The Florence Given Question Every Feminist Must Ask Themselves

Published on 12/10/2020

I’ve written a whole article on the incredible gift that “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” is to womankind, including thirteen quotes of Florence Given’s book. But aside from that, there is one essential takeaway that shook me to my core. There is the question I read, and then reread, and then couldn’t escape, no matter how much I tried. It seeped into my every action; it led to a spiral of questions that followed.

So without further ado, here it is:

“How much of my femininity is who I truly am, and how much of it is a product of patriarchal brainwashing to exist for male consumption?” — Florence Given, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty.

How much?

Try to answer this question to yourself, consider all of the things you do in the name of femininity/beauty, and how many of them you do yourself. For example, I recently decided to stop shaving, at least for a few months. It’s a challenge to myself, to stop viewing my bodily hair as gross or unnatural. I want to know what I look like with it; maybe I even prefer having it. I want to accept everything of my body, even if I later decide I like having it shaved.

It was confronting to realise that I shaved for others, that if no one ever saw my armpits again, I would never bother to have them bare. What actions do you complete for patriarchal standards? It could be the makeup you wear, the skirts or dresses, shaving or waxing, colouring your grey hair. The list is endless. Also, consider what you don’t do because of them, things you could try or experiment with. It’s freeing to open up those possibilities, ones we never saw as within reach.

Further questions

Because it isn’t just one question, it’s all the questions that are covered by it:

  1. If I could “wake up like this” and be considered beautiful, what aspects of my beauty routine would I still do?
  2. If gender didn’t exist, would I still dress in the way that I do?
  3. If I were married/in a relationship, would I change the way I look?
  4. If no one were ever to see me again, would I still wear makeup/ shave/ try to lose weight?
  5. If someone else looked like me, would I consider them to be beautiful?

Dare to ask yourself these questions, and dare actually to answer them. Spoiler alert: your answer will differ to those around you, and that’s okay! We’re not designed to be carbon copies; we’re beautifully unique, so why try to fight it?

Practice makes perfect

I’m not shaving until I reach a point where I don’t feel the need to, where I don’t feel embarrassed by it. That means that plenty of people in the gym or spinning class get to enjoy my hairy armpits. That means my boyfriend gets to experience them for as long as I do.

Push yourself to be uncomfortable. You might not know which aspects of your beauty of body identity are for you and others until you try to take them away until you completely change them. Dare to experiment, and practice doing things for you and how you like to look. This is your body, don’t let people tell you how to govern it. If makeup allows you to feel confident and unique, then wear it, wear it however you want to. Purple lips or orange eyeshadow or a streak of blush. Do what you want to wear, not what others would like to see from you. Use every opportunity as a chance to express yourself and define who you are and what you want from this world. Our body is our canvas, and don’t let the viewer become the artist.

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Fleur

Fleur

Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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