Are You Ready To Embrace Your Femininity?
'I'm not like other girls’ was the millennial mentality
I’ve never worn so much pink or engaged in so much female-focused media as I have in the last few months. When I was a teenager, I distanced myself from anything too girly, wearing men’s checked shirts and ripped tights. I partly blame Tumblr for my wardrobe choices from 2011-2016, but I also blame a secret embarrassment to present too feminine.
I suppose my underdeveloped brain thought that to be taken seriously I would have to distance myself from my gender. In the 00s and 2010s, it wasn’t ‘cool’ to be girly, was it? You grew out of wearing pink and listening to pop music when you were nine, swiftly turning your back on all the things you once loved, for fear of being seen as ‘childish’.
Sure, we had hyper-feminine icons like Paris Hilton and Elle Woods, but we viewed them differently to how we do now. They were punching bags and the butt of anti-feminism jokes, rather than celebrated for their overt display of girlhood. ‘I’m not like other girls’ was the unofficial motto of millennial women, and we subconsciously decided that being hyper-feminine was like slapping a target on your own back.
But our time in the spotlight as a defining generation came and went and we’ve handed over the baton to the Gen Z girls, and with hindsight on their side, they seem to be doing things with it that we could have never imagined.
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I see it all around me, through social media and conversations I hear on the bus, Gen Z are not shying away from their femininity, instead they’re embracing it. They’ve reclaimed the word ‘bimbo’ (just look up #bimbotok on TikTok), they’ve hoisted female artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish to international fame, and they’ve shown us that ‘being just like other girls’ is actually a good thing.
Call me naive, but this year, I have felt a shift among women of all ages, in our keenness to reclaim our femininity. Maybe we’ve been inspired by Gen Z, but it’s like we’ve said a collective ‘feck it’, the patriarchy will always find ways to not take us seriously no matter how much we censor our femininity, so we might as well dial it all the way up.
Of course, the media around us must have some influence on this ushering in a reawakening of what it is to be a female too. I know that by now we’re all tired of talking, hearing, and reading about the Barbie movie, but I don’t think we can dismiss the link between the film and the loss of our inhibitions. I choke up thinking about standing in the cinema with dozens of other women of all ages, dressed up in our pink clothes, excited to sit down and watch a movie about the doll we played with as little girls.
Call it pack mentality, but I took comfort in being one among this group of people, it felt powerful, nothing and no one could infiltrate us. All we needed was the nod from Shania Twain saying ‘Let’s go girls’ and every door in the building would be kicked off its hinges. Then when the credits rolled an hour and a half later, some magic had happened in our minds.
Cliché as it may sound, the Barbie movie assured us that we could be a president and wear pink dungarees, a lawyer and tie a cute bow in our hair. We knew all of that as children, but somewhere along the way, adulthood got the better of us and we forgot that feminism and femininity can live harmoniously, they don’t counteract one another. That might seem obvious to some, but for those of us living smugly in the ‘not like other girls’ camp for most of the 2010s, it was an awakening.
Simultaneously, other female-dominated spaces are happening all over the world. Millions of people have attended Taylor Swift concerts in the US and Canada, and once again the Gen Z’ers are showing us how female friendship is done.
Since the first Eras Tour concert kicked off a new trend has emerged where attendees exchange friendship bracelets at the show. Fans attending the concerts spent their time in the lead-up to the night hand-crafting beaded bracelets inspired by Taylor’s lyrics and handing them out to other people in the arena on the night.
The act itself is so kind, so wholesome, and the internalised misogyny inside 17-year-old me probably would have thought it naff, but 28-year-old me couldn’t whack a bracelet on my wrist fast enough. The trend, which has racked up millions of views and engagement online is yet another example of how the tide seems to be turning with younger generations, and it’s safe to say, they have me sold.
While androgyny is still a big part of my personal style, now in my late 20s, I like putting on a dress and doing a little curtsy. I cry when I see something like an elderly man eating ice cream, I squeal with excitement when something makes me happy, and I sign my emails off with a little ‘x’ beside my name. I’ve made peace with it, and I don’t think I need to change those things about myself to be taken more seriously.
If fact, I think men should curtsy more, and adopt smiley faces in their emails, it’s kind of embarrassing for them that they don’t. I don’t want to water down the essence of being feminine, I want to embrace it, and in 2023, it feels like we can do that, even if I’m about 10 years late to the party.
This article originally appeared in the October 2023 issue of STELLAR magazine.