Brownmiller addresses the set of societal strictures, esthetic ideals, and assigned "characteristics" which governs the lives of half of America, and which goes by the name of Femininity. Biological femaleness, writes Brownmiller, is the smallest part of the elusive quality we know as femininity, which "always demands more. It must constantly reassure its audience by a willing demonstration of difference, even when one does not exist in nature." Body and gesture, skin and hair, conversation and clothing; the way a woman speaks, the way she sits, the way she smells: all are ruled by a code that requires enhancement, containment, exaggeration, or even denial of woman's nature. Whether an individual woman finds in femininity the luxuriant pursuit of a positive identity or an implacable standard she can never hope to meet, femininity remains, at bottom, "a powerful esthetic based upon a recognition of powerlessness."--Publisher description.
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