We asked a group of people in Los Angeles how they challenge traditional concepts of femininity. Here's what they had to say:
"My tenacity. When I want to achieve something I try my hardest and will not give up without a fight. Femininity traditionally is to be soft and not tough. I feel that I have a certain drive and toughness about me that is not traditionally feminine, but is more accepted in our modern times and is very special. It feels good to be strong willed and to be independent."
"I challenge the gender roles of women in Latino culture. Education has been really important to me and my older sister, and that's not something that's viewed as a priority for women in Latino culture. But we've just pushed against that and really succeeded. When it comes to planning the future like getting married and meeting partners that don't necessarily have our same educational or work background, it's a challenge to find a partner whose understanding of that and isn't intimidated by my role."
"I have a lot to say, and might offend some people. The first time a boy touched my butt without permission was when I in the third grade. There were times when I believed that what I wore got me into certain situations. As a daughter of immigrant parents, I was raised to serve others and was expected to be married at the age of 18 to my own race. As an American kid, this did not happen. As my body changed, and I carried two humans, I started embracing my stretch marks, my curves, and most of my imperfections. As a mother, wife, an employee, a member of society, and a woman with big tits, I am learning everyday to love myself and want to be a role model to my kids to love themselves and their curves as well."
"You're not supposed to have a giant dent in your head and you probably shouldn't show it off if you do have it. In the beginning I tried to hide it all the time, covering it, but now I wear my ponytails all the time, people ask about it all the time, and I love it. It's like my superpower."
"I'm hardworking and an adventurous person. I'm sometimes a risk taker, so I like doing activities that are a little wild to other people, like motorcycling and horseback riding. Also hardworking, I grew up in a home where it's not very machista but my dad tends to have these slight micro-aggression comments, where he tends to say that I'm working too much for a girl, or why don't you do this at home? But no, I want to earn my money. I want to be someone in life."
"My big cycling thighs have really become a point of pride. When that is the exact opposite of what messages you receive in fashion magazines and beauty and style, it means that I'm strong. They help me do things that I never thought were possible, and to get to views that I never knew of before. It reminds me that with my legs I can escape anything, I can help myself be independent. I can get around whenever I need to, in the way that I want to."
"I think my favorite thing is essentially that I don't need to invest any daily energy or effort towards or against femininity. I get interesting conflicting feedback - like, I was on a first date with a dude who asked what my pronouns are and then, when I replied that I accept all pronouns, chose 'they' - but then I have friends who think of me as 'all woman'. Yesterday some security guard had to gender-check me before letting me into a restroom (which is funny) but I'm also 100% all about racing the women's field in lipstick. All this, and I don't do anything about it other than exactly what I wanna do all the time."
"One thing I love about myself are my large hands. I didn't always love them, for a long time I was embarrassed of them and would try my best to hide them. They've been referred to as 'Man Hands' by many, yet I found beauty and strength in some thing that many see as unfeminine. However, I see femininity as being strong and bold and sometimes in your face, just like my hands."
"I'm like really, really strong. Secret strong. Like I will arm wrestle a man in a bar strong. I like the surprise element of my strength.
I do sometimes feel pressure to minimize that. For a long time I was embarrassed. But then as I got older I was like, women do so much to minimize themselves, to make themselves smaller physically and emotionally. No, I need to be out about my strength. Especially now with Trump."
"I have really masculine shoulders, and I always felt really insecure about them. But I was a swimmer growing up, and I could swim the butterfly really well because of them. So I actually really love them. It's a source of strength, and has allowed me to do things that other people couldn't do. But I think it's a cycle. Sometimes you feel really good about something and other days, you succumb to [the pressure] and wear a sweater to hide them. It's a learning process constantly for me."
"My strength, physical and mental. Oftentimes strength and power are seen as intimidating or unappealing coming from a woman. But I find it inspiring. I think the most feminine thing about a woman should be her strength, whether of mind body or spirit."
"The obvious answer for me is my legs, specifically my thighs. They aren’t strong, they’re accidentally-hurt-my-lover strong. They’re not fashionably “thick”, they’re hard-to-find-pants-for-and-even-then-still-get-tailored thick. They are scarred from mountain biking and touring. My shins are dug out in spots from pedal strikes and rocks. White lines ridge my calves and ankles like a topography map. But maybe it’s all of me. It’s how my body hoards muscle, stores it in deep layers and doles it out accordingly. My legs are my roots, they are my engine, but they’re only part of the machination. When we talk about femininity in bodies we talk about it in relief to the masculine. We talk about it in terms of lack. It is lack of hair, lack of dense muscle. It is smooth lines, muscle tonality without density, soft hips swaying and long limbs without the hardened edges of muscle wall. What we’re really talking about is frailty, smallness, an innate weakness that becomes fetishized. I could never relate to this idea of femininity. I do not wish for my body to disappear. Every time I move a mountain underneath me, I want more. I want to do it better, faster, and with more snack breaks. I want to be massive. I want to be able to wheelie over everything while making sure everyone has enough water."
"I'm not intimidated of doing things alone. I've always travelled alone, rode my bike alone, and kind of went my own way. I didn't really care if there was a trend or what anyone said. I was going to do what I want to do. That's what's different and what I love about myself. As a woman they expect you to have kids, get married, live this traditional life. And I've always been opposite. I'm more free-spirit, just get up and go, do my own thing."
THE FEMININITY PROJECT
Photography by Warren Kommers
Special thank you to everyone who shared their stories with us!