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Erika L. Sánchez Headshot

What Do I Need to Do to be Feminine Enough?

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I often have anxiety when getting dressed in the morning. Mostly because there is often a fine and arbitrary line between figure-flattering, feminine clothing, and clothing that may be considered suggestive or inappropriate. Society demands that we follow certain beauty standards, but if we look too provocative, we aren't taken seriously. Wear the wrong dress, and you might be labeled a trollop by men and women alike. Wear a bit too much makeup and you might be called a Kardashian. This vague middle ground is what causes me such apprehension.

I am very comfortable with my body and pleased with how I look in general. However, there are times the spicy Latina stereotype stifles me. Sometimes I show my boyfriend my outfit and makeup before we go out to make sure no one will mistake me for Charo's granddaughter. Each time he tells me I'm being ridiculous. But I worry because I don't want to be objectified and thought of as the whorey Latina who likes to show off her ample lady parts. Plus, I like leopard print. It's hard enough to be taken seriously in the world.

As a feminist, I feel anxiety about beauty work in general. How much makeup is reasonable? Should I invest in a makeup gun? Should I dye my prematurely graying hair? What kind of hair removal should I use and how often? Why should I wear heels? If I show any cleavage, am I inviting dehumanizing leers? Should I laser my face off? If my pants are too tight, will I be judged at work? Should I bedazzle my internal organs?

How do we, as women, decide what beauty work we will or will not participate in? How did I decide that I was anti-girdle, anti-uncomfortable underwear, anti-bikini waxes, anti-plastic surgery, anti-heels (mostly), anti-diets, and anti-tanning? How did I decide that it was ok to wear makeup? It took me a long time to figure out what I am willing and not willing to do. Most of my reasons are deeply rooted in my feminist beliefs and some of them are a result of my sheer and utter laziness.

I suppose that I refuse to perform anything that causes too much physical discomfort or that radically changes the way I look. My attitude is: world, this is what I look like -- deal with it and shut your mouth. I do, however, participate in some traditionally female rituals. I put on makeup every morning simply to avoid unnecessary strife. In the professional world, you're expected to wear at least some makeup. I know that if I didn't wear a bit of concealer, the dark circles under my eyes would sometimes rival those of Uncle Fester.

I also think it's unfair that it's so much more expensive to be a woman. There are endless doodads and knickknacks that we're expected to buy. I refuse to be a typical female consumer. I'm not interested in emulating Imelda Marcos -- I have many books to buy! Plus, I don't see men getting their junk waxed or buying various lip plumping glosses. It ain't fair.

I suppose there will always be anxiety for me when it comes to beauty. I am always asking myself if I'm compromising my feminist beliefs by wearing this or doing that. What would Emma Goldman say about this hoochie skirt? But I also don't want to reject beauty work so much that I neglect my Mexican facial hair and end up looking like my hero Emiliano Zapata. Therein lies the unease.

Female readers, please tell me how you make these decisions.