How Quarantine Has Me Reevaluating My Femininity

If you’re anything like me, ever since middle school, and even a bit before then, you were drawn into a very complicated world of female beauty standards and dizzying definitions of what it means to be feminine. And while we may be striving to free ourselves from traditional gender roles, the conditioning that women face from a young age is sometimes hard to shake. For years now, I have approached activities such as shaving my legs or applying makeup with a slight hesitation, wondering “Is this really my choice? Or have I been convinced that this is what I must do?” 

Now that we’ve been living in a world of quarantine and social distancing, any sort of social pressure I once may have faced has (somewhat) decreased. I will not pretend that social media or advertising or TV and movies do not factor in at all. But I am no longer being seen by people outside of my family. Any encounters I have are brief glances from at least six feet of distance. I only recently came to the realization that I have not put any makeup on in over a month. I shave my legs, but not frequently enough to avoid days of stubble. I had not given it a second thought, and I am not any less of a woman now than I was when I entered quarantine. 

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The truth is that femininity is a performance. That is not to say that being feminine is bad or even fake. There are people who will continue to put time into their makeup because that brings them routine and, most importantly, joy in a turbulent time. But it’s important to find the source of feminine practices and evaluate whether it is something that makes you happy or something you feel you must do. These circumstances we are in are strange and unlike anything we are used to, but there’s a chance within this to find what feminine expression means to you, what you truly enjoy, and carry that with you in the future. Why should I put on makeup for any of my future classes when I felt no compulsion to do it for Zoom calls? Why should I shave my legs or pluck my eyebrows obsessively when I go out somewhere when I didn’t do that for walks around the neighborhood? 

Every person will experience this time differently. Not everyone will have the same revelation that I had about personal habits. But I would urge everyone to see what it is that is making you happy in this time of crisis and continue to apply those principles when it’s behind us. The level at which you perform femininity should be based upon your own preferences and nothing else.