opinion

COLUMN: Femme feels



For a long time I have been heavily invested in art about feelings.

Often artwork that deals with feelings is done through feminine lenses and aesthetics. This takes different forms in different art media.

In music, the confessional song is looked down upon as not structural enough.

For example, teen girl music is seen as being mindless rather than empowering women through the conduit of emotional expression and exposure.

Vulnerability certainly comes with problems and questions, but it is a weapon as well.

Internet art group Cybertwee confronts this issue head-on in its manifesto, “romantic is not weak. feminine is not weak. cute is not weak. we are fragmented and multifaceted bbs,” which is short for “babies.

Art about feelings and the criticism of them is unfairly gendered to the feminine.

Woman, femmes, trans folk and nonbinary folk are told that emotional lenses of discourse are not as true or good as analytics.

Basically, society wants us to talk about and refer to old, dead, white men and their aesthetics rather than those of Sailor Moon or “Get Ready With Me” videos.

Femme art on the Internet is often associated with Tumblr, Grimes, Internet artist Molly Soda and selfies.

These associations can reveal white privilege in this type of discourse.

Who gets to overshare?

Whose feelings are cute, whose are art and whose are gross?

Samantha Irby, a black female writer, has a significantly smaller fan base for her blog “bitches gotta eat” than the overshare poster child and white superstar Lena Dunham does.

Often folks outside of white cis heteropatriarchy — yes, that is a word — are often policed for their 
emotions.

Black women are quickly called “angry black women,” as if they don’t have anything to be angry about. Just look at Irby or artist Hannah Black.

Trans folk are accused of being irrational or overly angry, as if their worries are unbiased.

This is evident when looking at actress Hari Nef, artist collaboration DarkMatter and Liv Bruce of PWR BTTM.

Queer folk are expected to assimilate to marriage, and other forms of sexual expression are considered deviant and over-the-top.

People who have experienced sexual assault or rape are expected to either go to therapy and bow out. Or they are expected to keep quiet.

A prime example of this is the backlash against former Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz.

Young women and femmes who are often tossed out and not considered adults are expected to sit down and wait before they talk about things.

Tavi Gevinsen’s Rookie Mag explores these unheard voices.

Feminine aesthetics attempt to reclaim emotion, feelings and sharing as valid ways of dealing with the self and the world around us while still 
recognizing privileges other 
folks have.

Traditionally feminine aesthetics like the color pink, selfies and layering in videos are something I have adopted into my own work practice.

Understanding feelings, especially through structural lenses of gender, class and anti-capitalism is a big part of my video work.

Some videos have large swathes of text evoking sympathy and critiquing the structures that hurt me as a queer non-binary person.

While femme has issues around race and class, the feminization of the selfie and of art about feelings has mobilized femme people of different backgrounds to fight against the erasure of 
feelings.

My work and curation attempts to bring to light this rich and often underappreciated area of art.

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