I'm not what you might call a girly-girl. I don't read Cosmopolitan or Vogue, I feel like an impostor in lipstick, I can barely walk in heels, and I haven't read Eat Pray Love or Pride and Predjudice. I've never owned a Jewel album. I don't diet. I just bought a pair of mechanic's coveralls and am in love with them. I own, and know how to use, an extensive tool kit. I prefer a juicy burger to a veggie wrap, don't wear anything pink, hate fruit smoothies, and have no concept of how to blowdry my hair straight.
And yet. My USB stick is sparkly. I live in skirts. I ride a cruiser instead of a hipster road bike, and get my cleavage out at every opportunity. I love dance music about ex-girlfriends. I am the master of the smoky eye. I have enormous, glorious hair that was the bane of my existence in high school, but is now an unbrushed, wild-woman lioness' mane that will get into a knife fight with flat-haired girls and win.
When I was a little girl, I used to dread going to dance classes, because I was so tortured by my sturdy little legs and my protruding belly. Ballerinas and modern dancers were supposed to be supple, long-limbed, graceful and skinny: I was short, curvaceous, and moved with the elegance of an overweight wildebeest. I quit after a few years, because the shame of not getting it right - not being girly enough, in either movement or appearance - outweighed any pleasure I might have felt in moving my body or dancing in my world. I sort of regret that, although when I think back to dancing to "It's Raining Men" in a neon-yellow satin raincoat and whore's makeup, I'm not totally sure that "jazz dancing" was the best fit for my tastes. But, and even though I can't tell if it's a lack of talent or a fear of trying, the graceful-lady dance look is well beyond my grasp.
There's this weird gray area between butch and femme that I just love: Japanese anime characters with enormous guns and little-girl eyes. Rosie the Riveter. When it gets too gray - lady bodybuilders, for instance - there be dragons...but for the most part, there's nothing that feminizes an aesthetic more than adding a touch of hardness to it. Lara Croft got it right. So did the babes from Suckerpunch. Even though that movie was pure dreck, the look of it - huge swords nestled against a thigh clad in a school-skirt - was very appealing. So much of traditional femininity is trite and predictable - the pink, the short skirts, the submissive attitude or the one that's supplanted it, the bitch/diva/goddess persona that has somehow transformed getting a brazilian wax into an act of empowerment. The butch femme complicates that by taking elements of masculine looks and sounds - gunshots, dirt, track and field events, high technology, blood, gore, drums, bass, and a dash of ballsiness that's unmatched by a subscription to Elle.
Lest you think I'm hating on the ladies (which, like, no), I think that masculinity is more interesting when it's threaded with elements of "feminine" behaviour. Vulnerability, honesty, and emotional self-awareness are all "girl" traits, but let's be honest: they make for better humans. By the same token, "manly" traits like self-reliance, assertiveness and a get-'er-done attitude can help transform a girl into a woman.
In any case, I'm into the whole tough-girl look/feeling. Makes me feel good, like a woman who knows what she wants, even part of me is still that self-conscious failed ballerina. What's the expression? Fake 'til you make it? Fake nails and real blood in this case.