve their ends, despite the fact that they're acting in their own self-interest (and, in theory, in the interest of other women). That's the ultimate flaw in the white- and straight- (and cis-) centered conference they're organizing; they're thinking that if they act enough like the masters, they can ultimately become one.

What this means for my point in this thread is that rejecting the feminine in order to dismantle patriarchy is, in my view, a key way of trying to use the master's tools to bring down the house. It's going "oh yeah? You think women like this shitty stupid thing, because you keep telling me women like it at the same time you think it's stupid and shitty? Fuck you, I don't like that thing at all; I'm the total opposite of the person who likes the stupid thing!" It's trying to counter claims that women are inherently lesser by acting like the inverse of whatever "woman" means in your context--which is, coincidentally, how we often define masculinity. (Or, well, not so coincidentally, but that's a tangent.) Who's picking up the master's tools here, again?

And like I said, the moment that women as a class move towards or away some trait or characteristic, well, suddenly that gets devalued too. Look at the way that any occupation that moves from primarily male to primarily female suddenly drops significantly in prestige and salary. So the only thing that I see accomplished by rejecting the traits impressed on us as feminine traits, as women's things, is playing into the game that patriarchy uses to divide us. If small subgroups of women do that, well, bully for them; like I said, then you get into trading off the tendency for people to disrespect (and underestimate) femme people for the aggression you incur for crossing gendered lines. But if women as a mass do it, suddenly you wind up exactly where you've started. Some social change!

Other types of feminism have other focuses but radical feminism's focus is on the fact that women across the globe are oppressed in a variety of ways simply because they are women. Misogyny is the world's oldest prejudice; radical feminists posit that it is the root of all others.

Yes. Yes, they do. And I believe, emphatically, that they are wrong. Xenophobia, racism, classism, ableism; those go back as far as we can trace sexism, and they are fed by different power dynamics and they take different forms. To be honest I don't believe that any woman who has also dealt with marginalization on an axis that isn't intimately connected to gender* would ever have come up with the idea.

*(which is to say, homophobia and transphobia, which are different from misogyny but are also very deeply and intimately connected to it)
posted by sciatrix at 1:58 PM on December 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


Personally, I am very careful where I spend my energy and choose my battles

Must be a bloody lovely luxury to have, that.

If small subgroups of women do that, well, bully for them; like I said, then you get into trading off the tendency for people to disrespect (and underestimate) femme people for the aggression you incur for crossing gendered lines. But if women as a mass do it, suddenly you wind up exactly where you've started. Some social change!

Except a lot of us on the bottom of the heap, economically, class-wise, we don't get a trade off. We just get reamed for not being sufficiently femme, with no upside whatsoever. It would absolutely and emphatically not be a case of plus ça change for many of us.
posted by Dysk at 2:48 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


*exhausted* Well, Dysk, if you've got infinite energy and infinite resources to spend your energy on, more power to you, I guess. I said I was careful about choosing my targets and my battles, not that I avoided doing so. I certainly have reiterated several times that I push hardcore against mandatory femininity and mandatory gender presentation expectations both in my own personal appearance and in my everyday life. But I'm human, not a robot, and I pick my battles wisely. So sue me.

I am sorry people are treating you like shit. I am. If I was around to back you up, I would do it, for all the good it would do coming from another woman who certainly doesn't fuck around with femme aesthetic expectations. You don't fucking deserve to be reamed for your gender presentation any more than I do, and the fact that people are treating you like shit for being insufficiently femme is absolutely bullshit.

I just disagree that the best way to attack an unfair and coercive system is to attack other marginalized people trying to respond to the same system in different ways, as opposed to attacking the coercive institutions and expectations that are fucking all of us over. I don't know what else you want out of me, but jesus christ I resent the implication you keep throwing at me that I am A+ makeup and dresses for everyone ever because I won't say that the people who enjoy those things are selling the rest of us down the river.
posted by sciatrix at 3:41 PM on December 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


I'm implying no such thing, I'm taking issue with your analysis that a collective shift would be pointless and achieve nothing, and yeah, being somewhat bitter about the fact that I don't get to pick my battles, because basically every moment of every day is a fucking battle. I don't have infinite energy, and I sure as shit don't have infinite resources, but I also don't have the luxury of giving up or walking away. I'm not suggesting that you're A+ anything, but the constant efforts to dodge the fact that every choice any of us makes has consequences for others as well as ourselves does start to grate after a while. You don't want to fight every battle? I don't blame you. Nor do I. But the way you're phrasing things serves to erase rather than acknowledge the fact that a bunch of people don't have a choice in that matter, and a bunch of people are impacted by the norms we collectively set, always, not just when they want to be.
posted by Dysk at 4:13 PM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


To add to what dysk is saying it's like, if you have a certain set of physical features they can always betray you no matter what you do to "get the message across" as to what your gender is.

There's a lot here that I don't have time to unpack, but I believe I get what Dysk is saying and while personally I am fortunate to have a set of physical attributes which allow me to "get read the way I wish to be perceived", that is not the case for a lot of other people in similar circumstances as myself.

It is important to understand what we are criticizing and how that intersects with people who never fit into any understood mold of gender alignment. For the 2.5 years of my transition where I lived in complete gender liminality I can attest to it being a never-ending-every-second-of-the-day exercise in pain, anxiety, fear and frustration. It sucks a lot of oxygen out of one's life to be sure.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:34 PM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


(Yeah, haven't mentioned explicitly in this thread, but I am trans. Annika's comment makes a lot more sense when read with that knowledge.)
posted by Dysk at 4:42 PM on December 21, 2016


I just disagree that the best way to attack an unfair and coercive system is to attack other marginalized people trying to respond to the same system in different ways, as opposed to attacking the coercive institutions and expectations that are fucking all of us over.

Thing is, we are all complicit in setting those expectations, whether they're applied to us or not, whether we're ultimately judged by them or not. Norms and expectations are fully and inseparably intertwined.
posted by Dysk at 4:55 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think half the disconnect here is that we don't all agree on what we're criticizing. My comments here defending glitter, makeup, and other femme signifiers are predicated on the point that this conversation started as a discussion of Teen Vogue, which is a mag targeted at femme teenage girls--not, I would argue, a demographic who get a ton of cultural deference and respect. Most of the lines I'm drawing in the sand in this conversation are centered around not shitting harder on things that are associated with teen girls, because in that case I am concerned about pushing back on the norm that says that teenage girls in the aggregate are... well, vapid, concerned with boys only, silly, not capable, etc. I agree that what we do and who we are set norms for behavior and expectations. In this conversation, I am really worrying about very femme women/femme teenage girls. That's informing my comments here.

One piece of media I want to draw attention to is the song "What I Was Born to Do" [lyrics] from the cheerleading musical Bring It On (written, as it happens, by Metafilter's beloved Lin Manuel Miranda). Cheerleading is of course another hobby beloved of femme teenage girls and often ridiculed as vapid, based on appearance, and generally devoid of value. At one point in the song, other teenagers mock cheerleading, and the singer wheels on them and delivers a blistering retort defending her sport.

You'll notice if you look at the song that it's turning a lot of assumptions about what it means to be one of these femme teenagers on its head: lines like "we get mani-pedis / but we're made of muscle" and "we'll gladly pay our dues / with every sprain and bruise" frame the sport as something that requires grit, determination, hard work, and passion. That's not consistent with patriarchal assumptions about cheerleading, which tend to devalue the women who participate in it as merely aesthetic eye candy. The song turns to celebrate instead the women who participate and draw attention to their strong positive qualities, pointing out that even women who are traditionally femme are also tough, athletic, and more than the sum of their parts. Instead of arguing that women are great because they reject the trappings of gendered socialization, the music argues that women are great because they are already great, by taking the devalued interests and skills of those young women and pointing out the strengths that underly them.

And the thing is, while I'd never argue that positive portrayals of butch women or gender-non-conforming women aren't thin on the ground in media--I can think of only a handful of examples!--I would actually argue that positive portrayals of super-femme women, especially those who rejoice in "glittery" and "sparkly" mods to their appearance and don't hide the effort of makeup as "natural," are equally thin on the ground. Literally the only other one I can think of, with a woman who treats make-up, glitter, small purse dogs, and fashion as valuable and unashamedly wonderful and delightful but who is also uncompromisingly shown to be intelligent, kind, clever, and and accomplished as anyone else around her is the movie Legally Blonde.

When it comes to media portrayals of "heroic" women, when women get to star, they have to be simultaneously beautiful and reject the trappings of femininity: they cannot talk about make-up or the labor of choosing aesthetic coverings, nor can they praise the work and skill that goes into aesthetic and artistic accomplishment. At the same time, they can't at any point not be beautiful; the beautiful, decorative mask is intended to be welded to their face, or at least an effortless part of them.

(And oh, god, I hear you all talking about physical markers of femininity! That's also a really interesting conversation to be had and I would love very much to listen to it. I'm... not sure how relevant to the article it is, though. I feel I may be missing something here.)
posted by sciatrix at 9:47 PM on December 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


In a broader context, teen girls do indeed get shat on a lot. I'm staying with my family at present, including my teenage sister, and let me tell you, in the context of teenage girls, the Teen Vogue model, or Teen Vogue adjacent models of how to be are kind of all that's available, all that's acceptable. It doesn't expand what's available or acceptable for my sister at all, it just celebrates that and those who are already celebrated. It doesn't provide a new model for being a strong woman - the strong woman who is also info glitter and make up is the only acceptable form of strong woman for and within this demographic (this obviously being a patriarchal compromise - 'fine, you can be strong, engaged, political, self-assured - but only if you're also conspicuously interested in performing traditional beauty') and by providing (yet another) model for strong womanhood to teenage girls that also incorporates almost everything that's expected of them otherwise, it makes it even harder to reject that ('ugh, why are you so manly, it's not like you can't be into that feminism stuff and still be pretty' - I have heard my sister's friends saying basically this to each other). I'm pretty invested in media providing an actual meaningful alternative to these girls, to show them that they can be taken seriously even without the make up and glitter, because in practice, that is what they're missing, what they don't seem to understand.
posted by Dysk at 11:06 PM on December 21, 2016


There's also a major race component being sorely missed here. "Sparkly femininity" (but only to a certain degree, or else you look "trashy") is only really "okay" on an attractive white cis woman. Anyone else and it's ugly or "not your thing" or whatever.

A lot of current fashion trends can be attributed to women of color (especially Black women), but when worn by said women, were dismissed as "tasteless". I was policed to hell and back when I was involved in the burlesque scene for not desiring to look like Dita von Teese v2.0 - but then also being derided if I even went anywhere close because you're "too hairy/fat/knock-kneed for burlesque" (meanwhile my home culture thinks I'm shameful for even having an interest). Look at who makes the runway - how many of the models are women of colour?

I get frustrated with performative femme in queer spaces because it's a very White Western idea of femme (if I hear one more person claim "I'm so femme I don't wear trousers!" I'm gonna choke them with a salwhar khameez). But even masculine/butch aesthetics for the most part don't appeal to me because it's, again, very White Western (fuckin bowties). And no matter what I wear, how much I play into queer or straight fashion or whatever, I still won't get read as who I authentically am - because people get hung up on "you're brown and therefore Foreign" as though that explains my gender or my sexuality. (or, when dealing with my home culture, "you're not quite what we see as a Typical Woman so we'll assume you're Foreign or failed.)
posted by divabat at 11:07 PM on December 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


(if I hear one more person claim "I'm so femme I don't wear trousers!" I'm gonna choke them with a salwhar khameez)

This is a legit racial note, but surely it’s also a note about region? Unless I’m mistaken, this thread has supported commenters from multiple continents, and the “West” is not a complete monolith in & of itself on these issues.)
posted by Going To Maine at 12:17 AM on December 22, 2016


I'm talking about queer femme spaces in that sentence, not this thread.
posted by divabat at 12:31 AM on December 22, 2016


Cis straight woman here. I just got a job as a software dev tech writer. I wear some makeup, my work presentation is femme (I say yes to the dress quite a bit), and I'm a size 8.

So, I have some style and enjoy putting it out there. A couple of the guys who sit near me also have some style and apparently enjoy performing it in a similar way.

I'm also over 50, have a fairly deep speaking voice, and am not shy about participating in mostly-male dev meetings.
I can tell that this package is meeting with approval (i.e. what I have to say is welcomed) in some corners.

But. The women around me don't wear makeup for the most part, and a friend told me recently that when she interviewed for the company years ago, a highly placed person put the kabosh on her because she was wearing a skirt and apparently then she wasn't "serious". (I see a lot of skirts around on long-timer women, so that quirk has apparently gone by the board. Probably because ... illegal.)

So. I have Worries. I wish I didn't have to. But THIS IS WHO I AM. Won't bonsai. Fortunately my professional network is adequate for me likely to land safely should my presentation, or anything else, prove to be a problem.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:06 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's also a major race component being sorely missed here. "Sparkly femininity" (but only to a certain degree, or else you look "trashy") is only really "okay" on an attractive white cis woman. Anyone else and it's ugly or "not your thing" or whatever.
When you said "there's also a major race component being sorely missed here," I honestly thought that you were going to talk about how one of the things being missed in this discussion is that Teen Vogue is edited by a black woman and publishes a lot of women of color. As someone above noted, that's something that Sady Doyle doesn't discuss but has been talked about a lot in other discussions of the Teen Vogue kerfluffle.

I guess I feel like you guys are more talking about your perception of magazines like Teen Vogue than about actual Teen Vogue. The top story on teenvogue.com right now is Hari Nef Just Got Nominated for Model of the YEAR. I'm not sure that it's perfect representation (pretty much everything they've published on Hari Nef seems to focus on her being trans, and that's not the way they cover other models), but it's representation. The next story is this one, about Breanna Moore, a 24-year-old black woman who used the connections she made while studying abroad in Ghana to start a fashion line. And holy fuck, their wellness section contains political coverage, rather than pretending that your health is just about your personal eating and exercise choices.

I think they kind of suck when it comes to showing young women who aren't thin, and that makes me sad, as someone who really struggled with eating and body image stuff when I was the target age for Teen Vogue. But there is some representation. Check out, for instance, this video from their #AskaNativeAmericanGirl series, which features kick-ass girls who aren't thin. And their article on New Year's Resolutions for People With Eating Disorders kind of made me cry, for reasons that I can't quite put my finger on. It's an article about eating disorders that isn't triggering! It's directed at girls with eating disorders but acknowledges that they aren't defined by that identity! Where the fuck was that when I needed it?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:23 AM on December 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's directed at girls with eating disorders but acknowledges that they aren't defined by that identity!
Sorry. I should probably say that it's explicitly directed at *people*, not girls, with eating disorders. The author identifies as genderqueer and uses the pronouns "they/them", which is not mentioned in the article but is if you follow the links to their bio and blog.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:56 AM on December 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'd wager that there's a race component to what's being discussed here that's being overlooked more than that it's missing from Teen Vogue itself.

Since we're discussing what's relevant here as well, I'd also posit that people's experiences of the trade-offs with regard to living up to or defying gendered expectations in the knowledge economy workplace is pretty far removed from the pressures faced by teen girls, who are predominantly in high school, not working in tech or biology. Meanwhile, a substantial number of my colleagues in various retail and retail-adjacent jobs have been teenage girls, either in our just out of school, and the attitudes and pressures brought to bear in those contexts is much more similar to the pressure cooker horror that is secondary school. There's potentially also an age factor - here in rural Denmark, the acceptable norms for middle aged women is very plainly different to those for younger women, who are under much more and much more intense pressure to be fuckable or pretty, where the former group is more desexed (itself not unproblematic either) and thus more likely to be punished rather than rewarded for 'excessive' girliness or vanity.
posted by Dysk at 7:19 AM on December 22, 2016


I understand that you feel strongly about this, Dysk, but I really don't believe that you're the only person here who has regular contact with young women. I actually know you're not, and it's sort of bizarre that you think that you are.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:14 AM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm fully aware that I'm not, but an awful lot of what's been in the thread hasn't exactly been related to young people. As has been pointed out many times, things work differently in different contexts, and I'm not convinced many of the contexts people are speaking from or about are awfully relevant to most teenagers.
posted by Dysk at 8:18 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]



There's also a major race component being sorely missed here. "Sparkly femininity" (but only to a certain degree, or else you look "trashy") is only really "okay" on an attractive white cis woman. Anyone else and it's ugly or "not your thing" or whatever.


Huh, I think it's fine for Asian women as well, as well as many Black/Hispanic too.
posted by zutalors! at 10:21 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


That Teen Vogue is edited by a Black woman already got mentioned up thread, but the extra information is deeply appreciated.

I'm Asian. "Sparkly femininity" is only vaguely ok for me if I'm willing to play up to the stereotypes of my culture. (And even THEN it's fraught .) Otherwise? Garish.

And my perspective also includes teens of color, since they too have to negotiate race on top of all the other things to negotiate image-wise.
posted by divabat at 3:25 PM on December 22, 2016


Trump is meeting with Anna Wintour today, so I concede that my thesis that Trump is only irritated by Teen Vogue might be entirely incorrect.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:51 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


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