Feminism and femininity and Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson on clothes

Janet Jackson, asked about her “seriousness” about her clothes, says in an interview [Hollywood Life magazine, Nov/Dec 2006] –

“It just looked that way. It wasn’t about pleasing myself. I was always too rushed and too willing to let someone tell me what to do.”

She describes herself as “a chameleon. Part of me is sexy, part of me is very religious, part of me is a family girl, part of me is wild.

“I’m a tomboy in most things, but I’m girly sometimes, too. I like wearing men’s suits and I like wearing high heels that defy gravity!”

[Jackson’s biography has a pithy title: Too Many Miles Not Enough Love]

Arianna Huffington on speaking out

As a man [though perhaps many women also feel the same], I appreciate Jackson’s exuberant sensuality and sexuality in her music performances, and her often elegant clothing.

Arianna Huffington from FacebookBut her willingness to let someone else define her looks [at least in the past] reminds me of Arianna Huffington’s comments:

“There are two areas where women have more fear: one is our looks and our bodies, and we invest an enormous amount of time there…

“And the other area is speaking out. Women are still terrified of speaking out.”

One of Huffington’s books: On Becoming Fearless… in Love, Work, and Life

Androgyny and creativity

Jackson says she is “a tomboy in most things” — In my article Gifted Women: Identity and Expression, I note that one aspect of identity related to giftedness is androgyny, a concept developed by Stanford University psychologist Sandra Bem.

She does not view femininity and masculinity as opposite poles of a single continuum, but rather as parallel sets of traits.

A number of psychologists and others have commented that creative people and gifted women tend to be more androgynous.

Barbara StanwyckOther gifted and talented “tomboys” include Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, and Barbara Stanwyck [photo], who “often utilized her androgyny to create complex characters who challenged male authority and chafed under restrictive gender roles.”

[From the article : Barbara Stanwyck: Warrior Woman in Hollywood’s Gender Wars – by Torey L. King – see the page: androgyny / gender]

Barbara Stanwyck is part of the upcoming [Dec 2006] TCM Archives DVD: Forbidden Hollywood.

Straddling feminism and femininity

But Laura Kipnis, in her book The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability, says that being a woman – and perhaps using more androgynous traits – may involve inner conflict.

“If the female condition seems especially perplexing at the moment,” she writes, “the reason, it becomes evident, is that women are left straddling two rather incompatible positions.

“Feminism (‘Don’t call me honey, dickhead’) and femininity (‘I just found the world’s best push-up bra!’) are in a big catfight, nowhere more than within each individual female psyche.

“It has sometimes been argued that the conditions of femininity have been imposed by patriarchy. Feel free to tell the story this way around, if you prefer – that is, if you don’t mind reducing women to the status of passive receptacles as opposed to agents.”

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Regardless of our gender, being active agents of our own growth, and realizing our talents more fully, has both social and inner challenges.