Anyway as a butch lesbian I don’t think it’s wrong for me to want to criticize how femininity is forced on women and girls. I’m not saying you can’t participate in or enjoy femininity for yourself, but my journey has been… Complex. With regards to femininity and my feelings toward it.
When I was younger, around 8-9, I despised dresses and the color pink and everything to do with compulsory femininity. I actively and loudly proclaimed my hatred for these things. Over time, I told myself - or rather, I internalized messages from the world around me - that this was due to my own immaturity and actually was misogynistic. I forced myself to “get over it” and “fit in” and eventuality I was wearing skirts and dresses and even the color pink quite often. I thought of this as a success on my part to grow beyond my childhood fancies and to embrace femininity and womanhood, because of course I thought (as I was told) that the two are one and the same. Only recently have I begun to really shed these facets of compulsory femininity, to return to my “tomboy” childhood self. There are still some dresses in my closet - unworn, semi-forgotten vestments of a world I’ve left behind. I still own some makeup products, some high heels, some low cut “girly” tops. Femininity tends to leave a residue on one’s life, even after you think you’re done with it. Haven’t done laundry in two weeks? All that’s left is a skirt you bought in the tenth grade. Zit on your nose? Good thing you didn’t throw out your concealer. These things aren’t necessarily vicious, but the idea behind that skirt you bought in tenth grade (maybe if I stop wearing so many loose jeans the girls in my class will want to talk to me) or the idea that your skin should be held to a higher standard than that of a boy - these are the things that harm, and hurt, and stick to your skin long after you thought it was over.
This is not to say that somehow my growth is better or more nuanced than that of anyone else, I just want to say that femininity is compulsory and I have the right to question its role in society. More than simply saying it wasn’t for me but it’s totally fine and empowering for others, I want to give young girls and women a choice in how they can comfortably express themselves in the world. It’s not somehow easier to reject femininity than to accept it. I don’t benefit from some sort of “masculine privilege” by merit of being gender nonconforming and a butch lesbian. I can understand why makeup and dresses and high heels can be a refuge of safety for many women - trans women, women of color, disabled/differently abled women, etc. in particular - without promoting the idea of compulsory femininity as being a positive aspect of heteropatriarchal society. It’s not. It makes women safer because of its compulsory nature. Because, if you don’t submit, you may find yourself in danger. Makeup and beauty products may as well have the tagline “conform or die” and even if you do your best to conform, it may still not be enough. This is what I question. This is what I, as a butch lesbian, want to destroy. And even if you enjoy and find comfort in femininity, you should support every woman’s right to freedom without femininity.