A facebook friend of mine, and a former high school big-time crush, let's called her Selden...since that's her name...recently posted this column on her page from Huffington Post...
(Inserting gratuitous Emma Watson Vanity Fair pic here. Hey it's in the HuffPo story too!)
...and asked the question on FB: "Would love to hear thoughts from my women friends, young and old, on this article. Is baring your boobs consistent with feminism?"
...and the first response to her q was this:
This is a really interesting question - I think I have sort of noticed two completely different strains of feminism: for simplicity's sake I'll call them American and European. European feminism is about women owning themselves completely, including their sexuality and the power that their sexuality, and other peoples' response to it, gives them. There was an excellent essay by a Swedish model who came to the United States - I'll try to find it and share it. On the other hand, the American version of feminism seems to be primarily about asserting women's absolute equality - almost to the point of non-differentiation - with men, and which looks severely askance on women who use their "feminine charms" as an asset, if you will, to shape the world around them. What do you think?
And Selden responded:
I think I always bought into the American version, believing in absolute equality, and also feeling that if you didn't want to be objectified by men, you shouldn't dress in a way that flaunts your sexuality. But I find this article to be intriguing and leads me to re-think things a bit. The idea that women should have freedom to be whoever they want to be, whether it's being a sexual being, or something else, makes some sense.
And this is what I soon added, even though I didn't qualify to answer, not being of the societally-defined feminine variety:
This is a topic I've thought a lot about, actually, and not JUST in terms of Emma Watson's underboobs. And it fascinates me. I think women just have about a 10% idea of just how much power they have and how superior they are to men in every way except physical strength. I know that isn't the point here, but it is part of it. There is nothing wrong with femininity! Well, except how hard it is to spell. It can be a tool of power...or not. It bugs me that people still see it in any negative way. Or that only women can embrace it. I showed someone that just for fun once with my wife, we painted my toenails a pretty bold red and the person said "You are obviously so secure in your masculinity" to which I said "Wouldn't it be cool if one could say that I was secure in or proud of my femininity?" And isn't a shame that until I wrote this just now, I was embarrassed to let anyone else know that we'd done that? I kept my toes covered for weeks, not wanting to remove the polish, until I finally took the time to take it off. Thanks for asking, Selden, and I loved your input too, Deirdre. Very interesting.
(Not mine unfortunately)
My fear is that by saying that "...femininity as a tool of power...seems manipulative and dishonest" is seeing femininity as a weakness of some kind. If one dives deep, I see it as saying that there is something wrong with using all of one's gifts, whether they be intelligence or sense of humor...or physical attractiveness. I see nothing negative in using one's physical gifts as readily as using any other gift. Male privilege certainly draws from size. Taller people certainly have an advantage over short people. Studies show that kindergarten teachers give more attention to their best looking students. Not saying those things are right, but it will never change, so when women don't generally have the advantage of being as physically imposing as a man, isn't it fair to use their own God-given attributes?
I am semi-obviously a big fan/defender/supporter of femininity and I'll be sad if any trend toward total androgyny continues to grow. And I also wonder if women are embarrassed or unaware or ashamed of this power they have...which only keeps them from achieving the power and equality they incredibly still don't have on a par with we inferior quasi-masculine-types.
But in general, as my sister Judy once said about men and women, though I'll expand it to masculinity and femininity:
Vive le difference!