From bows to bow ties, sometimes we’re all just girls

The nuanced relationship between femininity and its reception in society has shifted dramatically over recent years, and the positive reclamation can be attributed to two major factors: popular culture trends and the cultivation of social media. This return to femininity is rooted in the widespread, accessible nature of trends and media platforms that have allowed women to reclaim femininity for what it means to them. Rather than regurgitating the same tired ideas on gender roles that have followed women for years, the women of these trends are sharing their own stories and expressing themselves without shame or fear of reprisal. 

In the past, femininity was a show of weakness, pink a code for a “damsel in distress” and a skirt a tell of incapability. This pushed many women to present themselves as more “masculine,” having seen women whose look wasn’t overtly feminine often held in higher regard. This mindset creates a horrible positive feedback loop: women hide their personal femininity in order to be taken seriously, leading to those who show femininity to be taken less seriously. 

However, something in the air has changed. We can look at the coquette trend, an aesthetic based on prim hyper-femininity, i.e. an affinity for bows, Barbies and pink. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term “coquette” is defined as “a woman who endeavors without sincere affection to gain the attention and admiration of men.” 

The coquette trend, popular on TikTok, serves as a perfect example of femininity’s recent rebranding. This trend creates a new way for women to unapologetically enjoy the things that make them happy. 

While we once lived in a time in which the target audience of mainstream media was straight white men, embracing this aesthetic in particular shows attention being paid  solely toward women; the coquette trend was cultivated for women to feel good, to feel girly and to feel feminine.

According to Vogue, the popularity of the coquette aesthetic also brings to light the question of how much influence patriarchal values may have had on our perception of femininity. 

Of course, the trend comes with its complexities. It is not some quick fix to sexism by any means. However, it does create a space for women to embrace their femininity, normalizing the concept for younger girls. 

While it can be seen as shallow of companies to slap bows on products and claim to embody girlhood, the rise of “coquettification” shows, nonetheless, a reclamation of style previously shunned. Like many broad social trends, a rise in commericial feminity must be appreciated for its complexity. 

While pink and glitter are not meant to encompass an entire generation’s girlhood, coquettification is helping push femininity further into the  media.

Bows at the end of braids or on tank top straps may not be the ultimate signs of female empowerment or change the world, but they represent a form of womanhood that we can claim. 

The act of women taking back control of how their narrative is written helps push humanity toward more understanding. While this action currently comes in the form of bows and Barbies, soon our spoken words will be enough.

Previous post Three is a crowd. There is only room for Lamar.
Next post Personal Perspective: Anna Opalsky