femininity is a performance



Have you heard of this thing called a “t-shirt bra”? I just bought one, and it’s like I’m fucking fourteen years old—every time I go to the bathroom I have to lift up my shirt to check out how amazing my tits look.

As I have previously gloated about ad infinitum, I do not buy sweatshop clothes. I don’t really buy new clothes at all, except from small companies and cool designers as a special treat a few times a year. But I spend more time thinking about clothes than someone with the hardcore anti-consumerist views I have rightly should. Sometimes I am walking past, say, Rambling Rose on Main Street in my little town, where the pretty dresses are arranged so artfully, and I get a surge of “I want to buy clothes” that electrifies my entire body. If I had the cash, I would spend a lot on Etsy and with other good small designers, and if I had the time I would thrift shop my way into many times more clothes than I have now. But I have neither, so new clothes are a big thing for me, even thrifted ones.


Enter Target, that vast wasteland of post-apocalyptic American stinkall. Because of the containers debacle (my business is all about debacles, I tells ya) I am constantly making furtive horrible trips to Target, which I once explained in this post but I’ll explain it all again anyway. Right now most of my cooler bags and containers for my meal delivery service are 3-5 years old, so I’ve been replacing them little by little as their shoddy craftsmanorwhatevership gives out. I’ve looked into ordering both wholesale, but it is actually more expensive than buying them at Target, can you believe that? So I go to Target. But they have this policy of stocking no more than 8 or so containers at a time, so I have to constantly pop into any Target I happen to be passing.

I’m usually pretty good about not buying excess plasticky shit there, but I usually have to walk past the horrid siren song of the clearance women’s clothes rack. This is super dangerous. The clothes are so cheap! And not as cheaply made as you might think! And, I’m so humiliated to be admitting this, but….they are, some of them, anyway, sort of….super duper rad.

So sometimes things happen. I don’t take drugs, I’m not an alcoholic, I’m not a major asshole—so maybe every few months I put like $30 (I swear to god, $30 gets you ridiculously far in that 75% off rack! It’s against everything I stand for in the whole world, but the allure of a $4 tank top that is insanely awesome still makes my heart beat fast!) into the pocket of Target, is that so bad? It sort of is, because there is a Goodwill 15 minutes from my kitchen that appears to be the final resting place for all the clothes that Target can’t even sell for 75% off. Has anyone else noticed this weird phenomenon—that Goodwills are sometimes filled almost exclusively with Target stuff? So I should just go there, but anyway anyway anyway, sometimes things happen, and what happened last week was this cute bra and panties set thing and believe you me, dearest internet, I am not a person who likes that I just wrote “panties.” My god. I wear “underwear.” Not panties. But these have a fucking bow, two in fact, so I guess that makes them panties. (As a saving grace, they are a sedate blue.) But for $10 I got a matching bra and since the only other bra-like contraptions I have are those annoying American Apparel (pre-AA ban, I should add) sports bras things that smush everything into an unappetizing uniboob (because everyone knows: boobs must be appetizing!), this bra is a fucking revelation to me.


Everything about the bra amazes me. I don’t know why this seems so fancy as I know that all bras have this, but I love the three sets of hooks so you can basically decide just how much of a girl you want to be that day. How much discomfort are you willing to trade for tits that defy gravity to ever more ridiculous degrees? (As I’ve learned from you peeps, though, some women want to wear bras because they are actually more comfortable, and I bow to you.)

That’s not the best feature of the bra, though. I’ve never owned one of these t-shirt bra deals before, because I thought that padded bras were ridiculous. I’m proud of my 32-As! I’m not going to plump them up at all. But the minute I put it on I realized that they have another benefit: nipple protection. Women! WOW. Yet another thing my mom declined to tell me about: padded bras don’t just exist to make your breasts look bigger, they are there to hide your scandalous nipples and evenly round out any scandalously pyramidy or pointy boobs you might have. (My mom mostly wore tube tops when I was growing up, and when she went into the supermarket she would throw on an old short-sleeve work shirt sort of thing. I’m sure she wore, and still wears, bras to work—dingy white mom-type stretched-out affairs—but all I remember are the hilarious and highly embarrassing tube tops.)

I personally love it when women walk around brazenly with no bra on and it gets cold and they just don’t care who notices. But I don’t love it when it happens to me, because you know the deal: people notice! So I always carry a hoodie, and that gets dumb. Today I was parading around the cold health food store with my thin t-shirt dress and my magical cheap-as-shit t-shirt bra in total confidence that no skanky hippie dude would be flirting with me because everyone knows that having a little headlights action going on means anyone can flirt with you.

It was wonderful.


Well, a hippie dude flirted with me anyway.

But his opening line was the blue in my hair, not my fantastic rack (speaking of, what’s going on with my dress in that picture??). Have you ever noticed that hippie dudes are the worst flirters in the whole world? The whole affair was a bit of a fiasco, as those types of things always are. I left wondering, as I always do, what all women always wonder: that mixture of “was I gracious?/Did I send clear enough ‘NOT INTERESTED’ signals?/But was he maybe just making conversation and not flirting, and if so, was I a giant asshole?” Repeat repeat repeat.

I don’t blame the bra, though. He was just a flirty hippie dude. My dips into the world of femininity do seem to have upped my propensity to be flirted with though. Which reminds me, I need to write a post about leg shaving. I’ll tell it to you in a haiku, instead, ok?

you never told me

about smoothness and texture—

softness, so quiet.

10 years of not shaving my legs, and one day (because a band who was staying chez moi left a razor and shaving cream in the shower, actually) I just did it. TEXTURE! Wow. I didn’t mind my hairy legs, they weren’t all that hairy even, but I am wildly in love with the smoothness of my brand new legs. I’m telling myself that it’s all about texture, and mixing things up, and fucking with people who think of me as a hairy-legged bitch. But I’ve been girling-it up pretty hardcore for a while now, and I can’t quite explain why. It’s fun, and that freaks me out a bit. Feminism is about having choices, right? Right?


7 Responses to “femininity is a performance”

  1. Truly Srumptious

    I am new to your blog, and I swearz to science that I could have written your post – except I bought that t-shirt bra yesterday at an outlet store, which I usually consider to be a total scam, and this morning I shaved my armpits for the first time in years, only because it’s blazing hot at my restaurant and I wanted to wear a tanktop – nothing grosses me out more than exposed armpit hair of a restaurant worker.

    Aaaaanyway, about that t-shirt bra I bought. I have never minded much if I got a bit nipply in my basic “natural look” bras (moreso lately as tight-fitting shirts came into fashion). Comfort ranked higher than hiding my post-breastfeeding, uneven nipples. But, lately, and probably related to hormones and perimenopause, I’ve had constantly and painfully erect nipples, and I thought, “what if my customers think I’ve gone pointy because I’m *turned on* by them?!” and that thought so horrified me that I determined to squelch the possibility.

    Well, then I was confronted with my obsession with aging gracefully (does it fall out of the realm of “graceful” if I’m obsessing?) and I was left wondering if I should be hiding this new phase of my nearly-40 life behind snug shirts and t-shirt bras designed for 20- and 30-somethings?

    As I sit here itching my newly-shaved underarms, I want to say thanks for an enjoyable post to welcome me into your blog (got here via Vegans of Color) even if that wasn’t your intention.

  2. Dani

    Ha, love the whole post! Amen, Feminism IS about choices and I love that you posted about this. It sounds trite, but we all want to feel good about ourselves whether in a feminine way or not, right? I hate when people assume I’m trying to fit some standard just because I’m wearing make-up or bra or heels…But yeah, nobody should *have* to be sexy, or have big boobs or small hips or wear heels any of that, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear things that make you feel sexy. Most people want to feel sexy in some way.

    I wish I could go bra-less but the nipple thing gets me too. damn.

    My Goodwill has scads of target refuse too! Other Goodwills from past lives/cities don’t do this so I was pleasantly surprised – then unpleasantly surprised by the fact that they only seem to get things that are not my size.

    And I don’t say ‘panties’ either. That word has always sounded especially gross to me, especially if a dude says it. Yuck.

    A while back I think you posted about make-up and why you don’t wear it…or did I make that up? (ha! pun not intended but i’ll leave it.) Anyway, I always wanted to say:
    I love make-up. I know I shouldn’t, and would you believe me if I told you I haven’t bought *any* in the last 3 years? And prior to that I was all about trying not to buy too much, b/c, as we all know, many companies that say they are animal-friendly really aren’t when it’s all said and done.

    I haven’t bought in 3 years because my sweetie’s mom gives me loads of it at bdays & xmas. Bare Essentials, or however the hell they spell it – the ‘minerals’ stuff that comes in little pots.

    Now, I don’t wear make-up more than I do wear it. But I feel about make-up the way I feel about clothes. I love having the option! The freedom, the creativity – how do I want to look today? And I love the compacts and pots and brushes & even fake eyelashes. I actually *feels sorry* for the dudes that have less options in this one area (or at least they tell themselves this.) I don’t believe that they don’t want the opportunity to cover up a huge zit! Who cares?

    (Also – I’ve tried to put concealer on my J.’s face before to no avail. )

  3. Dani

    oh, sorry for being redundant, I was typing and attempting to be involved in a conversation at the same time.

    Also, I didn’t say how much I respect your anti-consumerist lifestyle. And that I don’t think anybody can knock you for buying something new now & then. Not until the majority of available goods are fair-trade and planet-friendly, anyway.

  4. lagusta

    Thanks, ladies!

    Dani: re: makeup: here are my quick reasons for not wearing it:
    1) laziness
    2) not understanding how to use it
    3) cheapness
    4) it scares me because every time I’ve worn it it’s made me horribly itchy or freaky looking
    5) laziness!
    6) only very very very small feministy “women should not paint their faces” concerns. Again, feminism is about choices! And yes, some radical feminists I know would say “but patriarchy means that women’s choices are so tightly defined that women don’t even realize that they are living in a world in which makeup is defined as “normal” and and and and…” But whatevs. All those tiny brushes and pots and colors and wands and creativity look SO FUN.

    It’s sort of like coffee: I just never got into it, and I figure that I’ll just keep avoiding forever it because it simplifies my life– even though a part of me wants to be a giant coffee snob.

    Not that you needed to know all that, but now you do!

    Oh, and I have a teeny little tube of not-my-skin-tone concealer stuff that I totally bust out when I have a zit. It’s magical!

  5. brittany

    i cannot BELIEVE i’m missing all of this!!!!!!!!!

    panties = gross. that word is only for child molesters. i only wear underwear (hanky pankys exclusively, actually, and it doesn’t get more “panty-ish” than these http://www.feministe.us/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/r409974-p409975-flat02.jpg) but i will never, ever, ever allow that word to refer to anything i own. or think about owning. or refuse to own. either way, it’s gross.

    when i come back in august can i just tryyyy the makeup thing with you? just for fun?

  6. Dani

    Lagusta: you are the most gracious blogger ever! Thanks for tolerating my off-subject rambling. :-)
    Oh, and I used to post as ‘Danielle’, in case you wondered where ‘she’ went. C’est moi! just using my nickname now.

    Brittany – I was gonna write the exact same thing about pedophiles being the only people who say ‘panties’!
    Soooo glad to find people who agree about the word being gross.

  7. Katy

    You shaved your legs?!? That means I can admit to you now that while I still go for months and months without shaving (same with my pits) and it’ll be great, one day I’ll dig out some probably horribly dangerous old razor from somewhere behind the bathroom trash can under the sink and LOVE the smoothness! I’ve even started wearing perfume on occasion as of late too, although I hate the word perfume – it is far too girly, which is a bit silly, seeing as how I’m indulging in the whole girly thing to begin with here….anyway, I can’t ever, ever wear perfume at work, and haven’t really ever been a perfume person anyway, so it feels marvelously decadent to give myself a little spritz on my chest at the end of the day. It is all natural oils and all that, it’s not like I am Chanel-ing it up, but still, it almost feels scandalous it is so unlike me….

    Hippie boys are bad, and trust me – rednecks are overly brazen. I got two honks, a look-back and a whistle while walking around my neighborhood last week – SO annoying. It isn’t ever the overly literate, irrelevant scarf-wearing, secretly punk tattooed professional in his thirties that’s honking and hanging out the window, now is it?

    I used to never wear a bra (sporting A’s here myself), until I picked up an old boyfriend from work one time and thereafter became known as “Nips.” Never, never again.


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