I was in Target last night when I heard a woman say “No! Girls panties are not for boys to touch!”
I thought, “Damn. I hope that boy ends up being straight. And butch.”
There are small wars going on between different camps of feminism about whether women should wear makeup. Some say it’s pandering to the patriarchy. Others insist they find it empowering. Both camps seem blind to the fact that being able to wear your femme is a privilege.
I am a cis white woman. I have skinny privilege and pretty privilege. I can leave my house with no makeup and my hair in a ponytail and no one looks at me twice, or go out in full glam and be safe from judgment and bullying.
I can shop at cosmetics stores and debate lipstick colors with my friends without being afraid that the woman on the next aisle is going to be cruel to me. I can shop in the women’s underwear department and try on lingerie without self consciousness, and I can always find things that fit my body. I don’t have to fear mistreatment from sales associates or other customers.
I can be femme and be safe in public spaces.
The kid at Target may grow up to be the manliest straight man ever to man… and want to wear panties because they’re soft and they’re pretty. Maybe he’ll like the way they fit.
Maybe he’ll want to wear blue and green eyeshadow because he likes the way they look. Maybe he’ll want to wear dresses because they’re comfortable, or high heels because he likes the clicky sound they make on hard floors.
Maybe he’ll want to wear flashy earrings, because sparkly things are pretty. Maybe he’ll like the way flowery perfumes smell.
And maybe those desires will be the source of confusion and shame for him, because “panties are not for boys to touch”.
The trappings of femme have their foundation in appealing to all of the senses. The smell of the perfume, the click of the heels, the texture and movement of the skirt as it flows around your legs. These aren’t just things that appeal to straight cis women, but when anyone else reaches for them the overwhelming societal reaction is to smack their hand until they pull it back.
It’s not fair. It’s cruel.
We shouldn’t be talking about who benefits from femme culture without talking about the people who are suffering because they’re excluded from it.