Misogyny entails dismissing that which has traditionally been associated with women as frivolous and meaningless. And one of the risks feminists run in counteracting patriarchy is of accepting the idea that what have traditionally been women’s things are frivolous and meaningless. Paid work, or holding your own with the boys, or whathaveyou, are considered the serious ways to go.
This does everyone a disservice. I’m of the firm opinion that the pursuit of social justice ought to be about expanding ways of living, not dismissing the ones that have been considered embarrassing or valueless. This is why one of my pet peeves is making masculine clothing unisex and leaving it at that, with masculinity and men as the default, while femininity is shoved off into the corner. Maybe it’d be an idea to open up masculine and feminine expression to everybody, rather than, in the name of expanded gender expression, reinforcing the idea that women and femininity are the special exception?
Some of the main joys in my life that get shoved aside in this boo women’s work narrative are nurturing and creating. I’m not yet a mother, but I’m loving having the charge of my little pets. Caring for another being strengthens something in me, and I’m feeling the connection of this benefit my soul. Fulfilling needs, building relationships, filling yourself up? This is the kind of thing everyone should have access to if they want it. And being creative with traditionally female crafts is helping me to engage with production and giving in ever more conscious ways. I’m spending a lot of time thinking about and showing I care for the people I’m knitting for, I’m avoiding supporting exploitative producers, and I’m expanding my skillset in ways that hark back to my foremothers, from whose work I derive so much use and pleasure.
For all that, I’m finding my project of consciously practicing femininity a little difficult because it takes effort. And, as much as compulsory femininity has been a way of sapping women’s money and time, actively choosing to perform it is throwing up a different kind of challenge for me. It’s requiring me to put some effort into how I present and feel. And learning that I can take time and effort on myself is a valuable lesson to learn for a woman to learn, and one that I’ll hopefully take with me well beyond my experimentations in the feminine.
Where I find a lot of ways of challenging misogyny hurtful and something from which I need space for self-care, finding my way through traditional women’s domains is something I’m finding healing.