Thinking Pink: Being a Girly-Girl Feminist

There’s a lot of pink and frilly in my life right now. I can’t quite tell if it’s a sugar-flower girly-girl binge that’ll peter out in a year or two, or if I’ve finally managed to incorporate the part of me that wants blush-pink tops and lace and pearls into my otherwise aiming-for-adult experience of feminism. Liking those things has always seemed a little shameful, almost as if by preferring them I was sliding back fifty years into a chiffon-and-pearls-filled anti-feminist head space.

I was maybe eight the first time I remember consciously rejecting all things girly; I was Not Like Other Girls, after all, and had to visually differentiate myself from them by skewing toward cooler colors and no-nonsense construction. This was hard sometimes, because my family depended pretty heavily on hand-me-downs and consignment stores until I was in high school. I never actually point-blank told my mother what I was doing or why I didn’t want to wear that skirt with the weird frill and lace around the hem, either. I don’t think I could have. I couldn’t articulate at fifteen that I didn’t want to wear visually feminine things because femininity in a small Southern town was a very specific box to fit into—and I had absolutely no interest in a box whose walls were marriage (after college if you were feeling particularly adventurous) and babies, home and church, and football games every Friday night.

Even in college I kept to my usual habits, but I finally developed the language to explain why I was doing what I was doing. Feminine traditionally has connotations of inferiority, of smallness, and of Other before Self. So I kept wearing blues and greens and avoiding things that were too obviously feminine. I was Not Like Other Girls, after all.

It wasn’t until I moved half-way across the country for grad school that the pattern finally started to shift. I found a circle of great women and girls both in real life and online who challenged the idea that liking dresses and lace and pink were the first slippery steps down the cliff to marriage and babies and losing my Feminist Card. I’ve realized that there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to stuff my wardrobe with blush tops and skirts and lace—I am a feminist no matter what. I can take my space in the world and all it entails and make it feminist. Maybe there’s something a little off about wanting to reclaim the girly-girl aesthetic from its traditional space in modern American culture. Maybe it’s presumptuous. But I won’t know unless I try, right?

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