Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Identifying Edginess and Anti-Feminine Messages in Pop Culture

My previous post made me think about all of the messages we get from pop culture that promote edginess and anti-feminine messages. Many of these messages have influenced me in the past, but now that I know what they are I won't let them alter my attitudes or behaviour. These are some examples that stand out for me.
  • Action films: I truly enjoy action movies but I know that I have to inoculate myself from wanting to be like the heroines. I loved Columbiana (starring Zoe Saldana) and any movies where women kicked the bad guys where the sun doesn't shine. But I was strongly influenced by Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. She had muscular arms in that movie and it influenced me to start lifting weights and trying to be buff (and non-feminine). In the film she was so masculine and was unable to be nurturing to her son at all. Awesome movie but why did I admire that? It didn't help that entertainment shows were talking about how great they thought Linda looked. Her character could have easily been played by a man. I will continue to enjoy the films but I won't fantasize about beating people up. 
  • Action/adventure/sci-fi television shows: I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, and La Femme Nikita. On these shows the heroines were constantly fighting, using guns, and saving people (including men). Because of Buffy I actually considered learning martial arts (not just for self-defense). I have to remember, I do not have to be a protector and I do not have to fight. I'll let the men do that. 
  • Athletic commercials: These advertisements almost always have anti-feminine messages. You may have seen a recent one where a woman is actually competing with a man flipping tires, climbing ropes and things like that (I couldn't find the commercial but this VIDEO makes the same point). Why do women have to compete with men in sport and exercise? I remember when I used to lift weights that I felt proud that I could lift the same dumb bells as some of the men. I was the dumb bell because I wasn't doing myself any favours. I don't want to box, play hockey, or be a power lifter. I'll stick to my cardio, light weightlifting, calisthenics, and dancing.
  • Music videos: Most Western music videos for pop, alternative, or hip hop music show women with edge and attitude. Maybe videos for ballads might be softer. It isn't news that the videos are too sexy but I haven't heard anyone complain about the edginess. In fact, the videos seem to be edgy on purpose. For instance, take Lily Allen. She wears feminine dresses but she curses like a sailor. Or anything from Avril Lavigne. Even when women in videos are dressed in super feminine clothes they always have a bad attitude! It's like it's not okay to just be nice, sweet, pretty, and romantic...they have to have an attitude! Of course, even the lyrics are not befitting a lady. I wanted to post Avril's "Smile" video but there was actually cursing in it. Any video where a woman curses, sings about her sexual exploits, or sings about beating people up is not for me. Notice in the video that she pushes the "nice girls" away! These videos also shows my point :  (warning there is foul language, crude lyrics, and degrading images in this documentary) Video1Video2.

  • Catty television shows: I have watched some of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, but I have heard that all the Real Housewives shows, Basketball Wives, and Love and Hip Hop shows are similar. The women in the shows may have money and expensive clothes but they lack class, education, sophistication, and good manners. They curse and get into physical fights! I avoid these shows like the plague. I avoid most reality shows anyway. There is nothing I need to learn from Jersey Shore or Teen Moms. These shows are pure poison! I haven't seen Desperate Housewives, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, or shows like that because I haven't been into that type of drama for a while. From what I have heard they have women scheming and acting very catty. It might be good entertainment but I would have to remind myself that this is not model female behaviour before I watch. 
  • Romantic comedies: It may seem strange to put this on the list, but there are a lot of mixed messages in romantic comedies. For instance, sometimes the female lead chases the guy and they often have sex on the first date or way too early. If the woman is the focus of the movie sometimes she drinks, smokes, and has other masculine traits. But if the man is the focus it is usually a very feminine woman! Well, that's what comes to my mind but I haven't been watching too many of these films. I just remember "Going the Distance" was like that so my opinion on this one might be inaccurate. But I guess all women are different and there is a guy for every woman even if they do have some bad habits and masculine traits. Do you know what's funny...remember that scene in the "Breakfast Club" where Alley Sheedy gets a makeover from melancholic emo girl to girly girl? For a long time I actually preferred her melancholic look but now I prefer the made-over look!
  • Fashion magazines: Yes, the magazines made by women for women are full of edginess and anti-feminine messages! I think my previous post demonstrates that many of the fashions displayed in these magazines are androgynous and unflattering to a feminine body. Their fashions don't not look good on women with curves and don't look so great on emaciated models either. Maybe it's because most of the designers are males who are not attracted to females? I have the feeling that the Asian styles I like are designed by women. Plus, in the magazines the women often look bored, like they are on heroine, unhappy, overly sexual, or like they have an attitude. It's rare to see anyone smiling or looking happy at all. It's all about edge and looking unnatural. I found a magazine a couple of days ago and that was what I noticed about it. I don't read fashion magazines (I don't buy magazines anymore) and I haven't for years because they tend to have a negative effect on women's body image. These videos demonstrate my point: Video1, Video2, Video3, Video4


  1. I think your definition of "feminine" is very narrow. I disagree with a lot of the things you mentioned in this article. So just because a woman is muscular she can not be nurturing to her children? I think not. What about women whose jobs require them to "take down" people, like with law enforcement officers?

    Just because you don't like boxing, hockey, or powerlifting doesn't make you more feminine than the women who do like and excel in those sports.

    You mentioned the women on those "Real Housewives" shows. I agree with you when you say their behavior is not to be admired, but somehow, they were able to find such wealthy and successful husbands.

    I understand that the article is your opinion though...

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    Yes, this article is based on my opinion, what I consider to be feminine, and what I find appealing.

    One of the purposes of this blog is to reverse the pressure I have felt growing up to want certain things (e.g., having muscles, being a police officer, boxing, hockey, power lifting etc.) instead of other things like sewing, cooking, being dainty, or feminine dancing.
    Your comment shows that it's almost natural for women to disagree any woman who rejects the things you mentioned. Why can't I have my own narrow definition of femininity? Are we not free to decide what we like and dislike?

    1. do you like to read? if so, i have an neat list of feminine books. i will say that they are mainly christian, as christianity extols the feminine virtues.

      little women
      stepping heavenward
      aunt jane's hero
      beautiful girlhood
      wide, wide world
      anything by Jane Austen
      vanity fair
      david copperfield (dickens)
      first we have coffee

      i was raised to be more boyish. i used to laugh, play, speak with a naturally feminine voice, dream of getting married and having babies. then my own parents and brothers began to put the pressure on me. i still have a problem with going back to using my natural voice wheneer i am around my brothers and dad. and when i am around my brothers, i revert to coarse speech. ugh! but i now love to sew, crochet, read, clean, cook, care for my baby, care for my husband in a feminine way, wear skirts, do my hair. i still dont wear makeup regularly, but i'd like to.

      i actually had a boyfriend tell me to stop wearing skirts (claiming it makes me an easy target for rape) and to gain weight (i was never skinny in my life. i was 5'4" 125 lbs). anyway, i am back to wearing skirts, and i did lose weight after gaining waaay to much. i got pregnant and gained back some weight though, so i need to work on that. but i find it interesting what you said about working out femininely. i lift weights and sometimes mroe than the men around me. i can squat longer than my body-builder friend and my husband. wow, i am such a dumbbell. i can see it all now, really. competing with men is a huge no no. i've been looking for aerobics workouts from the 80s, like the kind they did on "saved by the bell." lisa used to do them a lot. although i have collected some jane fonda workout tapes, i just keep finding jazzercize and twist-moves and things i dont really like. what i am looking for is the kind of tape where you jump around, like from side to side, in half jumping jacks, reaching from one side to the other with arms/legs, and keep up the energy throughout. and these tapes would also incorporate plenty of stretching. cannot find these!!! can you help? thanks. you have also inspired me to look into purchasing some feminine workout clothing, such as leotards, tights, and legwarmers. i love the 80s, can you tell? funny, because i was born in 1987. i love love love your blog! you are helping me so much. please do not stop.

  3. We are free to decide what we like or what we dislike, however if our opinions/perceptions about others impact how they treat individuals who are not like us, or don't fit within our paradigm, then that's bias... And we should avoid that. Womanhood and femininity run the gamut from beautiful, muscular, athletic, to powerful, enterprising, intelligent, competent, to dainty, delicate and demure... The beauty is that we can be all of those things. Most women are. That should be celebrated.

  4. Hey!
    I would really recommend watching traditional bollywood movies for edifying storylines and prime examples of feminine women. My favorite actress would be aishwarya rai. She is beautiful and super feminine. The way she moves is really alluring, coy, and yet proper. I've even tried to copy some of her dance moves in order to begin understanding the way a woman should move and hold herself.

    I'm not even Indian; I'm african american. But I can't help but model myself to certain aspects of feminine bollywood characters. Try it out- I think you would really like it :)

  5. Wow Kasey, you and i have similar interest, Aishwarya Rai is my absolute favourite bollywood actress and yes she is probably the most feminine woman i know. But she gained so much weight after having the baby, hopefully she will start working out and lose the weight.

    In India they produce a lot of movies which means a lot of the films they put out is mediocre, but there are a lot of great ones too you just have to be selective.

    I still wear jeans and i'm also guilty of dressing too sexy sometimes, but my goal is to dress more feminine instead of sexy. I'm going to get a lot more skirts for my wardrobe.
    I don't know why feminine women are hated on because they are usually the ones who get married or have fulfilling relationship. I remember when i had a girl power attitude and when i'd going around telling people i'm strong and independent, well that never worked for me and i was always single lol
    Not anymore, so glad i made the decision to become more feminine :)


    1. i love the movies aishwarya plays in, but i am usually more interested in the other female cast members. i love aishwarya, but...well...okay, she is feminine and coy with her eye/facial expressions, her voice, her singing, and her gestures. but, i feel that this should be more emphasized when she dances. and, when she dances, she looks a bit off, to me. in the movie, hum dil de chuke sanam, i like vanraj's sister, who is much more feminine and has a cheerful, pretty countenance. in the movie, i have found it, i like aishwarya's older sister, who is tall, elegant, lovely, and demure. in umrao jaan, i loved her singing and dancing. she was wonderful in that role.