It really is the prerogative to have a little fun. Expressing femininity is something I’ve only recently embraced fully, and you should try it too. You don’t have to have a “good” body, be conventionally pretty, or even be biologically female to subsume the characteristics we have, for some reason, sheltered under the umbrella of ‘femininity’: you only have to make the choice.
Like many feminists, I have always been slightly wary of behaviours or activities traditionally associated with femininity because they’re socially imposed and could lead to more stereotypical thinking about women. Who knows how quickly treating myself to a sparkly mani-pedi will spiral into baking apple pies for my husband in black-and-white (which is roughly how I see all of the ‘50s for some reason)? But it doesn’t have to be like this: wanting to be feminine doesn’t make you a bad feminist, or a bad woman.
That pink, Barbie, flowery skirts, One Direction, eyeshadow, and gossiping about crushes are all considered a bit cringeworthy is testament to the fact that femininity is still seen as weakness where masculinity is strength. Femininity is not about being subservient or inferior, and it’s not something you have to apologise for, either. Children quickly learn that being a tomboy is cool, whilst being a 'girly-girl' is for babies from phrases like “you’re such a girl” and "that's for girls". This was certainly a trap I fell into once, but I won’t again.
Femininity is inclusive of intelligence, independence, and all-round badassary: you don’t have to explain that you’re these things as well as feminine, because these qualities shouldn’t be in opposition. You can also toy with femininity and scale it up or down, because only you get to decide on your gender, what makes you feel feminine and when you want to enact it. One way I like to do this is through makeup: an entire art form I have unleashed upon myself.
I never got the “I don’t wear makeup for men, I wear it for me” thing until recently. It always sounded like an excuse to cover up insecurity and make yourself look prettier for other people whilst pretending to be a good feminist. But actually spending up to a full hour alone, just concentrating on yourself and the array of pretty colours you can use to highlight different parts of your face, is one of the best ways I’ve found to combat stress and create me-time in the hustle and bustle of Cambridge life. I’m not trying to hide my face, I’m painting enormous wings around my eyes that I’ll catch a glimpse of in every shop window on the way to lectures, and I'm actually wearing some of the colourful dresses I’ve bought over the years but never really had an occasion for.
I find femininity empowering because it helps me to combat insecurity, and it’s also fun which, in the immortal words of Cyndi Lauper, is all girls want, after all. Anything that will aid my wellbeing is something I’m going to celebrate, and far from being in conflict with feminism, treating both sexes and every gender equally is exactly what it’s all about.