Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Is Femininity Just What We Wear?

Rhonda '84

I love writing about the "Feminine Differential". For me, it is the subtle difference that makes one's look clearly feminine. When I first started presenting as female nearly 40 years ago, I assumed that it was all about appearances. The old statement: "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and, talks like a duck - then it must be..." I desired  to make sure no one misidentified me as the opposite.  

Feminine: Pertaining to a woman or girl.

Last week on NPR I listened to the interview with the writer Sarah Smarsh as she discusses her new book 'She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs'.  The subject came up about Dolly Parton's visual imagery and over-the-top gender performance. "By developing a multilayered image and persona, Dolly both critiques representations of femininity in country music and attracts a diverse fan base ranging from country and pop music fans to feminists and gay rights advocates."  Dolly Parton dresses to be the person she is on the inside - ultra feminine.  

Lee Edwards in the book "Dolly Parton, Gender, and Country Music" states this:"As Dolly depicts herself as simultaneously 'real' and 'fake', she offers new perspectives on country music's claims of authenticity." Dolly Parton shared how she'd be a drag queen, had she been born a boy—and we totally get it. Dolly's sense of self comes from within. 

So is femininity just what we wear?  Not at all. Am I less feminine because the pandemic has changed so much, including socializing?  I have beautiful dresses and heels in my closet that are collecting dust. I can get out some with several clubs, but many of my board meetings are on-line (Zoom).  Yes, I do put on makeup but only 'dress' from the neck up.  

Since I am less able to get out as Rhonda, am I less feminine?  Has Covid stolen "Femulation"?         

The blog "YouLookFab" has an interesting take on femininity. FYI - The writer is female and is a self-declared fashion stylist. Here is her interesting take on the root source for femininity:

...Well, I enjoy wearing stereotypically feminine wardrobe items like form fitting clothing, dresses, pencil skirts, low heels, bows, poufy sleeves, pink, sheer blouses, pearls, lace camisoles, flouncy tea length skirts and the occasional ruffle. I also like to carry a handbag, wear lipstick and define my waistline. Chanel and Valentino rock my fashion world. When I think about these aspects of my style, it’s clear that I dress in a feminine way.

Then I started thinking about the stereotypically non-feminine aspects of my style. I have very short hair and don’t wear earrings. I prefer flat footwear and sport short natural fingernails. Many of my favorite wardrobe items have a masculine or androgynous edge: jeans, button down shirts, blazers, flat oxfords, denim jackets, trench coats, oversize watches, biker jackets and flat boots. I adore classic gangster-like pinstripe suits, neck ties, cuff links, cravat style scarves and military styling. I like to surrender my waistline and wear unisex footwear like Converse sneakers and Dr. Marten boots. And on top of it all, I rather fancy looking strict and buttoned up.

Now here’s the interesting part. I still feel completely feminine when I wear boyish clothing and footwear, and that’s coming from someone who isn’t very curvy and doesn’t have a full bust. I attribute these feelings to two things. First, my manner is lady like and that ultimately makes me feel feminine no matter what I wear. For me, feminine dressing is more about an attitude and a state of mind, than it is about the specific items that I wear — I have a feminine attitude and act in a feminine way. So to a large extent for my style, feminine dressing comes from within.  

What is the source for your femininity?  Does it come from within?

Drag Queens Cover Dolly Parton's "Jolene"


  1. I agree absolutely with this post. I can be in 100% ultra male clothes and still feel fem. How ? It's all in the mind. Our ability to think can allow us to transcend clothing. I do like my ultra fem duds though, as they really enhance the visual and tactile feelings that support the mental.
    I love your '80's look. It is so "Designing Women" and you rock it.
    Angel Amore

  2. I blogged a little on this topic the other day. Well before I started my transition I had accumulated a fairly sizable wardrobe, but it seldom got worn. From my own perspective, my femininity wasn't about clothing and clothing did little to address my dysphoria, and yet I accumulated it. I'm not really sure why, maybe a subconscious sense that someday I would wear it as extension of my sense of self? I don't know. If nothing else, it created a connection for me.

    Now that I have started transitioning, I find that I am less worried about it than even before. It's kind of odd, but I am more comfortable in just wearing what I like and find fits well and so some of that is feminine, some is masculine, and some is generally neutral. I suppose one thing that will change as I become more public is that my t-shirts will get cuter. 😊